Cartographies: Meditations on Travel

Overview

On the impulse behind Cartographies, Marjorie Agosín writes, "I have always wanted to understand the meaning of displacement and the quest or longing for home." In these lyrical meditations in prose and poetry, Agosín evokes the many places on four continents she has visited or called home. Recording personal and spiritual voyages, the author opens herself to follow the ambiguous, secret map of her memory, which "does not betray."

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Overview

On the impulse behind Cartographies, Marjorie Agosín writes, "I have always wanted to understand the meaning of displacement and the quest or longing for home." In these lyrical meditations in prose and poetry, Agosín evokes the many places on four continents she has visited or called home. Recording personal and spiritual voyages, the author opens herself to follow the ambiguous, secret map of her memory, which "does not betray."

Agosín's journey begins in Chile, where she spent her childhood before her family left in the early days of the Pinochet dictatorship. Of Santiago Agosín writes, "Day and night I think about my city. I dream the dream of all exiles." Agosín also travels to Prague and Vienna, ancestral homes of her grandparents, and to Valparaíso in Chile, which received them as immigrants. Kneeling among the yellow mounds at the Terezin concentration camp, where twenty-two of her relatives died, Agosín places "small stones, shrubs, the stuff of life on graves I did not recognize."

And then on through the Middle East, the Mediterranean, Europe, and the Americas . . . Everywhere, she is drawn to women in whose devotion and creativity she sees a deep vein of hope-from Julia, keeper of the synagogue at Rhodes, to the women potters in the Chilean town of Pomaire.

Agosín writes of diaspora, exile, and oppression, yet only to highlight the dignity and valor of those who find refuge in their humanity and their art, in community and tradition. Cartographies shows us what can be found when we journey with openness, as approachable to strangers as we are to ourselves.

Marjorie Agosín, a human rights activist and writer, is a professor of Spanish at Wellesley College. She has written almost twenty books, including Dear Anne Frank, A Cross and a Star, and The Alphabet in My Hands. Agosín's honors include the Gabriela Mistral Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement, given by the Chilean government; the Letras de Oro prize; and the Latino Literature Prize.
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Editorial Reviews

Publishers Weekly
With lyrical prose and deep passion, writer and poet Agosin (Sargasso; Starry Night; etc.) maps out her past and the places that have given her life meaning. Written as a series of what Allende calls "prose poems," the book's short chapters are dreamy, meandering reflections on Agosin's travels through locations rich with personal meaning and sometimes claiming violent histories. Agosin was born in Chile, after her family fled Jewish persecution in Europe. When Pinochet seized power during Agosin's childhood, the family fled again. The author shows how she's embraced her wandering ways and grounded herself in foreign places, including Vienna, Prague, Sarajevo, Cairo, Tuscany, Ireland, Tijuana and, improbably, York, Maine. Her descriptions of these places are short, often dramatic, and vary from concrete to conceptual. Returning to Chile as an adult, she writes, "I wanted to dream about my country, draw near her as if for the first time, with the innocence of the little girl who asks where they put the dead people. My country was a sharp desert where women rested upon a silenced history and eight hundred active volcanoes." The author describes each location's history and meaning for her life, but she also includes a powerful sense of the present. Of course, in covering so many settings, Agosin doesn't address any in much depth. Rather, she intends each chapter to feel like a first impression, and an intimate one at that. Although the Holocaust looms large, Agosin's palpable love of humanity and unique prose style keep this work uplifting. (Apr.) Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information.
From the Publisher

"Cartographies is a book of profound inner explorations. Agosín captures the terrible beauty of exile and the exquisite ambivalence of homecoming. With her we journey to places she or her ancestors once inhabited and discover the sweet melancholy of belonging and yet not belonging. For Agosín, the poetry of travel is the poetry of life."--Barbara Mujica, author of Frida

"A divine poetic intelligence cascades a tumult of images and metaphors as Agosín sweeps us away to far-off places—Krakow, Cairo, her beloved Chile. Intertwined with memories, bending time to serve her unhurried recall of exile, she evokes the fragrances of 'cemeteries wrapped in mist,' and her cartography charts the secrets that lie at the heart of all cities. Mystical, mysterious, and at the same time steeped in sensual detail, Cartographies takes us also on a journey that illumines and expands unexpected spaces in our minds."--Bapsi Sidhwa, author of Cracking India

