The Copy is the Original: The Problematics of Juan Luis Martínez’s Posthumous Works

Chilean poet Juan Luis Martínez. Photo: Francisco Rivera Scott.

On September 30, 2016, Chilean poetry aficionados rejoiced when renowned art critic Justo Pastor Mellado tweeted a picture of gallery owner Pedro Montes conversing with poet Diego Maqueira over the proofs of the third edition of Juan Luis Martínez’s mythical art object La nueva novela. Montes’ Galería D21, located in Santiago’s upscale neighborhood of Providencia, would soon host an exhibition of the late Martínez’s visual artworks to coincide with the launch of the third edition of La nueva novela (“Collages inéditos”, December 1, 2016-January 5, 2017). The reedition of Martínez’s groundbreaking artist’s book was big news in Chilean poetic and academic circles, and readers were eager to secure a copy of this esoteric collage work even at the price of 70,000 pesos (slightly over $100).

Juan Luis Martínez (1942-1993) is widely considered to be one of Chile’s greatest and most experimental writers, despite publishing only two book-objects in his lifetime: La nueva novela (1977, 2nd ed. 1985, 3rd ed. 2016, annotated edition 2017) and La poesía chilena (1978). After his death, the Martínez family published Poemas del otro (2003), Aproximación del Principio de Incertidumbre a un proyecto poético (2010), and El poeta anónimo (o el eterno presente de Juan Luis Martínez) (2013). The first edition of La nueva novela—limited to a run of 500 hand-printed copies—circulated in a clandestine manner in literary circles and cafés in Santiago, Valparaíso, and Viña del Mar in the late 1970s and early 80s, and received little attention outside of Chile even after a facsimile edition of the text was published in 1985 (1,000 copies). Signed (JUAN LUIS MARTÍNEZ) (JUAN DE DIOS MARTÍNEZ), crossed through but still “readable,” La nueva novela exaggerates, renders illegible, and destabilizes the (doubled) proper name as guarantor of authorial intent or presence, a move that brings to the forefront the problematic continuity of Martínez’s poetic voice and hermetic historical subject. Martínez’s reclusive nature and his objectively difficult texts contribute to his deliberately self-effacing artistic methodology, in which dizzying intertextualities and ludic poetic collages eradicate and obscure his authorial persona. La nueva novela draws from numerous literary, philosophical, artistic, religious, and scientific sources, and profoundly blurs the line between these discourses by way of unrelenting visual and poetic interventions that ironically challenge such preconceived notions as the subject-object binary that has oriented philosophical thought for centuries, the referential coherence of the poetic voice, and the illogical absurdity of pataphysical “reasoning,” to name just a few.

According to Pedro Montes—loyal “hombre de confianza” for Martínez’s widow and literary executor, Eliana Rodríguez—this third, facsimile edition of La nueva novela only incorporates two changes from earlier editions: the date on the title page, and the information presented in the colophon, which reads: “La presente edición de 700 ejemplares sobre papel couché de 170 gramos, se terminó de imprimir en Santiago de Chile, bajo el cuidado de Eliana Rodríguez y Pedro Montes, el día 10 de septiembre de 2016”. In an interview with Montes, published in the Santiago weekly Qué pasa (11/11/16), he describes the scanning and retouching techniques employed in this edition, elaborating on the editorial team’s corrections from earlier versions of the text:

Partimos escaneando el libro con la mejor resolución, hicimos varias correcciones con Photoshop de algunas manchitas del original, más oscuras ciertas letras, más claras otras, todos los detalles, fuimos revisando uno por uno los pliegos y la verdad es que nos hemos tardado en imprenta unos dos a tres meses, entre conseguir el papel chino, los anzuelos, la bandera chilena. Pero cuando llegamos a Ograma, que es la misma imprenta con la que trabajó Juan Luis, les dije que no había apuro, que debía quedar exactamente igual a como lo hicieron en 1985, y ahora ya casi estamos.

Here, Montes highlights the care taken to (attempt to) reconstruct the most infamous auratic object in Chilean poetry, down to the tissue paper, fish hooks, and small paper flags enclosed within the book’s borders. The final project is impressive—materially close to the original, as Montes suggested in the interview—and the editorial team’s attention to detail shines through on every page of La nueva novela’s labyrinthine textuality. One might inquire, however, as to the choice of glossy paper for this art object. La nueva novela’s neo-Dadaist/Surrealist experimental collages feel odd in their shiny and slick new packaging—as they also do, truth be told, in their digital format on the website (launched in April 2011), where the reader can click through said collages via a Flash animation. With respect to the question of the decline or degradation of aura in these recent versions of La nueva novela, we might consider Walter Benjamin’s famous essay, “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction” (1936), in which the German philosopher elaborated the ways in which technological reproduction of the work of art leads to the loss of its auratic qualities:

One might subsume the eliminated element in the term “aura” and go on to say: that which withers in the age of mechanical reproduction is the aura of the work of art…One might be generalized by saying: the technique of reproduction detaches the reproduced object from the domain of tradition. By making many reproductions it substitutes a plurality of copies for a unique existence (Benjamin 2007, 221).

As is well-known, Benjamin locates the value of the authentic work of art in its link to its ritualistic origins, and argues that the acceptance of reproductions implies a refusal of the ritualistic character of the original work (Benjamin 2007, 224). In the case of Martínez’s poetry, on the other hand, it is important to point out that despite the more radical literary and philosophical positions he espoused, Martínez was quite traditional in a number of ways. The fetishization of the art book as auratic object was definitely a concern of his, as he, for example, kept a hand-written, numbered list of everyone who owned a copy of the first edition of La nueva novela in the late 70s—since for him the work’s circulation was part of the work itself (personal interview with Eliana Rodríguez, September 4, 2010). This stands in stark contrast with the larger ethic of a poet who asserted, in an interview with journalist María Esther Robledo, that “[l]e complace irradiar una identidad velada como poeta; esa noción de existir y no existir, de ser más literario que real (Martínez 2003, 64); Martínez told Roberto Brodsky that he considered himself to be “un instrumento nada más de esa fuerza autónoma que es el lenguaje” (Martínez 2003, 75), and that “el autor es un lector que lee y traslada con eficiencia ciertos textos que no se han resaltado… Escribir es leer, y leer es escribir”. Fittingly, he would declare here that in the face of writing as a “problem of anonymity,” he wished to “disappear as an author”: “Se trata, en definitiva, de un problema de anonimia; yo busco desaparecer como autor” (Martínez 2003, 75).

To circle back to Martínez’s insistent textual return nearly 25 years after his death, this new edition of Martínez’s masterpiece La nueva novela also begs the question of the larger poetic inheritance of his posthumous work, which now exceeds the critical mass that appeared during his life. On the one hand, Martínez asked Eliana to burn all of his poetic works upon his death (yet like Brod to his Kafka, she felt compelled to preserve them). In a sense, our understanding of the posthumous works by Martínez—much more Poemas del otro (2003), Aproximación del Principio de Incertidumbre a un proyecto poético (2010), and El poeta anónimo (o el eterno presente de Juan Luis Martínez (2013) than the recent re-edition of La nueva novela, of course—hinges upon what Pedro Gandolfo has called “a dangerous limit” in his writings on the context of Roberto Bolaño’s posthumous publications:

La percepción de una obra inconclusa es patente, así, de la lectura del texto y de esos documentos. Estamos aquí, pues, sobre un límite peligroso: el que separa la publicación póstuma de una obra inédita de la publicación de una construcción editorial de una obra ficticia, porque el autor, en el sentido de quién se hace responsable de un texto, nunca le dio la forma publicada” (“La ficción de una obra”, Pedro Gandolfo. El Mercurio, 08 enero, 2017).

Since Martínez was completely fastidious in the construction of his art objects, it is important that we dwell on the question of Martínez’s authorial intentionality, carefully probing the line or limit that Gandolfo describes in the context of Bolaño’s legacy. In a recent article titled “Las huellas que borró Juan Luis Martínez”, Roberto Careaga recently made some very strong accusations regarding Martínez’s posthumous works:

También es posible que el archivador original que dejó Juan Luis Martínez fuese eso: un archivador de trabajo, sobre el cual vendrían otros trabajos, años acaso de trabajo. ¿Cómo imaginar que alguien que controló con tal obsesión los detalles de los dos libros que publicó hubiese estado conforme con un libro que él no hubiese controlado? La leyenda nubla una respuesta, pero también modula la pregunta. O lo que es lo mismo: creer que antes de morir Martínez dejó totalmente finalizado este proyecto, planificando incluso su aparición post mortem, es tan inocente como creer que su viuda publicó lo primero que vio entre sus papeles que parecía terminado (January 26, 2017).

