Modern Times

These are calamitous times we’re living through
You can’t speak without committing a contradiction
Or keep quiet without complicity with the Pentagon.
Everyone knows there’s no alternative possible
All roads lead to Cuba
But the air is dirty
Breathing is a fertile act.
The enemy says
The country is to blame
As if countries were men.
Accursed clouds circle accursed volcanoes
Accursed embarkations launch accursed expeditions
Accursed trees crumble on accursed birds:
It was all polluted to begin with.

— Nicanor Parra
(Trans. by Miller Williams)

Nicanor Parra at age 100.Image: Gobierno de Chile / CC BY-SA 2.0

Nicanor Parra at age 100.
Image: Gobierno de Chile / CC BY-SA 2.0

Originally trained as a physicist, “anti-poet” Nicanor Parra refused to flee Chile during the Pinochet regime, voicing his dissent from inside the nation instead. Perhaps because he was never “disappeared,” he — like other poets who remained in Chile — has been accused of not opposing Pinochet with enough vigor.

[Research note: Leila Guerriero, “Our Twilight Lands,” Paris Review (March 26, 2012)]

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