"Composition of Place": A Conversation between Roberto Brodsky and José Kozer

Cuban author José Kozer.

In May 2016, on the occasion of an invitation from Miami’s Centro Cultural Español to present my novel Casa chilena (Random House, 2015), I had the opportunity to reunite with the Cuban poet José Kozer, winner of the Pablo Neruda Ibero-American Poetry Prize in 2013. I say reunite because I had met Kozer in Chile six or eight years before at the Encuentros de Fronteras, which I had organized as director of the Unión Latina de Chile. Kozer had been one of the invited guests at the 2006 Encounter, where we became friends and promised to reconnect in the future. In Miami we kept that promise and more: we began an intense literary dialogue by email that quickly took the form of an involuntary interview where I asked questions and Kozer responded, or pretended to respond, at time in prose and at times in verse. My list of questions, on the other hand, tended toward topics of the moment: post-Patria, exile, literature in times of forgottenness, saturation and emptiness, tradition (which Kozer knows as few living poets in Latin America do), jobs and days for the Latin American writer, internationalized or not, in the United States and, finally, some of his own poetry, experienced alongside Chilean poets in whom I was particularly interested, such as Enrique Lihn, whom Kozer had met in New York when they both lived very different fortunes inside and outside Cuba in the late 1960s.

The author of more than seventy titles, including poetry, essays, and prose, Kozer has lived abroad since the age of 20, and has done so by teaching literature in academia, publishing with large and small publishers, writing for newspapers and magazines, translating and being translated, without regretting destinations or demanding honors. Today, at age 76, Kozer is a veteran in the vanguard of every battle. His most recent published book is both a poetic and personal summa, Nulla Dies Sine Linea [There is no day without a line], published in Brazil by Lumme, with more than 10,000 copies, including a DVD, although Kozer says with near certainty that its production has reached 11,600. And the mountain is still standing and growing, as he assures me in one of the emails we exchanged from May to June 2016 about the issues that awoke, in us both, replies and responses such as those that follow here.

With respect to the dialogue format, I decided to follow the proposal of Kozer himself, who at one point wanted both to begin and conclude his contribution with poems, preserving the epistolary form for the central text. Hence, for purposes of editing, Kozer's text runs without interruptions or interjections by way of questions or observations, which would otherwise divert attention from the core of the exchange. Only the personal email that initiates the dialogue and Kozer’s email that extends it beyond its provisional closure are included for this purpose.

Roberto Brodsky

 

By José Kozer
Of Poetics and Exile: a Conversation with Roberto Brodsky

Confirmation
He was only person to be saved from the fire, the
others perished or
carried on their forearm,
their ankles, temples,
under the eyelids
a sign: the badge
that had to be interpreted
for decades, later
and later, a sign of
weakness, inability
to react in time,
it is easy to talk: and to tattoo.
He, pure coincidence, and
he’d tell me laughing that
it was why I was born,
and I, thanks, and he,
you’re welcome, he left in time.
With no visible sign.
In the showers, in 

changing huts
during the summers
I inspected him,
a smooth body, round 

shoulders, firm arms,
imperious hands
(impeccable, before

the uric acid) radiant

sex: his contained

buttocks, forceful legs
like a billiard ball
starting at twenty
years of age, a sharp glance,
a thin nose: yellowish

nails: a muddled 

voice, a slippery interior
composed of
twists and turns,
spirals, false schemes
and false conjugations,
between general and concrete,
and although it seems like a
word game between
General and private.
Shower in silences, in
business, in his own way
handsome, always
reserved, fragrant like
talc and eau de 

cologne, he detested
mirrors: he loved
horses. According to him,

he lacked fantasies,
he never imagined, coming
and going about his business
by the house, the house
trembled: and by the
shop, the beach, the
four buddies
talking about Marxism,
the two wars,
atheism: and what 

they were in

agreement on, was about
to hit them, you didn’t have to

be wise to see it
coming.

Every action it is well known has its reaction,
every cause an effect,
and so, there, in the middle

of the journey, I was born: I grew up,
I believed, fearing him, until
I saw that it was he who
feared me, I never
knew for sure
what or why: it must have been
an ancestral
fear, an atavistic
matter of Hebrews,
a loose rhizome composed
of burials, escapes, of
and unforeseen God and that
when he in principle
didn’t want anything to do with
that, or his
representatives. I don’t
understand him nor will I,
We had to see how
we avoided each other,
both of us a simulacrum of
shadows encrusting us
in penumbrae
where, after saying hello,
we went about our way. He,
a vestige without a sign and I
convinced that behind
his shadow there was
a visible number of
signs where the 

answer I was looking for

was hiding: nothing,
What it was to lie down
to laugh about, to
go crazy for, and like
to ask until
the end who he was,
and therefore, to see,
who I am. We are united
only by consanguineous 

coincidence, the
reviled tenderness
of the Jews, an
aroma of old age, and
dispersion in 

expansion, gone and 

another and other goings
that rise from a
millennial and unique
prophecy, the streets
are dirty, others
speculate.

 

I

The subject of exile is complex, to say the least. Something to discuss at the right moment, you and I, alone or in public, it depends. To begin with, this alienation has affected each of us, but the circumstances are different. In my case, the “flight to Egypt” was emphatic and definitive, without a means of return, which despite being painful makes the decision easy: one knows from the beginning that there is no recourse other than to accept the idea of ​​being away until the end of one’s life, and therefore it’s not necessary to consider returning, if nothing else to forget about it, and at the same time, if we are writers, to live it in another way: a way in itself complex, but one that without a doubt leaves traces and fruit. I knew already in 1960 that I wouldn’t return to Cuba, I didn’t have the slightest intention of returning, rather than a banishment I wanted to live a multifarious experience, one that comes from suckling from a multi-breasted Diana, extracting vitality, colostrum, mother's milk and cow's milk, everything in its entirety as far as can be expected.

Your situation, I imagine, is more difficult in a certain sense: you can return to your country when you feel like it or have the money, and you can go back to settle there, if you want and you have the means, but at the same time you sense that such a return has its obstacles, which are both real and practical as well as emotional and even spiritual. To that complication add that there’s a family, children, who have their privileges, their rights, their demands, and one as a father has to attend to these. As time goes by, it becomes more difficult to return, because they are mestizos of language, of mind, of nation. And there is a strong pull to be where they are and to make a life, one life and only one: you and I make and need to make not one but many lives in one life, and in our native country that is excessively limited (limiting). For me, the practical thing during this historic moment, so difficult and uncertain, is coming and going: you have a profession that supports you. A strong inner life. And, I suspect, a nice home, with a wife whom you support and who supports you, and children whom I imagine more or less support the home without filling it with atrocities: drugs, ignorance, and so on. So, for the moment, it’s best to take advantage of free, sabbatical summers, to sneak back into Chile or wherever, and to minimize, soften an exile that has so many benefits in terms of our growth and our literary work.

Latin America for a writer today ends up being a decoy, a place where growing up is almost impossible; the ambient pressures and day-to-day easiness, which are more pleasing than here, end up being the trap that hinders growth. In any case, we live in a time when there isn’t a lot either here or there for people like you and me, it’s best to stay still and work, which is reading and writing, putting food on the table (pro pane lucrando) and press on, tirar p'alante. All this as a kind of appetizer, which we’ll discuss further. It would even be important to see if by some means both you and I can, if there’s money, talk with an audience on the appealing, interesting, and burning issue of exile. But that’s another matter, pesos and cents, as usual.

 

ENRIQUE LIHN: He slept at our home in Forest Hills one night. He had a small suitcase some clothes and a few books, all disheveled, you could tell he lived in disorganization, pale I suspect from his writing that organized him, which was his true organization. The next morning, after breakfast, I accompanied him to the subway that was about 14 blocks from home, and on the way out he saw a beautiful flowering tree on the sidewalk across the street and asked me: What tree is that? I answered, it’s the sanguiñuelo or cornejo, the tree of Eliot, the dogwood, and I realized that the information was already going to become, for Lihn, part of a poem, or of several. I sensed that his was a method similar to mine. Then we talked about the neo-baroque and Lezama and that was interesting; we'll talk about that later. Lihn is an important poet to me. I have two objects about him, not so much about him in particular, but about most of the Latin American poetry that I know and that, with few exceptions (most of them are in Medusario), suffers from: a) being similar in substance, manner and mannerisms, structure and relative uniformity of inspiration, and b) corollary, if you will, to the former, contributing little new at the level of invention. That is to say, it's always somewhat the same. There are many, too many, poets in our language, 90%, who would do better digging potatoes or selling shmattes; the other 10% make up a kind, a flock, of good poets in the sense that they know how to craft their poems; but those who create change or participate in revolutions, as usual, can be counted on the fingers of the hands. In Chile I am more interested in Juan Luis Martínez, Anguita, a little Maquieira, Zurita for very specific reasons, and Armando Uribe, than Rojas, Lihn, and Parra himself. Lihn is harmed by a certain tone, that of the enfant terrible which ends up being banal, which is very period and difficult to justify with the passage of time. The provocation always ends up backfiring on the provocateur. But he’s a poet who stands out from the crowd and from much of what I’ve described: he has something, a certain courage, a nobility that he acquired over time, leaving behind his play between the political and the journalistic that, it seems to me, by the end of his work he overcame. His final “period” still interests me; I would very much like to read at the right moment your study of his work.



2

EXILE: There is, in my opinion, an impoverishing and contemptible way in which the exile uses his situation, which he considers a condition, for his own benefit: that opportunism seems so execrable and crass that I barely waste my time today to raise it, to combat it. I recognize that in another period of my life it got my dander up, in particular because I saw how Cuban exiles were treated en bloc as an unhealthy state, of people branded in bulk as guilty and rightwing, who were resentful and outraged at having lost material goods, and an island or house that as an ideal represented a place that was, from a political point of view, on the right track, and that a false Revolution caused to be aborted.

So far there is a mediatized left and a fearful right that struggle and fight to be viewed before the world as the sole holders of the truth, the convenient and entirely unconvincing belief that there is no truth other than theirs: if this situation were only a Cuban or a Latin American matter, the problem would not be so serious, but in truth it has been and is now a global issue, and this opportunism becomes the true winner, the assassin and executioner of those who operate in their exile with a more ambivalent and complex view, even ambiguous in part (in the rhetorical sense of what constitutes an amphibology), who try not to fall into the dialectics of light and darkness, in bombastic (and of course redundant) Manichaeisms.

The consequence of this opportunism is to find time and again terrifyingly mediocre writers and creators, receiving perks left and right, invitations, money, congratulations, and an almost always receptive audience, while pushing out the door writers and creators, as usual a minority of minorities, who have something to contribute. To put a finer point on it: these opportunists are so because power uses and hands them an opportunity on a silver platter that, what the hell, from their point of view they might as well take advantage of. Life is already difficult enough not to take advantage of something that falls from the sky, better they should exploit it than others. And this is the way things are, we must shift the point of view more towards power, that great opportunist and manipulator, which uses these kids as cannon fodder. The conspiracy I see not only in matters of creation or intellectual and academic life, but on many levels, ever more dense and all-powerful, such that great ideas that could or might improve the world and society, end up making everything worse, providing ammunition to those who are slowly leading the present world toward disaster: because there will be wars, bloody rebellions like that of An Lushan, which have left hundreds of thousands of innocent victims scattered across the globe. And that’s what’s coming, if we don’t put a stop to this situation, because resentment and injustice are growing in geometric proportions that I consider alarming, and that, at the right moment, will explode while we’re sitting on the powder keg.