Before addressing these specific allegations, I would like to reiterate that Martínez’s obsessive nature and careful control of his materials is well-founded. Roberto Merino, for example, told me that “JLM no solía hablar de su propio trabajo, menos mostrar obras en proceso… Sólo una vez me mostró unas carpetas que eran parte de un libro extenso. Me permitió revisar los papeles pero se arrepintió y cerró la carpeta discretamente. Alcanzo a recordar el plano de una casa” (e-mail to author, February 8, 2017). Careaga’s analysis of the naivité in equating the intentionality of the posthumous works with those hand-assembled by the poet himself in the 70s and 80s is hyperbolic, in my opinion. Even more problematically, several writers and critics have speculated that the posthumous works were fabricated or assembled after the poet’s death. Since I have no evidence to corroborate this serious accusation, as a scholar I cannot subscribe to this theory. In fact, when I met with Martínez’s dear friend Hugo Rivera Scott at the Hotel Wellington in Manhattan on February 5, 2017, Rivera Scott told me that in 1988 or 1989 (upon his return to Chile from Cuba), Martínez showed him the first draft of Aproximación del Principio…, which was about half complete at that point (personal interview with Hugo Rivera Scott, February 5, 2017). As the organizer of Martínez’s Objetos at the Instituto Chileno-Francés de Cultura (1972)—the first exhibition of the poet’s visual artworks—I am confident in Rivera Scott’s assertion that Martínez’s posthumously-published Aproximación del Principio de Incertidumbre a un proyecto poético is largely his own. As a visual artist and curator, however, Rivera Scott believes that the primary interest residing in the third edition of La nueva novela is largely “informative” due to the material differences involved in the book object’s assembly and resulting textuality (he highlighted the unavailability of “papel secante”, for example; personal interview with Hugo Rivera Scott, February 5, 2017).

The first publication after Martínez’s death—a book of largely unpublished lyric poems and interviews—would produce a major controversy in the bellicose world of Chilean literary criticism. Whereas critics spent over ten years puzzling about the traditional nature of Poemas del otro’s strong lyric voice, in 2014 my short book La última broma de Juan Luis Martínez: No sólo ser otro sino escribir la obra de otro (Cuarto Propio) identified the entire first section of PdO (containing seventeen poems) as Martínez’s unattributed translation of a book titled Le Silence et sa brisure (1976), written by a Swiss-Catalan poet also named Juan Luis Martinez (without an accent mark). In this Pessoan or Borgesian operation of “writing the other's poetry,” readers fell into Martínez’s trap: when he stated that he had not written the poems (“fueron escritos por el otro”) he literally meant el otro Martinez. In the end, this was the punchline of Martínez’s final trick: becoming even more Martínez in poems written by another Martinez.

This literary detective story has been retold in a number of venues—in my single-authored monograph Juan Luis Martínez’s Philosophical Poetics (Bucknell UP, 2014), interviews in El Mercurio and Jacket2, essays in Jacket and in an anthology titled Martínez Total (Editorial Universitaria, 2016)—and culminated in presentations alongside Juan Martinez himself in Santiago during a whirlwind week of lectures and discussions in November 2014. Upon my return from Chile, I felt the investigation was closed, even overdone in some respects, and I turned my attention to other projects. Nevertheless, moved by the urgency to understand the cryptic events surrounding an even more cryptic poet’s “writing the other’s verse,” I was compelled to conduct additional research and detective work.

