When I walked over to Cambridge from Allston today, I made sure to stop on one of the bridges that crosses the Charles so I could look at the nearby bridge more closely and compare it to the description in the Rafael Cadenas poem I translated yesterday. His image of the bridges' arches as bracelets (I was looking at the footbridge that connects Cambridge to the Harvard Business School campus) was even more exact than I had visualized when I first read the poem. Beyond the bridge, BU and downtown Boston were covered in fog and rain clouds, blurred by the falling drizzle.
As I go back to Cadenas' three poems in Letras Libres I'm reminded of his willingness to let silence suffuse his writing. As though a poem is always a form of meditation, in which the writer and reader collaborate. This silence might be why I usually find his work so difficult to translate. I do intend to post some English versions of his poems eventually at Antología.
One of my favorite editions of his work is the Visor Selected Poems. I bought my copy at the Librería Suma in Sabana Grande, on an afternoon when I walked from UCV to Chacaito, amazed at how different the boulevard had become from the times I remembered it during the late 1970s and early 80s. The book includes these verses:
De un silencio
vendrá la respuesta,
la encendida honestidad.
I hope to eventually find a copy of Fausto Masó's Sabana Grande era una fiesta (Colección Debate, 2004), where he chronicles how the boulevard's cafes, bars, bookstores and restaurants influenced several generations of Venezuelan writers. To see what Sabana Grande has become today (overcrowded with street vendors, rife with muggings and assaults, trash piled on corners and stoops) is a painful reminder of the disintegration of Caracas.
What I still managed to find in Sabana Grande, in 2001 and 2002, was the pleasure of experiencing a city through walking. As I did this afternoon along the quiet side streets of lower Allston, crossing the Charles, reading a couple magazine articles at a newsstand and bookstore, stopping for coffee, sitting to read and watch the city.
Volpi's El fin de la locura moves quickly and is a pleasure to read. At one point in the book the protagonist briefly mentions talking to the narrator of Alfredo Bryce Echenique's La vida exagerada de Martín Romaña (Ediciones Cátedra, 1981), another novel that hilariously evokes the experience of Latin Americans in the events of May 1968 in Paris. Volpi is attempting to map out the trajectory of the Latin American left from 1968 until the collapse of the Soviet Union.
I realize what makes Lezama Lima's Paradiso such slow reading is that it's like learning Spanish all over again. One moves through the epic poem disguised as a novel as though each sentence might dissolve everything that's been written before it.
"Saltaba del sueño a lo cotidiano sin establecer diferencias, como si se alejase sola, caminando sobre las aguas." (22)