Translation from Spanish by Joseph Mulligan
The following is excerpted from C. Vallejo, Against Professional Secrets, ISBN: 9781931824422, Pages: 100, Price: $14.95, available from Roof Books and Small Press Distribution]
AN ANIMAL IS LED...
An animal is led or is pushed. Man is accompanied in parallel.
THERE EXIST QUESTIONS...
There exist questions without answers, which fill the spirit of science and common sense with uneasiness. There exist answers without questions, which are the spirit of art and the dialectic consciousness of things.
THE HEAD AND FEET OF DIALECTICS
Facing the stones of Darwinian risk that compose the Tuileries palace, Potstam, Peterhof, Quirinal, the White House and Buckingham, I suffer the pain of a megatherium, who meditated standing upright, the hind legs on the head of Hegel and the front legs on the head of Marx.
THE DEATH OF DEATH
In reality, the sky isn’t far from or near the land. In reality, death isn’t far from or close to life. We are always before the
EXPLANATION OF HISTORY
There are people who are interested in Rome, Athens, Florence, Toledo and other ancient cities, not because of their past––static and immobile––but because of their present––lively and dynamic. For these people, the world of El Greco, the green and yellow robes of his apostles, his house, his kitchen, his crockery, are not very interesting. What do they care about the cathedral of
While the guide explains the date and political circumstances of its construction on the
These are the scenes that interest certain people: the historical present of
The same can be said of all the ancient cities, historical ruins and treasures of the world. One does not narrate history, or see it or hear it or touch it. One lives history and feels it live.
THE INTRINSIC MOVEMENT OF MATTER
Parallels exist neither in the spirit nor in the reality of the universe. It is but an abstract supposition of geometry. There is no room for a parallelism within the single and linear continuity of life. History and nature unfold linearly and, in this single, solitary line, human events and natural phenomena occur, one after another, successively and never simultaneously.
The parallelism of a railroad does not have a greater living reality than that of two lines drawn on a chalkboard. Two trees or two children born at the same instant do not constitute an effective parallelism either. In all these cases, the geometrical illusion does not sustain objective events, but participates in the nature of so many other fictions of the senses or abstractions of intelligence, like when we see, from a train in motion, that the houses are on parade or when, a burning stick is moving in a circle (see Pascal), we believe that we see and affirm an arc of fire, etc.
Life is a succession and not simultaneity. The apparent parallels of a railroad do not develop at once, but one after another. Men do not live together, but they occur one after another. Towns do not live together either, but occur. Plurality is a phenomenon of time and not of space. The number 1 is solitary of place. The number 2 and the subsequent single or compound numbers do not exist as objective reality, but as abstract suppositions of thought.
Life does not play out in various forms at once. But in various successive forms. A planet does not have a destiny different from that of other planets, but the same and unique end that all the others have managed to carry out. A stone meets a destiny identical to that of a mollusk, and it goes before or after a man, but not at the same time as he. If one could depict the evolution of life, it would be represented by a line of beings and things, with one at the end. In abstract terrain, beings and things unfold with an apparent myriad character. But this is not substantive reality. Beneath the illusory simultaneity of things and beings, reality, at the end, is solely a succession in the movement of the universe. The masses are more a parade than a crowd. The asyndeton surging from history is more a line than a point.
THE MONUMENT TO BAUDELAIRE...
The monument to Baudelaire is one of the most beautiful headstones in
Another sculptor might have chiseled the heraldic cat of the bard, so groped by the critics. He, who worked this stone, however, delved deeper and chose the bat, this zoological binomial––between mammal and bird––that ethical image––between Lucifer and angel––who embodies the spirit of Baudelaire so well. And this, because the author of The Flowers of Evil was not diabolical, in the Catholic sense of the word, but diabolical in a lay and simply human sense, a natural coefficient of rebellion and innocence. Rebellion is not possible without innocence. Only children and angels rebel. Malice never rebels. An old man can only become spiteful and grow bitter. Hence, Voltaire. Rebellion is the fruit of an innocent spirit. And the cat carries malice in each of its paws. On the other hand, the bat––that airborne mouse of the mausoleums, that hybrid specimen of the cornices––has a knack for height and the shadows. It is a native of the kingdom of darkness and also a dweller of the cupolas. Due to its dual nature of flight and darkness, it possesses wisdom in shadows and, as in heroic acts, performs the upward fall.
After publishing two major poetry collections, The Black Heralds (1918) & Trilce (1922), as well as the exceptional & under-celebrated book of prose, Scales (1923), César Vallejo headed for
Against Professional Secrets is indeed a critique (of what Vallejo saw as a pose in the European schools & as insincerity in Latin American poetry); yet it is also a proposal, & this I think is what makes his curious “book of thoughts” so compelling. Readers, who revere his indigenism in The Black Heralds, gawk at his experimentalism in Trilce, & hear his resounding call for solidarity in Poemas humanos, will find, amid his many well-employed metaphors, the stunning presence of chromophores (i.e. language matter absorbing light at specific frequencies & thereby imparting color onto its surface). It is due to chromophores that certain chameleons have the ability to adopt the appearance of their surroundings.
[Joseph Mulligan, poet and translator, was born in
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