In 1991, Juan Luis Martínez hosted renowned philosopher and psychoanalyst Félix Guattari at his house in Villa Alemana; in their dialogue, which appears in Poemas del otro, Martínez stated that his greatest interest was in “la disolución absoluta de la autoría, la anonimia, y lo ideal, si se puede usar esa palabra, es hacer un trabajo, una obra, en la que no [le] pertenezca casi ninguna línea, articulando en un trabajo largo muchos fragmentos, pedacitos que se conectan. Es un trabajo de Penélope” (Martínez, 2003, 82). Martínez’s quasi-conceptualist ethic is well-articulated here; however, few critics have considered the importance of the simple fact that this stimulating conversation was mediated through the voices of Guadalupe Santa Cruz and Miguel Norambuena, who translated for the two great thinkers. This simple issue of translation is troubling, to say the least, when we consider the resonance of the question of language and communication in light of Martínez’s “writing-as-translation” in Poemas del otro. If Martínez didn’t speak French, how could he possibly have executed such an expert translation of his orthonym’s book of poems from 1976? We know that these poems aren’t “his” in any straightforward way, but who did the translations that appeared in Poemas del otro? What ramifications does this have for understanding Martínez’s posthumous works as a whole?

It turned out that I was not the only one who was concerned. In the course of my investigation, I reached out to numerous academics, journalists, critics, artists, and poets who might be able to shed some light on this issue. In October 2016 I had the pleasure and privilege of conversing with poet Raúl Zurita—the winner of Chile’s National Literary Prize (2000) and the Pablo Neruda Poetry Prize (2016)—who is also Martínez’s former brother-in-law. In fact, the families of the two poets lived together in Martínez’s father’s house in Concón, a small town northeast of Viña del Mar, until the dissolution of Zurita’s marriage. The two poets even shared a typewriter, and Zurita recalls their mutual poetic influence in a number of interviews. During my three-hour conversation with Raúl, which took place at a Starbucks in Cambridge, MA, we discussed the materiality of Martínez’s posthumous works, especially in light of the upcoming publication of the third edition of La nueva novela; when I asked Raúl how critics should read these post-1993 publications, he replied: “Los textos [póstumos] sí están, hay que resaltar que son póstumos, pero que la intencionalidad de Juan Luis Martínez no forma parte fiable de su composición…La lógica de Juan Luis Martínez sólo está en La nueva novela y La poesía chilena”. He also told me that he was absolutely certain that Martínez didn’t speak French (personal interview with Raúl Zurita, October 25, 2016). We speculated that there must have been one or more translators involved in the rendering of Le Silence into Spanish. Raúl pointed me in the direction of a number of people close to Juan Luis who might help me, and I spent the next several months again embroiled in the search for an apocryphal “book-to-come,” refining my understanding of what I had previously considered to be a well-calculated “última broma” (as a final and ultimate prank or joke). Honing in on this question of language, in a lengthy Skype conversation, Ronald Kay, a well-known visual artist and the editor of Aproximación del Principio de Incertidumbre, told me that in school Martínez studied French, and must have intensified his French studies and readings after dropping out in séptimo básico to reach a level that was, in Kay’s estimation, “bastante potable” (Skype conversation, February 22, 2017). However, one must admit that there is a great difference between “potable” and the expert translations that were published in Poemas del otro, which puzzled all of Chile’s literary critics for decades, from 1988 (with the publication of poems around the plebiscite) until 2014. Hugo Rivera Scott provided me with unique insight regarding Martínez’s language skills:

Respecto al conocimiento del idioma, hay que tener en cuenta que Juan Luis estudió en los Padres Franceses, por lo que tenía un acercamiento inicial al idioma galo, lo que luego marcó, con ayuda de su madre, una preferencia por la literatura francesa, especialmente por Baudelaire y ciertamente por Rimbaud. Yo no creo haber tenido más facilidad para el francés que él, pero siempre me preguntaba y “champurreábamos” (perdone el chilenismo) alguna interpretación, siempre con algún diccionario a mano (e-mail to author, January 30, 2017).

Clearly, “champurr[ear]…alguna interpretación” is a long way from producing the nuanced translations that appeared in Poemas del otro in 2003. Rivera Scott, however, provided another vital clue: he highlighted the role that several French cultural figures played in the early 70s in Valparaíso:

Hay que decir que también él fue muy cercano de los Drouillet, sobre todo luego de su exposición “Objetos” que yo le organicé en el Instituto Chileno Francés en agosto de 1972, como parte de un programa que mantuve durante ese año en coordinación con Allain [sic], quien era su director, por ese motivo también escribí ese pequeño texto que apareció en un tabloide autodenominado revista "Compromiso" que existió en esos años en la sede de la U de Chile en Valparaíso. Los Drouillet estimaron mucho esos trabajos plástico objetuales de Juanito y es posible que B[é]atrice de Chavagnac, quien sobrevivió a su marido muerto asesinado en Brasil, creo a fines de los setenta o principio de los ochentas, pudiera dar quizás algunos otros detalles (e-mail to author, January 30, 2017).

French cultural atttaché Elsie Drouillet was involved in the Chilean experimental art scene of the early 1970s: for example, she filmed visual artist Carlos Altamirano’s performance “Nueve relaciones inscritas en el pasaje urbano” (October 1977) in Santiago, which was directed by Nelly Richard, photographed by Jaime Villaseca, and staged by Carlos Leppe and Altamirano. Béatrice de Chavagnac and the late Jacques d’Arthuys (the director of the Instituto Chileno-Francés at the time) were key figures in the artistic scene in Valparaíso in the 1970s. According to Eliana Rodríguez, d’Arthuys was the one responsible for giving Martínez the book Le Silence et sa brisure, a gift that would give rise to the “invention of (the other) Martinez” and, eventually, to the Poemas del otro affair (phone conversation with Eliana Rodríguez, July 29, 2014). After d’Arthuys was tragically murdered in Brasil in the 1980s, de Chavagnac returned to France and continues to translate works from Spanish and Portuguese into French. In fact, in 1993, she translated several of Martínez’s poems (that is, those attributed to him until 2014) following his participation in the Franco-Chilean “Belles Étrangères” encounter in Paris in 1992. These translations, which were published by Éditions Boîte Noire and Ediciones GrilloM following the poet’s death in March 1993, were sponsored by L'agence AD'HOC, L'Association Dialogue entre les Cultures, a project of Le Ministère de la Culture et la Francophonie. As Gustavo “Grillo” Mujica told me in his meandering “podetic” response to my email regarding this publication (for which he wrote the introduction), they printed 400 copies of this folio, titled Fragments “para ser repartidos gratuitement en la Foire de la Po[é]sie de la Place Saint Denis” (e-mail to author, March 17, 2017).

A side-by-side comparison of three versions of one of the poems included in Fragments allows us to make certain conclusions about de Chavagnac’s role as translator in and of Martínez’s posthumous works. Reading all three incarnations of the poem “Escritura II”/“Écriture II”—that is, Le Silence et sa brisure’s poem “Écriture II” (1976), the translation into Spanish that appeared in 2003 in Poemas del otro, as well as de Chavagnac’s translated work “Écriture II” (1993)—adumbrates Juan Luis Martínez’s brilliant poetics of appropriation and aids in our understanding of Martínez’s “writing-as-translation” project. Despite Cristóbal Joannon’s assertion that “Escritura II” was composed in 1972 and first published in Revista Universitaria 33 (1991) (Martínez, 2003, 111), as I have previously shown, the text that appears in Poemas del otro is actually a direct translation of the following French poem from Le Silence et sa brisure:

Ces instants d’écriture où nul ne me reconnaît
Où je deviens enfin moi-même
Ma propre rencontre à la croisée de la chair et de l’esprit
Quand l’eau pure du devenir s’écoule dans mon être
En un sentiment profond d’intense lumière
Avec la certitude d’une essence vitale brûlant les rythmes
Les tressaillements essentiels d’un coeur renaissant

Ces instants d’absence physique où l’espace-temps se fige

Me dégageant sans peine de l’artifice du corps
Parcourant les nuits atroces du non-humain
Vibrations surgies du tréfonds de la conscience
Et je cherche en vain l’orée d’un rêve visionnaire
Pour me reposer de l’incertain et harassant oyage
Que la haine et la peur du quotidien m’ont fait entreprendre

Ces instants de misère lucide où le pardaon paraît impossible
          nécessairement impossible (Martinez 1976, 28).

