Roque Dalton

As I'm finishing Los detectives salvajes, I'm reminded of another Latin American novel that is likewise a postmodern masterpiece: Roque Dalton's posthumous, Pobrecito poeta que era yo (San Salvador, El Salvador: UCA Editores, 1994). I've read that when Roberto Bolaño left Chile in the early 1970s, after escaping from Pinochet's jails, he spent time in El Salvador. While he was there, he befriended Roque Dalton. Dalton was assassinated soon afterwards, in 1975, by his own comrades in the FMLN, who mistakenly suspected that he was working as a spy against them.

The two novels are concerned with defining the role of the poet in the Americas today. What I love about these novels is their ability to evoke the political and aesthetic struggles that poetry requires of its "makers." While both texts are Latin American novels of the "Left," it would be naive to think of them as "revolutionary" books. If anything, Bolaño and Dalton expect the reader to understand that no revolutionary project is pure. The experimental forms employed in their novels reflect an unwillingness to write "revolutionary" fiction. There are no (false) promises for emancipation or power for "the masses" in these books.

What you will find, however, is brilliant and visionary prose.


"11 p.m. : Amo escuchar por la radio programas que, supongo, son noticiarios en idiomas orientales. Algunos de ellos me causan verdadero placer corporal. También ciertos ruidillos (en El Salvador decimos simplemente "estática") que al correr la aguja por el dial parecen abrirnos calles anchas, corrientes de peligrosa succión, chorros hacia el infinito."

{Roque Dalton, Pobrecito poeta que era yo}

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