An exile like you or I, obviously different circumstances, must choose with mental clarity in the face of all this, for one’s own good and that of his family, his native country, and his country of welcome, but beyond these realizations, as an ideal (there is no other way nor do I want there to be another way of saying it, because if something is right and considered a possible common good, even if there is a risk of being wrong, one must live it as an ideal, and only as an ideal: an ideal that must be rectified Confucianly with the passage of time and events, including growth and maturity): a sharp eye, clear mind, concentration and ability at the right moment to resolve to decide, which implies balancing one's own convenience with that of others, so that the balance is left to the faithful for the sake of a majority that rigorously and fairly includes a minority, many minorities.


ENRIQUE LIHN: it’s been necessary to mention all this in view of the first inklings I had, as I am younger than Enrique Lihn: beyond his need to shock, which at that time left a mark on him, and me also, and that manifested in sentences like “in Chile we have two Chinese poets, Hahn and Lihn,” or when I gave you a book of his I told you, “here, on account of I read you and you read me” (laughter), there was something in me that upset me very much, and it was that Enrique was arriving in New York eulogized by important publications, a “fame” that came largely from his Casa Prize and the Cuban Revolution, that same Revolution that had removed me from my country, had kicked me out, and to which I owed my “defeat” just as it owed to Lihn the charisma of triumph. Did I resent him? No. Because I like Enrique Lihn very much and his poetry raised him from that naïve or opportunist subsoil (I don’t judge nor am I the person who should) and that later made him suffer firsthand and in his own way like so many Cubans, in our own way, had suffered: a suffering, by the way, that, although diminished, lingers, and to which cosmetic touches have been added, but it hasn’t been resolved, in the least.

 

Meeting between Roberto Brodsky, José Kozer, and other writers and editors in Miami, Florida, 2016.


3

ENRIQUE LIHN: your personal, visual and visible relationship with Lihn makes me reflect on something I’ve been interested in for a long time: Lihn in his vital difficulty, in his stumbling, marginalization and marginality (the marginal marginalizes while being and feeling marginalized) has (and this is related to the difference between our exiles) the advantage of not only being able to return to his country, but also of being able to collaborate: that is, to lead a bohemian life that was, and seems to me, important to the writer. Thus, the poet who divides himself among painters, composers, other writers and poets, is nourished to a large extent by this communitarian experience, simpatico in its madness, serious about learning and rite of passage. Sixty years later and in New York I’ve lost access to that bohemian life, and to what I most want to emphasize, the possibility of collaborating, with other creators and doing things, as they say (Make It New, Pound).

Lihn is able to give free rein to his need for live spectacult in the street and among the people who are also his people in a narrow and broad sense. I do not: for me the loss of country implies an absolute solitude, at first intolerable, with time bearable, and after even more time has passed desirable: it is like saying that one gets used to everything, and the worst becomes, if not the best, at least something tolerable and that has, as we discovered, its virtues. A solitary freedom, an absence of commitments to collaborators and context, and therefore to do whatever we want without having to provide too many explanations: explanations that dissolve amid others but also deep down and one’s own value judgments, which eventually begin to fall apart and weaken.

This has implications: Lihn remains within a particular poetry, excellent certainly but always specific, growing outwards and inwards, within a space in a univocal background: a large space that he handles wonderfully, given his talent and his spiritual honesty, in fits and starts, but doesn’t go beyond that conversational and very Chilean space that has produced gems and at the same time has reduced, many times, jewels to costume jewelry. Or put another way: I get the impression that Lihn, and in general the majority of poets in the Spanish language, do not read enough, and today, without reading, widely and intensely, it’s almost impossible to make important poetry. In my case, poetry has moved in fits and starts, in scattered and mortal leaps, incompatible with itself and with its space a space and poetry that need, sometimes abrupt, to be renewed as much as possible. A tight rope of a funambulist poet, of a tightrope walker who could be killed with the slightest ankle failure, always a suicidal risk but at the same time restrained, because his constant practice provides balance to stand alone in the air. A fact that, of course, is an impossibility and probably (I don’t know) ends up defacing the creation itself: if so I accept it, it doesn’t keep me awake, I prefer a certain and relative failure, and to live in the air, to being unable to possess (which I don’t reject, and I’d like to see within me a kind of balance of air and earth, a poet who makes life practical and at the same time revolutionizes language) the quiet euphoria of personal freedom, that remains everyone’s, if this is understood from the love and decency of existence in which I believe with all my being.

