Jesús Sanoja Hernández (1930-2007)

According to the newspaper Tal Cual, the poet, historian and journalist Jesús Sanoja Hernández died this morning. Sanoja Hernández was a Professor at the Universidad Central de Venezuela and until recently he wrote an excellent weekly column for El Nacional, which offered a historical context for Venezuela’s chaotic political situation. He was in the middle of writing a history of 20th century Venezuela.

In the early 1950’s, Sanoja Hernández was part of a group of young writers who edited the magazine Cantaclaro, which included the following statement regarding its philosophical stance: “The Cantaclaro magazine group participates in a militant democratic leftist orientation... the intellectual is under the obligation to exercise social pedagogy, in tune with his era and immersed in the reality of his medium... art should be a translation of man and his human drama... the American intellectual should begin by valuing the national tradition...” (cited in Rafael Arráiz Lucca, El coro de las voces solitarias: Una historia de la poesía venezolana, Grupo Editorial Eclepsidra, 2003) The Cantaclaro group was dissolved when its members were forced to go into hiding because of their opposition to the dictatorship of General Marcos Pérez Jiménez. In the late 1950s, Sanoja Hernández was the founder and central ideologist of the literary group Sardio, which included writers such as Rafael Cadenas, Oswaldo Barreto, Manuel Caballero and José Barroeta. He published one book of poetry, La mágica enfermedad (1969), which Rafael Arráiz Lucca describes in his history of Venezuelan poetry:

“As we can see, the title is published many years after it was written, in the interim Sanoja endured the dust of jail and the silence of exile, in his fight against the military dictatorship of Pérez Jiménez. His collection of poems is inverse to his journalistic work: if the latter is marked by eloquence and light, the poems give voice to the darkest interiority, not only in their grammatical sense but also ontologically. He descends to the depths of the psyche and returns with his hands full of signs that the writing itself seeks to decipher. All metaphorical facility is exiled: there are no easy similes, there are no canonical grammatical connections, everything embarks on the free investigation of the word’s expressive possibilities. This book, which announced a very unique work, remained alone in Sanoja’s bibliography, as much as his friends and readers might suspect that more is hidden in the files of the historian and journalist.”

The following is one of his poems, which I translated earlier this year:

Bad Dream

Compressed through moments in a spatial casket
and crossing through myself amidst heroic stitching,
I fly through Atlantics of drowsy tints and herbs.

My inferior position wounds itself, sinks into a malaise
and if it tries to shake itself, already bitten by an electric science,
it lifts pleasure up to the inert and grazes the superfluous
with a gust of failure, with the perturbed hand of a mage,
with an entirely impetuous cornering of impulses.

I sniff the electronic thread and pull out sensitive planks
with tearful flutes. Cezanne knocks himself down, in cubes.
The upper light hoists itself the island breaking into Picasso.

Madonna with a face drenched by the copper shine, satanic.


Mal sueño

Agarrotado por momentos en un cajón espacial
y cruzando por mí mismo entre surcidos heroicos,
vuelo por Atlánticos de tintes y yerbas somnolientas.

Mi posición inferior se hiere, húndese en una molestia
y si intenta sacudirse, mordida ya por una ciencia eléctrica,
levanta el goce hasta lo inerte y roza lo superfluo
con ráfaga de fracaso, con perturbada mano de mago,
con todo un irreflexivo arrinconamiento de impulsos.

Huelo el hilo electrónico y saco afuera tablas sensitivas
con flautas llorosas. Túmbase Cezanne, en cubos.
Alzase pura luz de arriba rompiéndose en Picasso la isla.

Madona con el rostro empapado por el brillo de cobre, satánica.

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