The only life I have
submits to its power.
[“We’ve been defeated, Mama,” I whispered.]
“We fought back, child, Nyo, as well and as honorably as possible.
- Pramoedya Ananta Toer, from This Earth of Mankind, trans. Max Lane (via the-final-sentence)
THE Chilean poet Pablo Neruda, known for his love poems and leftist ideals, died 40 years ago this September. One would hope he’d be at rest by now. But on Monday, as classical musicians played a Neruda work set to music by Vicente Bianchi, his remains were exhumed to determine whether he died from poison — instead of prostate cancer, the conventional account.
Birth of a Poem
C. P. Cavafy, read by Daniel Mendelsohn
As part of our ongoing celebration of National Poetry Month, Daniel Mendelsohn reads C. P. Cavafy’s “Birth of a Poem,” from Cavafy’s Complete Poems:
Birth of a Poem
One night when the beautiful light of the moon
poured into my room … imagination, taking
something from life: some very scanty thing—
a distant scene, a distant pleasure—
brought a vision all its own of flesh,
a vision all its own to a sensual bed …
“The collection’s subtitle, Love Stories, is apt not in the sense that many people end up with love and happiness, but in the sense that the characters — uniformly underpaid, underhoused, underappreciated, and low on groceries — have nothing to hope for but love, the one resource that can’t be rationed. They live in cramped city apartments, assigned to them by the state, with one or two generations of their family, and work in thankless jobs. The most depressing love affairs — emotionless, unrequited, exploitative — shine with promise in these settings.”
Today, Janet Potter reviews Ludmilla Petrushevskaya’s There Once Lived A Girl Who Seduced Her Sister’s Husband, and He Hanged Himself for us.