Lihn in life ends up being a public person, writers like you and I do not reach that state for reasons yet to be discussed, we are private people, little involved in those public spaces that I suspect we no longer need. At least I have given up needing that space, I even oppose the possibility of living in it, Cuba doesn’t offer it to me nor will it, and in my heart that “fantasy” no longer exists. The forms employed by Lihn, daring in theme but not in language, are rather fixed (they begin from their own fixedness), ours are expanding forms, abrupt, expansive, and dense that move along varying vertices, all the while multiplying. In my case, this explains the abundance of writing, as for you I don’t know.

 

4

EXILE: Ah, what a strange word, with its concomitant banishment, transtierro, ostracism, migration, expulsion, and the business (not of the soul as was said in the Spanish baroque) of professors, scribes, damsels and normative poets who make of the subject of exile and identity a painful, existential state, where injustice and lack of recognition from others prevail, and a power that kicks them while they, resentful, stamp their feat, all of it to buy, to star, to become visible, stentorious, and to enjoy the perks that power knows to throw them, the mirage of certain crumbs that emboldens them and makes them feel important, those fifteen minutes that Warhol predicted.

They kicked me once, and deep down I know I allowed myself to be kicked, since I had the option to move my ass left or right so the kick would land in the air. But I wanted to be kicked so as not to doubt my path, that of exit: and with this a constant slipping, erring (which is not necessarily error) and to make life equivocal, ambiguous, centered in an authentic ignorance of everything and above all, trying to build a space of my own, no doubt based on a language and a syntax, a voracious space that would allow me to at least know fully a few crumbs (St. John speaks of the crumbs fallen from the Master’s table, and he said it with veneration and gratitude): shavings, a bit of sawdust, some of the brilliance of rust, the implicit spark of corrosion, and by this path to enter into the small, a few minimums that would allow me to coexist with origins, cells, cysts, corpuscles, the horrible and the beautiful, and the beauty of horror: and to reach by way of that seldom traveled path a loving, erotic state in the noblest sense of the word where I could, such as I can, contemplate the life of the insect, the birth of the bee, its nuptial flight, which is both a conjunction of procreation and death, that violent natural relationship between the drone (I) and the queen mother (nature). And to discover, among many other truths, in this wide and foreign world as Ciro Alegría would say, the truth of blight, of the phylloxera, the ergot, the poisonous fungus, the dregs and feces, the excremental I respect and recognize as one more variety of the immeasurable light that is poised, housed, in a minute particle, syllable, or letter from where the poem originates.

Then, am I an exile? Does my brush with power make me a victim? I hate power, I despise it olympically, I consider it one of the most visible forms of evil, and for decades I have lived, as Machado would write, from my work, I owe nothing to anybody and some owe me something. This in terms of pesos and cents. Cuentas claras y chocolate La Española (an ad for a brand of thick chocolate from long ago). But this, which is a bigger trap for many, never caused me to lose sleep, since my vocation is monastic, ever since I was a boy I always wanted to lead a frugal life, to climb to the top of the mountain, to live with little, to be far from the forced picaresque, which power urges and enforces. A trap in particular for writers more than of painters or composers.

