Page 8


Even with La Milagrosa, a healer who travels from plantation to plantation in an oxcart, healing ax-wounds, delivering babies, easing out splinters, and comforting the dying, Ramirez avoids the caricature and stereotype. Characters are bound together by the person and politics of el hombre, then the sons of el hombre, and at the end presumably after the death of Luis Somoza the son of el hombre. All are either cursed or blessed; none escapes. Although the caudillos seldom appear, the author creates a powerful feeling of omniscience. When, on a clear day, the public is told that the outcome of the national election was changed because of rain, well, the message is clear. It rained because el hombre said it rained. But where the fabulist would have the old dictator conjure up a rain, Ramirez observes that it is raining because none, save one old man, will say otherwise; and all under a clear sky. The powers of these dictators are limited by the laws of physics. If it is the shadow of the dictator that binds together the characters, and something of the plot, it is the reader who must first put the plot together and make it work. The six tales offered up by Ramirez are broken into some 33 fragments divided among nine chapters and an epilogue. And not even as the reader traces the fragments of one tale through the chapters in which they appear, will all of them fall into chronological order. To the two most recent editions, one published by the Ministry of Culture of Nicaragua, and the other here reviewed, have been added a set of six woodcut graphics. A graphic precedes each new scene. Also added is a chronology as an appendix. And even with these additions the reader is required to do much of the work, as stories are resolved before being introduced and characters cross from one tale into another as easily as they cross the borders of the six Central American countries through which one or another of the story lines proceeds. Readers International publishes in English the works of writers from “outside the developed West.” Many of these titles are censored in their countries of origin. At one point during the rule of Anastasio Somoza, Ramirez went into exile. At the time of Somoza’s fall, Ramirez was a spokesman for the moderate Tercista faction of the as a member of Nicaragua’s threeperson executive committee, Ramirez was elected Vice President of the country on November 4. Yet To Bury Our Fathers is a novel, not a polemic. The author managed to maintain his distance. He treats Somocistas in the novel fairly, at times with compassion, and depicts some of the revolutionaries as a burden to their country. We see men editing papers that no one reads and burying rifles along the borders while they plan invasions that will never be realized. And it was Quijote who compared reading a translation to admiring the back of a Flemish tapestry. The unrecognized art of translation has been transformed since Cervantes turned his knight on the editorial hacks of 17th century Spain. But there are some rough spots in Nick Casitor’s translation. It is in places wordy, contains enough awkward sentences to make me wish that he had been more idiomatic than literal, p OETS OF NICARAGUA is an important and timely collection of poems by 13 twentieth-cen tury Nicaraguan poets. The bilingual anthology is significant not only because it introduces this wide range of poets to an English-speaking audience, but also because it conveys the power and sophistication of the poetry that has come out of Nicaragua. POETS OF NICARAGUA: A BILINGUAL ANTHOLOGY, 1918-1979 Selected and translated by Steven F. White Unicorn Press P.O. Box 3307 Greensboro, NC 27402 Like Chile and Mexico, Nicaragua has nurtured a bevy of internationallyrecognized poets: Ruben Dario, Salomon de la Selva \(the first HispanicAmerican to be nominated for the Nobel . . . These poets formed a network in Nicaragua: a conscious literary dialogue among generations. White shows us this continuing literary argument by presenting the poets chronologically and pro Amy Johnson is a freelance writer from Texas and a Harvard law student. and at one point in Chapter 1, apparently to avoid repetition that is more acceptable in the Spanish, utterly confuses the antecedent of a pronoun important to understanding the passage and the chapter. Having said that, I want to affirm that this is a readable translation of a work rich in, well, hispanismos: idioms and even verbs that would bewilder speakers Spanish. Make up your own mind. But this is a good novel. Will you be allowed to meet its author? Probably not any time soon. This past year, the U.S. State Department, under the provisions of the McCarran-Walter Act, denied Ramirez an ordinary visa for a scheduled lecture tour in this country. viding short biographies to explain each poet’s historical role. The modern history of Nicaraguan poetry begins with Ruben Dario, who in the late 1800s declared literary independence from Spain, giving birth to “modernismo.” Darro’s experiment succeeded so much so that Europeans began to imitate them. Steven White’s book begins with the Nicaraguan response to Dario. Among the post-modernists who led the literary rebellion against Dario were Alfonso Cortes and Salomon de la Selva They are the first poets in the anthology. Following them are the poets of the Vanguard movement, which was born in 1927 when Jose Coronel Urtrecho returned from the United States. Urtrecho declared that Nicaragua must be autonomous a resonant theme for generations of Nicaraguan poets, including the present one. While the poems’ rhythm, content, and style are Hispanic, their appeal is universal. When Alfonso Cortes describes autumn, it is the autumn we know: The sky is a faithful memory of colors where a resonant wind swirls in the afternoon like a madwoman sinking her thoughts in the silken skin of flowers. Poets of Nicaragua By Amy Johnson THE TEXAS OBSERVER 27