Tuesday, April 12, 2011

Book 55, Paraguay: "Saved by a Poem" by Nestor Amarilla

I was bugged by the fact that I wasn't reading enough plays in this project - after all, I'm a playwright, and I oughta be developing that.

So imagine my delight when I read about Nestor Amarilla, a young Paraguayan playwright (my age!), nominated for the Nobel Prize for Literature last year. Of course he didn't get it, but damn, I wanted to find out what made this kid so good.

Naturally the library didn't have his book (but they've accepted my suggestion to purchase it), so I ordered a copy via Book Depository, which delivers dirt-cheap books to pretty much any country in the world with zero shipping charges. Only problem is, you go a little crazy waiting for the damn package to arrive...

But truth is, the play's nothing phenomenal. It's a three-hander, set in the boondocks during the Stroessner dictatorship, when a woman named Mariana decides to write a poem in praise of the tyrant in order to win her activist son clemency. It has rather good character dynamics, and you could use it as a great vehicle to talk to kids about power and the business of not speaking truth to it because it already knows the truth and will get you if it realises you know it to. But it's not a shade on Lorca. Sappy dénouement, too. Maybe you have to see it on stage.

It's a short piece, too - the book's a bilingual edition, but I couldn't read the original because it's a mix of Spanish and Guaraní, Paraguay being one of the few countries in South America that's really held on to an indigenous linguistic tradition by virtue of its ethnic composition. Guaraní's an amazing language to try and decipher, though - "The sun is not waiting for me" translates into "Umi ñanáko nachera'ãrõihína".

View Around the World in 80 Books in a larger map

Representative quote:
MARIANA: If you don't close your mouth on your own, they will. Why do you wish death so much? Next time you disappear, I am not going to wait with a glass of salt and water anymore. I will just sweep. I will sweep the living room, the kitchen, the front of the house, I will sweep the whole house, and do you know for what? I'll make it ready for your funeral. That's what I'll do.

Next book: José Enrique Rodó's Ariel, from Uruguay.

No comments: