In a memorable poem titled “El poeta de este mundo” [The poet of this world], Chilean poet Jorge Teillier reminds us of those truths that today—in this postmodern and, paradoxically, ideologized world in which we live—seem to have been forgotten. These are not, of course, objective and demonstrable truths, but rather poetic truths, to which we sadly no longer have access, as almost all that matters about poetry is no longer ours: we have forgotten it, or it has vanished in the hazy labyrinth of memory.
“Poetry should be usual like the sky that spills out over us, / which means nothing if it does not allow men to approach and get to know each other.” “Poetry is to breathe in peace / such that others should breathe, / a poem is fresh bread, / a wicker basket,” Teillier writes. No words could better capture the manner in which we approach an extraordinary woman in this issue of Latin American Literature Today: Uruguayan poet Ida Vitale. Katherine M. Hedeen and Víctor Rodríguez Núñez have prepared an excellent dossier that invites us to read and reread a poet who, last year, won nothing less than the Cervantes Prize and the FIL Prize for Literature in Romance Languages, not to mention the prizes she has received in previous years, such as the Queen Sofía Prize for Ibero-American Poetry and the Octavio Paz Prize, among other awards of great international impact. This dossier also includes an essay by Irma Cantú and five poems, in Spanish and English, from Vitale’s book “Garden of Silica, as well as her most recent work, uncollected as of yet in a single volume, but encompassing the section “Antepenúltimos,” [Second-to-Last] which opens her Poesía reunida [Collected poetry] (Tusquets, 2017).” Ida Vitale reminds us that “Whether life be short or long, all / that we live is reduced / to gray remains in memory.” This is a dossier in which to reread Ida Vitale, to recall and to live once again in her poetry.
The following dossier is also one of memory, in the strictest sense of the word. This year marks twenty-five years since the death of Julio Ramón Ribeyro, and we are happy to feature a dossier diligently prepared by Gunter Silva to mark this occasion: it is an occasion worth marking. In 2019, Planeta Press has republished three books by this remarkable Peruvian author in commemorative editions: La palabra del mudo [The word of the mute], Prosas apátridas [Stateless prose], and his incomparable diaries: La tentación del fracaso [The temptation of failure]. This dossier includes writing by Fernando Ampuero, Paloma Torres, Jorge Coaguila, and, of course, Gunter Silva. We believe their pages also form part of the rich Peruvian literature that holds a special place in this issue of LALT.
LALT remains faithful to its commitment to provide a permanent space for the indigenous literature of Latin America. In this issue we feature a dossier dedicated to the poet Edwin Lucero Rinza, prepared by Walther Maradiegue and translated by our Managing Editor and translator, Arthur Dixon. We are proud to note that Lucero Rinza’s book Runapa Ñawin (2018), the source of the poems we feature, is “written entirely in Kañaris Quechua, one of the least-known dialects of this Andean language,” as Walther Maradiegue tells us.
In our section on translation, we include an essay by Suzanne Jill Levine about the experience of translating Cabrera Infante’s Tres tristes tigres—or Three Trapped Tigers, in English—as well as Lucina Schell’s reflections on the fragments of Visión de los hijos del mal [Vision of the children of evil] by Argentine writer Miguel Ángel Bustos. Gabriel Villarroel interviews Kit Maude, the translator of Uruguayan writer Armonía Somers. In previews, we have texts by Argentine authors César Aira and María Sonia Cristoff, as well as Dominican author and musician Rita Indiana. And, of course, this issue comes complete with full sections of poetry, fiction, and interviews of Latin American writers.
The backdrop of this latest issue of LALT is a turbulent and worrying Latin America that has not yet found its own path toward tranquility, stability, and democracy. It is hard to understand what’s happening, it is hard to accept the swinging of this pendulum that carries our countries from one extreme to another, never escaping the seemingly permanent abyss born of this fragile institutionality in which we live. The same as always, one might say. But no, this is not the same as always. Now everything seems to happen at the same time and from all possible fronts at once. Literature is accounting for this, but it is also accounting for the existence of writers who do not give up on writing, imagining, thinking the world in other terms. We hope this issue of LALT, in some small way, helps to prove it.
Translated by Arthur Dixon