Wednesday, April 25, 2007

Poem: Juan José Arreola

Rain, cold...another of those days. So here's a prose poem by the highly inventive and innovative Mexican author Juan José Arreola (1918-), who was quite influential for several generations of younger Mexican authors and received most of his country's major literary prizes, but remains little known, I would imagine, to most English speakers. The poem below reminds me of Jorge Luis Borges's prose poetry, though somewhat more gentle in its paradoxes, while other of his pieces strongly resemble those of Francis Jammes.


Wherever there is a duel I shall be on the side of the man who falls, hero
or villain.
I am tied by the neck to the theory of slaves sculptured in the most ancient
stele. I am the dying warrior beneath Hasurbanipal's chariot, the charred bone in
the Dachau ovens.
Hector and Menelaus, France and Germany, and the two drunks breaking each
other's noses in the tavern oppress me with their discord. Wherever I turn my
eyes an immense tapestry with the face of Good getting the worst of it covers the
world's landscape.
An involuntary spectator, I see the contenders start fighting and I don't want
to be on anybody's side. Because I am both the one who strikes and the one who
receives the blows. Man against man. Does anyone wish to take a bet?
Ladies and gentlemen: There is no salvation. We are losing the match. The
Devil is now playing with the white pieces.

Copyright © 1964, Juan José Arreola, translated by George D. Schade, from Confabulario, in Confabulario and Other Inventions, Austin: University of Texas Press.

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