ROOM IN ROMEby Jorge Eduardo Eielson
Translated from the Spanish by David Shook
Foreword by Mario Vargas Llosa
Postface by Martha Canfield
March 26, 2019
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“Eielson, throughout his life, always kept some secret, an intimacy that he preserved, out of reach even from his closest friends. This mysterious depth that intrigued and fascinated those who knew him is largely present in his writing, in his sculptures, and in his paintings. This depth may be one of the elements that guarantees the permanency of his plastic and poetic works that, though inseparable from the time that the art was forged, merit survival and serve as a testimony --there, in the future, before new generations-- to the myths, the dreams, the miseries and the achievements of the world in which Eielson suffered and rejoiced.”—Mario Vargas Llosa
"From his early writing to his final works, created or completed from the immobility imposed by the disease that would destroy him, the artist and poet Jorge Eduardo Eielson has always been characterized by his love of novelty, by his versatility, but his good-natured ironic outlook, his tireless playful streak, and finally — his is not a paradox — by his luminous serenity." —Martha Canfield
Jorge Eduardo Eielson was born in Lima on April 13, 1924. Eielson switched schools several times until at the end of his secondary education he met the anthropologist and writer José María Arguedas who introduced him to the artistic and literary circles of Lima as well as to the knowledge of the ancient civilizations of Peru. He won the National Poetry Award three years later and the National Drama Award in 1948, when he also held a successful art exhibition at the Lima Gallery. In 1951, he traveled to Italy for a summer vacation and decided to settle permanently in Rome. During this period he wrote the collection of poems Habitación en Roma (Room in Rome), and two novels: El cuerpo de Giulia-No and Primera muerte de María. In the late 1950s, he abandoned avant-garde and resorted to using materials such as earth, sand and clay to sculpt in the canvas surface; at first he used this technique to depict landscapes but gradually moves towards human figures represented through clothing. In 1963 he started his first quipu, reinventing this ancient Andean device with fabrics of brilliant colors, knotted and tied on canvas. Eielson's quipus were exhibited in the 1964 Venice Biennale to wide acclaim. In the mid 1970s, he traveled to Peru where he devoted himself to the study of pre-Columbian art; during this period, the Instituto Nacional de Cultura (National Institute of Culture) published most of his poetry under the title Poesía escrita. He received a Guggenheim Fellowship in 1978 for a lecture in New York.
David Shook is a poet, translator, and editor who has translated over ten books from Spanish and Isthmus Zapotec, including work by Mario Bellatin, Kyn Taniya, and Víctor Terán. His writing has appeared in the Guardian, the Los Angeles Review of Books, and Poetry, among many other publications.