"One does not read as much as dreamily float through Marjorie Agosín's Cartographies, her tales of grand and shy cities, lovelorn landscapes. The world, in its many guises, is revealed inside out by the surprise and surety of her beautiful, fluid prose."--Oscar Hijuelos, author of The Mambo Kings Play Songs of Love

"Prague and Vienna, Budapest, Croatia, Rhodes, Istanbul, Jerusalem, Cairo, Rome, Assisi, Ireland, London, Amsterdam-these are just some of the places that the author provides glimpses of in her poetic descriptions. She has written a travel book that can also be enjoyed as short, isolated reflections in which individual scenes reverberate like private prayer."--Allen Weakland, Booklist

“With lyrical prose and deep passion, writer and poet Agosín maps out her past and the places that have given her life meaning. . . . Although the Holocaust looms large, Agosin’s palpable love of humanity and unique prose style keep this work uplifting."--Publishers Weekly

"The Chilean-born writer, poet, and human rights activist dreams 'the dream of exiles' in moving explorations of displacement and the longing for home."--Latina

"Throughout her writings, Agosín concentrates on the strength and creativity of women worldwide while revealing her own preoccupation with past oppression."--Library Journal

"Reading Agosín’s words takes you on an extraordinary voyage, hearing ‘the murmur of the road’ and feeling that her words are heavy, sensual messages of beauty."--Multicultural Review

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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780820329529
  • Publisher: University of Georgia Press
  • Publication date: 4/15/2007
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 160

Meet the Author


Marjorie Agosín, a human rights activist and writer, is a professor of Spanish at Wellesley College. Her many books include Dear Anne Frank, A Cross and a Star, and The Alphabet in My Hands. Agosín's honors include the Gabriela Mistral Medal of Honor for Lifetime Achievement, given by the Chilean government; the Letras de Oro prize; and the Latino Literature Prize.
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Table of Contents

Prelude
Introduction
Sect. I A map of my face
Creating a map 3
The murmur of the road 3
Promises 3
A compass and a purple sailboat 4
The city of memory 4
The city of books 5
The city of love 5
A map of my face 6
The traveler and the mapmaker 7
Cities of water 7
Traveling 8
The treasures of arrival 9
Sect. II Southern shores
Chile 13
Santiago 13
The city of childhood 14
Home 15
The fairy 16
Pomaire : city of clay 16
Isla Negra 18
Neruda in Isla Negra 19
The city of foreigners 21
Osorno 21
The languages of memory 22
Vina del Mar and the Pacific 22
Rain 23
Reaching Valparaiso 24
City of wind and thresholds 24
The lights of Valparaiso 28
Phantom ships 29
Sect. III Cities of war
Tamara and Silvia 33
The Pinkas synagogue 34
Terezin 36
Prague 39
Vienna 42
Budapest 43
Croatia 44
Ana of Croatia 45
Dubrovnik 46
Sect. IV Gestures of memory
Rhodes I 51
Rhodes II 52
Kefalonia 56
Aegean 57
Istanbul I 58
Istanbul II 59
Jerusalem 60
Israel 61
Cairo 62
Cairo's City of the Dead 63
Gestures of memory 64
Sect. V Touching the sky
Traces 69
Mdina 69
Lace 70
Rome 71
The Jewish Ghetto of Rome 71
Assisi 72
Tuscany 73
Volterra 74
Verona 75
Venice 77
The Ghetto of Venice 79
Nighttime in Venice 81
Spain 82
Deja 82
Valldemossa 83
In Avila with Saint Teresa 84
Spain in my heart 86
Sect. VI Northern realms
Ireland 91
London 93
The church of St. James 93
Oxford 95
Bath 96
The mermaid of Copenhagen 97
Amsterdam and Anne Frank 97
There 99
Ainola 100
Saint Petersburg 101
Anna Akhmatova 102
The gypsy women 103
Sect. VII America
The weavers of Charleston 107
Miami 108
Key West 108
Dallas 109
Angel Fire, New Mexico 111
Tijuana 112
Juarez 113
Santiago de Atitlan 113
Costa Rica 114
Santo Domingo 115
Sosua 116
Copacabana 117
Bahia 117
Teate 118
Rio de la Plata 119
Montevideo 121
Georgia 122
The tree 123
Amherst 127
Homeward 128
York, Maine 128
The fortune-teller 130
Beach house 131
The cliffs 133
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