Am I then an exile? Of course, except for me it couldn’t be any less important. My “exile” is what Canetti called the scandal of death, therein lies exile, but that’s now a force majeure, something that interests me more and more, imposed on me less (whoever reads my poetry would say that my only obsession is death, and I would answer not at all, death is a slab to lift up to find all kinds of forms, intuitions, languages, realities, abstractions, theologies, and metaphysics, nothing and what, who and where): my “exile” is, and to this I am fully committed, and I don’t shrink from it or run, literally. I am, exiled, to write; I am forged on a crucible and anvil of exile to do writing and most of all writing, such that the Jew in me lives to write and not because he is Jewish, or to be Jewish, like the Buddhist, the Cuban, the Japanese, the world body of which you speak, in me, are there because of writing: the Buddha, the apparently and speciously Japanese, or that world identified with a body that is nothing but disappearance, an entity to dissolve, all end up being writing, the last letter without pretext.

My life for the time being has a center with legs that form a kind of tripod: one leg allows me to read and write (in my case prose notes in notebooks, and stacks and more stacks of poems, whose fate I disentangle and whose content and form I forget in less than half an hour, literally): a second leg where there is a house and in that house a woman, Guadalupe, who is sustenance and silence, possibility and direction, a house that is in a place (the place that Charles Olson speaks of) and that can be found anywhere (Cuba in effect, but which Cuba and of what): and a third leg that is the day to day, based on a routine that is a ritual, and that, my accounts in order, the balance at the end of the month in my favor, allows me to make a life distant and other, rather peaceful, where I allow myself the luxury of living with little and in my own way, to protect my loved ones, both living (Guadalupe, my two daughters) and dead (this is what poems are for) and watch time flow through liquid channels where for years I can say, knowingly, that I am a (rather) happy man.

I eat well and healthy, I make poems day to day, I read what I crave and when I please, I attend to my body and its health, I converse not with God like Machado but with Guadalupe, trivialize, scrutinize, and at night I sleep in fits and starts, considering my age, rather well. Where, then, is my exile? How, am I, an exile? Victim, of what? Please. I have always said smiling from ear to ear that, while others talk about their own topics and issues in which they feel like victims, I write poems.

 

Confirmation
It’s a conspiracy. I sit on the
wooden bench, right
arm splintered (watch out)
it’s missing a slat, exactly
in the center (that has
its logic). In sight three
beds. Dahlias. Vegetables.
Chrysanthemums: the sumptuary,
the necessary, the subsequent.

Let's see if I can sit an hour
and conspire with the
beda, no
emotions,
thoughts at
a minimum, maximum
objectivity. I deviate.
I now see that I deviate,
without realizing
I began repeating, hushed
voice to inner voice,
a poem to Rome
by Quevedo, the
Aventine, ruins
and destruction: Cuba.

That. Rome. Italic. Cuba. Everything has always
happened to me on the
outskirts, at the foot of
garden, everything so far.
That conspiracy.
Between distant and me.
Pulled apart. They arrived
from foreign lands
only to be forced to go
to foreign lands, and
they go toward four
languages, they ​​were born
for a dead
language, the black roses

were vicarious, vicarious

Crocus: and they ended up
hallucinating purple

tulips, sunflowers
as white
as the snow freshly
fallen in their villages.
Settlements. Burgs
of misery. One-horse towns.
The hamlet known
once known as
Shantytown.

Do I rule? The flowerbed of dahlias to flowering meadows
of tobacco, time for
euphoria to begin
to walk, to name in
a third or fourth 

language remote birds,
the foreign flower, before
the dahlia, after
the chrysanthemum. The
inescapable need.
I command the land
to eat from the bed
in the middle, I'll leave
by the arm singing
to one side and another of
no one where the

the laburnum grows and the grass
lives and where
the native forest rises
from birch trees,
the atavistic flower of the
third bed, I look,
and I look to see what
I see and I look.