The unattributed translation that appears in Poemas del otro reads as follows:

Esos instantes de escritura en que nadie me reconoce
en que llego a ser yo mismo
mi propio encuentro en la encrucijada de la carne y el espíritu
cuando el agua pura del devenir se escurre en mi ser
en un sentimiento profundo de intensa luz
con la certeza de una esencia vital quemando los ritmos
los estremecimientos esenciales de un corazón renaciente.

Esos instantes de ausencia física donde el espacio-tiempo se congela.

Me desprendo sin pena del artificio del cuerpo,
recorriendo las noches atroces del no-humano:
vibraciones surgidas del trasfondo de la conciencia.
Y busco en vano el borde de un sueño visionario
para relajarme del incierto y arrasante viaje
que el odio y el temor de lo cotidiano me han hecho emprender.

Esos instantes de miseria lúcida cuyo perdón me parece imposible
necesariamente imposible (Martínez 2003, 27).

Martínez’s translation is very close to the original; it alters only the punctuation and spacing of the original poem, adding various periods and in one case a colon. Béatrice de Chavagnac’s translation, however, is clearly a translation from Spanish back to French:

Ces instants d’écriture où personne ne me reconnaît
où j’arrive à être moi même
ma propre rencontre au carrefor de la chair et de l’esprit
quand l’eau pure du devenir se glisse dans mon être
dans un sentiment profond d’intense lumière
avec la certitude d’une essence vitale en brûlant les rythmes
les tressaillements essentiels d’un coeur renaissant.

Ces instants d’absence physique où l’espace-temps se congèle.

Je me défais sans peine de l’artifice du corps,
parcourant les nuits atroces du non-humain:
vibrations surgies du tréfonds de la conscience.
Et je cherche en vain le bord d’un songe visionnaire
pour me reposer du voyage incertain et harassant
que la haine et la peur du quotidien m’ont fait entreprendre.

Ces instants de misère lucide dont le pardon me semble
nécessairement impossible (Martínez 1993, 7).

The most prominent difference between the two French versions of the poem—Juan (Luis) Martinez’s 1976 original and Béatrice de Chavagnac’s translation from Spanish in 1993—resides in the punctuation and the capitalization of the first letter of each line. De Chavagnac follows the punctuation and capitalizations found in Juan Luis Martínez’s Spanish translation exactly, thus breaking with the enjambment of the 1976 French original (which, we must conclude here, was unknown to her). The original “Écriture II”, then, presents a much more fluid metaphysical reflection on existence, and its rhythm is structured by the words’ sound and semantics, without the formal trappings of punctuation. In all, the greater irony of the metamorphosis of “Écriture II” to “Escritura II” and back to “Écriture II” is worth recapitulating here: Béatrice de Chavagnac was not involved in the translation of Swiss-Catalan Juan Luis Martinez’s poem to Spanish, but would translate it (unknowingly) back to French nearly two decades later (1976-1993). This is particularly ironic since her husband, the French cultural attaché in Valparaíso in the 1970s, was responsible for giving Juan Luis Martínez a copy of his orthonym’s book, thereby launching Martínez’s conceptualist, “writing-as-(collective-)translation” project.

The larger conclusions that might be drawn from this literary and philological study drew on the publication of the third edition of La nueva novela in December 2016 as a point of departure. This beautiful edition of one of Chile’s most important art objects is not, as I mentioned above, without its limitations. As this essay has shown—drawing on my detailed conversations and exchanges with some of Chile’s most prominent poets, artists, and writers, as well as Juan Luis Martínez’s close friends and colleagues—unless critics obtain more in-depth information regarding the composition and assembly of the posthumous works, these art objects must necessarily be read and analyzed differently than those works that were published during Martínez’s lifetime. The most obvious example, of course, is the continued controversy surrounding Poemas del otro (2003): a great deal more literary detective work is required to understand the procedure involved in the translation of Le Silence et sa brisure. I simply do not believe that Juan Luis Martínez’s French was good enough to complete the translations alone. If, indeed, there were translators—and I have thus far been unsuccessful in locating Béatrice de Chavagnac and the Drouillets, who might have very useful information for us—the translation of Swiss-Catalan Juan Luis Martinez’s poetry represents a different kind of conceptual poetic project. Martínez was absolutely a genius, and no one knows what he intended to do with the translations before his untimely death at 49 years of age. I am now convinced that the translation of 17 poems by Juan Luis Martinez was destined for a larger work, a theory corroborated by Raúl Zurita and Hugo Rivera Scott, two figures very close to Martínez; I am certain that their publication in 2003 in Poemas del otro was not what would have happened had Martínez not passed away in 1993.

