Cipango

Overview

"Chilean poet Tomas Harris's Cipango - written in the 1980s, first published in 1992, and considered by many to be the author's best work to date - employs the metaphor of a journey. The poems collectively allude to the voyage of Columbus, who believed that he'd reached the Far East ("Cipango," or Japan), not the Americas. Building on that mistaken historical premise, Cipango comments on the oppressive legacy of colonialism in Latin America - manifested in twentieth-century Chile through the 1973 military coup by Augusto Pinochet and the brutal

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Overview

"Chilean poet Tomas Harris's Cipango - written in the 1980s, first published in 1992, and considered by many to be the author's best work to date - employs the metaphor of a journey. The poems collectively allude to the voyage of Columbus, who believed that he'd reached the Far East ("Cipango," or Japan), not the Americas. Building on that mistaken historical premise, Cipango comments on the oppressive legacy of colonialism in Latin America - manifested in twentieth-century Chile through the 1973 military coup by Augusto Pinochet and the brutal dictatorship there - and on the violence and degradation of contemporary urban society. The author's vision is of a decadent, apocalyptic world that nonetheless contains the possibility for regeneration." "Cipango is characterized by strange and obsessive imagery-strips of mud, will-o'-the-wisps, vacant lots, blue rats - juxtapositions of contemporary and archaic diction and of incongruous settings that range over time and place; the use of an understated irony; and a dark, incantatory voice. The speakers in various poems address personages such as Columbus, Marco Polo, and the Great Khan, and refer to a breadth of sources including Columbus's diaries, Genet's Our Lady of the Flowers, Bram Stoker's Dracula, Nerval's Aurelia, the Holocaust, Billie Holiday, and the film Goldfinger. The book's content and formal elements combine to produce a work of almost epic scope, one with universal appeal." "Tomas Harris's oeuvre, and in particular, Cipango, grows out of the Chilean poetic tradition - one that has produced such greats as Vicente Huibobro, Gabriela Mistral, Pablo Neruda, and Nicanor Parra, all of whose poetry has been published to greateror lesser degree in translation in the United States. Harris's poetry, on the other hand, while celebrated in his native Chile and throughout Latin America, has been underrecognized in this country. This bilingual, en-face edition of Cipango, deftly translated by Daniel Shapiro, remedies that situation by bringing the lyricism and power of one of Chile's, and Latin America's, major poetic voices to a U.S. English-language readership. The copious end-notes following the poetry in the edition explain the book's numerous literary, historical, and other references." Given Cipango's outstanding literary merit as well as the timeliness of its themes and the specific tradition it belongs to, it will be a valuable resource and source of pleasure for instructors and students of Latin American and comparative literatures as well as for poets, translators, and general readers in the United States.

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Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Starred Review. The work of Harris, lauded in his native Chile and South America with the prestigious Pablo Neruda, Casa de las Américas, and Altazor awards, is stark and lugubrious. The verses are instilled with images of death and fear; they are nautical, buoyant on the imagined sea of the explorers who lusted for gold. The title gathers its meaning from Christopher Columbus's mistaking the island of Hispaniola for Cipango, Marco Polo's Japan. Harris wrote the five books that make up this volume during Pinochet's dictatorship (1973—90), and together with the horrors of the Spanish vessels and the riches of Kublai Khan, the acts of terror unleashed during the dictatorship attain a climactic poignancy (“I'm a beggar woman, a whore,/ the only pearls my teeth,/ my teeth, brothers, that I hoard for the Divine/ in the little silk purse/ of Death smoke/ from the 80's”). What emerges is an epic odyssey in time, seen through the eyes of the perpetrators, as well as the eyes of the pillaged. Time is strung together by images that resurface—a sun wrapped in cellophane, will-o'-the-wisps, nocturnal butterflies, red fish devouring each other, blue rats—and the tragic citizens of Concepción, who dwell, sometimes lustful and happy, amid the violence and neon of the red-light district. Shapiro's faithful translations, produced here alongside the Spanish text, do well to mirror Harris's language acrobatics—from Old Spanish to contemporary to vernacular—and choral cadence. A fine collection; recommended for libraries and bookstores with a contemporary South American poetry collection and wherever current events titles are popular.—Ingrid Rojas Contreras, Palo Alto, CA Copyright © Reed Business Information, a division of Reed Elsevier Inc. All rights reserved.
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780838757345
  • Publisher: Bucknell University Press
  • Publication date: 12/1/2009
  • Language: Spanish
  • Pages: 328
  • Product dimensions: 6.40 (w) x 9.30 (h) x 1.10 (d)

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