Caen cenizas sobre la ciudad. Carolina Cárdenas. Chile: Conunhueno. 2021. 79 pages.
It so happens that I am sick of being a man.
And it happens that I walk into tailorshops and movie houses,
dried up, waterproof, like a swan made of felt
steering my way in a water of wombs and ashes.
Translated by Robert Bly
I begin this review quoting Neruda from his work Residence on Earth, given that implicit in Caen cenizas sobre la ciudad, by Colombian poet Carolina Cárdenas, is the desperation and defeat of being man-woman, of inhabiting without humanity, as the global economic system turns us into statistics, gears. Just like in the Chaplin film, Modern Times, we are becoming alienated because that is what the system requires of us, and Orwell plots this in Animal Farm and 1984.
There is increasingly less time and space for the soul, and conversely, without being machines, we turn into them, thus we break down and inhabit ruin. This is what the author Carolina Cárdenas sees and writes as a bleak diagnosis of a world that is sick, terminal, and insane.
Carolina is able to see the decay or the poison of her surroundings. First as the bestiary of a city that is the world where, in each inhabitant she describes, are all of the miseries we are obligated to accept, which turn us into insects. In second place, people have to face a reality full of injustices, impersonal and individualistic, that sell us a happiness of consumption and cruel competition. That is the reason for this vacuous existence in cities of ash, being human rags and tatters. This first part is written in the third person.
Then, in the second chapter, the male lyrical subject appears in different people, showing everything invisible that we are and the muteness of the misery of being someone without value, which is reflected in verses like: dogs with mange, flies from which everyone flees. She poeticizes several illnesses of the mind and soul inflicted upon us by the capitalist and free market systems, full of individualism and social inequity.
The work is a terrible and dark beauty in which no one remains othered and the only option is to identify ourselves with some of these characters or situations. With these illnesses, Caen cenizas sobre la ciudad becomes Kafkaesque, and it is clear that the heteronym F.K. Kristopher, created by the poet, will give us directions through the book.
The book sets aside the rules of spelling, grammar, and punctuation to reveal the diverse clinical profiles that afflict the female lyrical subject, which are alienation and more alienation. In this second part, we will encounter internal monologues in which these (mental, nervous, visceral) conditions appear along with suicidal thoughts that come from not being able to endure existing in this way, and in which the sensitive being endows us with absolute defenselessness.
In the chapter “Los gritos que nadie escucha,” F.K. Kristopher unveils to us the convergence of insanity and horror, chaos and nothingness. The advance of this chaos of cities coincides with the current pandemic, since it shows us what it means to inhabit the alienation of the planet and its inhuman, slave-driving systems of production, where the worst tragedy is forgetting that we are human. And so, the urban landscape fills up with mental victims and the screams of birds because the world is captivity that prevents flying. Then, in the face of post-truths, we are engulfed in a bipolarity in which we become worms or insects. And Kafka appears before us in the disintegration of our societies and of ourselves, like in The Trial.
F.K.Kristopher manifests as an oracle announcing the final disaster, whose end never arrives, like in the torment of Prometheus, in which the tragedy is in the sensing, and the punishment is in inhabiting without sense. Fauna does not escape this hecatomb, which is why the author carries on dialogues with cats and dogs, because humanity is a dangerous beast. The reason why fireflies disintegrate and disappear: everything is a fracture.
In the last chapter, “Yo, la locura y la nada,” the poetic voice tells us that this cannot be the reason for its diverse stages between insect, fly, and worm; the void, rupture, and nothingness. Ideas and thought fade at the end of the book; the graphemes also deconstruct themselves and disappear; meanwhile, they leave in the memory ghosts of an inhabiting suffering.