CARNATION AND TENEBRAE CANDLEby Marosa di Giorgio
Translated from the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas
November 2, 2020
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This new collection by Marosa di Giorgio, long considered a major figure in Latin American literature, is the work of a translator who has immersed herself, with great thoughtfulness and dedication, in the life of a writer whose poetry is foreboding, mystical, dangerous and magnificent. Everywhere in di Giorgio's oeuvre, there are wars, crimes, monsters, possessed plants and animals, ghosts, illnesses and miracles animating a world that is always on the verge of explosion. Di Giorgio's writing is as foreboding as it is tentacular, as intricate as it is unsettling. Jeannine Marie Pitas' ongoing and remarkable engagement with di Giorgio has brought us an exciting and valuable gift. —Daniel Borzutzky
“It seemed as if everything was coming to an end,” writes Marosa di Giorgio in the first section of Carnation and Tenebrae Candle, preparing the reader for the wondrous and terrifying world of contradictions that will follow: a lush countryside filled with enormous hares and enchanted begonias, meals of rats and apples as well as a “wheat field of stars,” where readers must constantly renegotiate the borders between the inanimate and the living, the living and the dead. Even the most familiar relations transform until a father becomes the “Chosen One” as well as “an Oak Tree of Fine Understanding,” and a mother can be both savior to and the victim of her daughter. There are ghosts and “war storms,” rapes and resurrections in a location both unmappable and as recognizable as the first prayers whispered from the mouth of a child who cannot possibly understand them. But there’s nothing naïve about di Giorgio’s work, and no other voice that sounds quite like hers. “[J]ust as I was walking among the eucalyptus apothecaries, at that time when the walls become filled with stars”, di Giorgio writes, “I saw the language, and I immediately understood it, as if it had always been my own.” Jeannine Marie Pitas’s English translations have helped bring this Uruguayan writer to a new audience. Carnation and Tenebrae Candle will continue to solidify di Giorgio as a major voice from Latin America. —Susan Briante
In di Giorgio’s childhood Salto, a wide-ranging and ever-vibrant flora and fauna nourished the memories she’d draw on for her work’s extraordinary transfigurations. Eggs, insects, and reptiles exit or enter the body, either being born or invading the body’s depths, generating an intense and shocking pleasure. Despite her Italian background, she affirms her belonging to an ancestral earth, to an indigenous enclave that nourishes her: she paints herself as “a native princess under her anacahuita tree.” Bringing this landscape to life became a task of joy and responsibility for di Giorgio, her own unique mission, and one which she devoted herself to with passion and perseverance. —Roberto Echavarren
Marosa di Giorgio’s Carnation and Tenebrae Candle is a complex world, where the present and past coexist, where animals and plants are humanized, and where the oneiric, the real, and the magical operate on the same plane, guided by an immersive, surrealist rhythm.—Laura Cesarco Eglin
Born in Salto, Uruguay, and raised on her family’s farm, Marosa di Giorgio (1932-2004) is one of the most prominent Uruguayan poets of the twentieth century. Di Giorgio began writing in her childhood and published her first book of poems at the age of twenty-two. She then went on to publish a total of fourteen books of poetry, three collections of short stories, and one novel. While some critics have categorized her as a surrealist, she herself denied membership in any literary movement or school. Although she was relatively unknown outside the Southern Cone during her lifetime, she is now becoming more and more widely read throughout Latin America and Europe. Thanks to the efforts of various translators, she is also becoming more known in the English-speaking world.
Jeannine Marie Pitas has translated four other books by Marosa di Giorgio, which were published together by Ugly Duckling Presse in 2017, under the title I Remember Nightfall. She is the author of the poetry collection Things Seen and Unseen (Mosaic Press, 2019), and her most recent translations are of Uruguayan poet Selva Casal’s We Do Not Live In Vain (Veliz Books, 2020) and Romina Freschi’s Echo of the Park (Eulalia Books, 2019). She lives in Iowa and teaches English and Spanish at the University of Dubuque.