 

From one email to another

From: Roberto Brodsky brodskybaudet@gmail.com
Subject: sending a book
Date: May 7, 2016, 10;15 AM
To: jose kozer josekozer@comcast.net

 

My dearest José, the dust now settled after a terrifying landing in DC to end the semester of classes, I am writing you before more time goes by [...] Our meeting was magnificent, but I was left with a sense of terrible brevity, a desire to prolong the conversation and for you to tell me more about your poetic and personal experience of (self)exile, in part because I am full of doubts about my own course in this long question we inhabit. The novel I'm going to send translates a lot of that anxiety. It is supposed to close a trilogy on memory, but sometimes I believe it opens a question about fundamental things: writing, belonging, Judaism, guilt, nomadism. In short, themes that for you are already patrimonial, so to speak. I keep thinking about our last conversation where you told me that Vallejo and Parra, after Kozer, were your most important influences: how do you see Lihn in this poetic panorama? I'm doing something on him, and I'm very interested in your approach: you already know that in the 60s Cuba was his second homeland, he then had to invent a third so not to stop writing. Tell me how you see this [...].

Roberto

 

From: jose kozer josekozer@comcast.net
Subject: composition of place
Date: June 19, 2016, 10; 14 AM
To: Roberto Brodsky brodskybaudet@gmail.com

Roberto dear:

We return to Lihn. It was a joke, but when we saw each other, sometimes in a movie theater, in a poetry meeting in NY or whatever it was many times, he’d give me, for example, a recently published book of his and would say, here, on account of you read me, I read you. Laughter. Or Smiles. There’s truth in every joke: we both felt, I believe, the uselessness of poetry from the point of view of being able to earn a living, devote all our own time to what is interesting and interesting to the 100 and not 99%, and of course, not even 2% allows us. He knew and I believe fought for a decent space that would allow him to make a living, a frugal living for sure, but whatever: never anything, and little chance of an invitation, to read in public, having to pretend and act although we’re not actors but recondite beings and everything for nothing because in the long run we’re able to rid ourselves of scrounging, and we’re better off than the góngoras or quevedos, the cervanteses and Mateo Alemáns (3 out of 4, good heavens, stained by Judaism). I have racked my brain thirteen thousand times looking at what exit there may be from this, and at this point I’ve almost almost given up. If in the kind of novel you write there’s scarcely a prebend or canonry, just imagine the kind of poetry that Lihn did or what I do, what it would be: at most a recognition, a little trip with expenses paid, a few pesos in your pocket that last about as long as a bag of candy in a kindergarten, and keep on singing que si quieres arroz Catalina. Our healthy illusion of a place with ample time to create, and a natural and dignified existence, normative if you will, to be part of the nation or community, and to have a family as such, that, was not given to us, nor in truth has it ever, not in the Renaissance of patronages, that other horror, nor in modernity where the Balzacs and the Flauberts ended up ruined and on the verge of starvation. Flaubert at the end of his life had days when he didn’t have anything to eat, not to mention Vallejo, and countless others and others: mad, addicted to drugs, syphilitic, fortunately something more benevolent awaits us, university life, etc., and there, sheltered, we are able to write. And it’s not bad. Lihn was pissed and Lihn, more importantly, wanted to revolutionize, and that has a high price to pay and he paid it: many made life impossible for him, and now in Chile many young people want to rescue him but they don’t have the means, which is why it’s important that a voice like yours write about Lihn. It is in the long run and in the short term support for everyone. The uninhabited text almost as punishment for not being read, I don’t think it’s only that, and perhaps it’s the least important: that text we shaped again and again remains during our lifetime uninhabited because we barely have readers, shoddy writers do, rare is the writer who in life is read well and often and is a first-tier writer, and if that arrives, when it arrives, we’re already tired, old, on the other side. In my case, I notice it a lot, in Cuba of course and among young people, and other countries, but imagine, I won’t see any more translations, trips, coins rolling in the direction of my house, my daughters (necessities), etc. Bah. Mate, everything is in order [...].


José

 

Translated by George Henson

Languages

LALT Vol. 1 No. 2
Number 2

The second issue of Latin American Literature highlights the Caribbean and queer literature from across Latin America, featuring dossiers of revolutionary Chilean writer Pedro Lemebel and Mexican author Yuri Herrera as well as a special section on literary voices from Cuba.

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