To conclude, I would now like to propose a brief analysis of the significance of these questions of language and authenticity for understanding Martínez’s posthumous works and his hermetic corpus as a whole. According to the (largely disinterested) sources I consulted, there are significant rumblings in Martínez’s community of readers regarding several aspects of the posthumous work, involving questions of language, intentionality, and materiality. My intention, however, is not to devalue Martínez’s poetic legacy in any way; rather, I would simply like to better understand the intricacies of the conceptualization and concretization of Martínez’s radical poetic ethos. With respect to the consequences of re-evaluating Martínez’s posthumous work in this manner—and the recent re-edition of La nueva novela has provided me with a jumping-off point for presenting some of the controversies surrounding Martínez’s poetic legacy—I would argue that for a poet who insisted on “writing the other’s work” and “disappearing as an author,” he continues to insistently reinscribe his (mythical) authorial subject into the narrative surrounding his work (or, at the very least, his readers are somewhat responsible for this reinscription). My point here is twofold: first, Martínez, as scriptor ludens, as Marcelo Rioseco has convincingly shown, places the reader in a precarious position, always in danger of being a pawn in one of the poet’s games or falling into one of his traps. Second, we cannot be complacent in our readings and rereadings of Martínez’s poetry—when analyzing the early poems, collages, and art objects, or the posthumous works. Several essays included in the volume Martínez Total do this very well, and are insightful rereadings of the poet’s own work as well as critical reassessments of key texts in “Martínez studies.” After all, it was Martínez himself who created a body of work so lucid and powerful that it continually renews itself and proposes new ways in which we might rise to the challenge of reading it.


Works cited

Agamben, Giorgio. 1999. The End of the Poem. Trans. Daniel Heller-Roazen. Palo Alto: Stanford University Press.

Benjamin, Walter. 2007 [1968]. “The Work of Art in the Age of Mechanical Reproduction.” In Illuminations. Ed. and intro. Hannah Arendt. Trans. Harry Zohn. New York: Schoken.

Careaga, Roberto. 2017. “Las huellas que borró Juan Luis Martínez”. Revista Santiago, 26 enero.

Fernández Biggs, Braulio and Marcelo Rioseco. 2016. Martínez Total. Santiago: Ediciones UC.

Martínez, Juan Luis. 2010. Aproximación del Principio de Incertidumbre a un proyecto poético. Ed. Ronald Kay. Santiago: Galería D21, 2010.

———. 1977, 1985, 2016. La nueva novela. Santiago: Ediciones Archivo.

———. 2003. Poemas del otro. Ed. e intro. Cristóbal Joannon. Santiago: Ediciones UDP.

———. 2013. El poeta anónimo (o el eterno retorno de Juan Luis Martínez). Santiago: Ediciones Archivo.

———. 1978. La poesía chilena. Santiago: Ediciones Archivo.

———. 1993. Fragments. Traducción al francés de Beatrice de Chavagnac. Edición, Nota y diseño de Gustavo Mujica. Éditions Boite Noire, L'agence AD'HOC, L'Association Dialogue entre les Cultures. Le Ministère de la Culture et la Francophonie. París, Francia. 24 p.

Weintraub, Scott. 2014. Juan Luis Martínez’s Philosophical Poetics. Lewisberg, PA: Bucknell UP.

———. 2014. La última broma de Juan Luis Martínez: ‘No sólo ser otro sino escribir la obra de otro’. Santiago: Cuarto Propio. 2017.

Zúñiga, Diego. 2016. “El hombre que coleccionaba poemas”. Entrevista con Pedro Montes. Revista Qué Pasa. Noviembre 11.

Scott Weintraub
The University of New Hampshire


LALT No. 4
Number 4

The fourth issue of LALT highlights underrepresented but deserving voices from across Latin America, with a focus on women writers as well as special sections dedicated to genre-bending science fiction, indigenous-language poetry and prose, and the essential relationship between author and translator.

Table of Contents