My review of Wilson Harris's latest novel, The Mask of the Beggar (Faber, 2003), has just been published in the CLR James Journal: A Review of Caribbean Ideas (Volume 10, Number 1, Winter 2004). This issue of the journal focuses on the work of one of its editors, Paget Henry, and his book Caliban's Reason: Introducing Afro-Caribbean Philosophy (Routledge, 2000).
I'm thrilled to be included in this issue, particularly after reading Henry's essay on The Mask of the Beggar, entitled "Wilson Harris and Caribbean Philosophies of Art":
"For Harris, the situation that defines the West Indian artist is the annihilation of the architectural and other outward manifestations of his/her pre-colonial civilization. The West Indian artist is the inheritor of a legacy of vanquished civilizations. This is an inheritance that the West Indian artist shares with artists of other colonized cultures such as those of Africa, Central, and South America. However, the outer bareness produced by the record of colonial annihilation is particularly sharp in the Caribbean region. As a result of this starkness of the outer environment, Harris thinks that the "West Indian artist therefore has a central theme or symbol, and that symbol is man, the human person, as opposed to the European artist whose symbol is masses and materials" (1973:14)."
I've been enjoying listening to Will Oldham's new album, Superwolf (Drag City, 2005), a collaboration with guitarist Matt Sweeney. Sometimes I think I hear snatches of Lynyrd Skynyrd or Allman Brothers guitars in some of these songs. The album opens with these wonderful lines:
"I have often said that I would like to be dead
In the shark's mouth"
I'm translating Antonio López Ortega's column from yesterday's El Nacional. From now on, my translations of poems into English will be posted at Antología. I plan on posting versions of work by almost two dozen Venezuelan writers, one per month. Some of what I'll include there will have appeared on this blog in earlier forms. But having a chance to see the translations alone might prove helpful. The poets included there won't follow a specific chronological or thematic order. I'm usually dissatisfied with how the poems I translate into English turn out. I think of them as being handwritten transcriptions, blurred in the rain. I hope some of the images, ideas or spaces do transfer. In venepoetics, I might focus more on translating op-ed pieces and essays from Venezuelan newspapers.
I find it astonishing and sad how easy it is to gain support among many in the European and North American left. All one has to do is spout populist rhetoric, strike a semi-dashing "revolutionary" pose, market the hell out of your "revolution," and blame all your troubles on U.S. imperialism.
While leaders such as Brazil's Lula get labelled as ineffective by many in the left, there's no shortage of praise (cf. Porto Alegre) for an incompetent, bombastic buffoon like Hugo Chávez. What remains farcical about Venezuela nowdays is the utter blindness of those who proclaim solidarity with Chavismo (without, of course, having to suffer the direct consequences of its Kafka Revolution ideology & methods). Stalinesque.