“Book of Mariátegui”, from Tarraco to Perú

On Friday 27th of March the twenty new poems from the poet Martel·lus were presented in the Sala del Sarcòfag d’Hipòlit in Pretori de Tarragona. Who was this poet? Anyway, I will focus only on the context of these poems, I think that when facing a collection of poems one has to be virgin, no one has to tell him/her what to believe or think of a poem, since this one can have, even for oneself, contradictory interpretations depending on the moment in which it is read.

I will do this contextualisation in the same way that the author of the collection of poems presents it, Juan González Soto. Juan always pretends to be a historian, but doing it from fiction. That is, he gives us real elements, corroborated ones, even quoting primary sources, but this story is altered (if a non-altered story really exists) by own elements, by characters invented by himself who are related to real and unreal facts without any division between them. He plays somehow with the elements of classical historiography, dates, names, very accurate and verified chronology, but from the honesty that literature allows, he doesn’t want to do science, he wants to create an atmosphere, an imagination, a fantasy… That is, a literary story that becomes the perfect complement for the story.

Was Martel·lus, then, an aristocrat? Maybe he was, one of those who had a comfortable life in the Roman republic and therefore was an erudite in culture. Everything seems to indicate that he participated in the victorious parade after the conquest of Numancia. The matter was that, very likely, in the XVI century, “the man of two names”, the archbishop of Tarragona, the humanist Antoni Agustí, probably translated the poems from classical Latin into Catalan. And from him this came to the archbishop Jaume de Cortada, uncle of Rafael d’Amat, who at the same time had Manuel d’Amat as an uncle, Viceroy of Perú and lover of Micaela Villegas, known as the Perricholi. And among all that, this poetic rarity is published by the year 2004. The second volume came back from the West, from the writer Carlos d’Oquendo, who seems to be a descendent of Manuel d’Amat and the Perricholi. And now, avoiding more specific details, the issue is that Martel·lus’s poems that were published in the previous book were saved, maybe by chance, from the mortal fire of the same poet that died from tuberculosis in Navacerrada.


And with all that we get to the third compilation. Again an accurate story about how the poems get to be published precedes them. Without doing any spoilers, what I would like to highlight are some names that Juan uncovers and presents to us. Carlos d’Oquendo shows up again, who mingles not only with José Carlos Mariatégui (who gives name to this book) but also with the Peruvian poet César Vallejo.

Again those constant references that bring us from Tarraco to the West appear. It is interesting for a literature such as the Catalan one, very used to the internal consumption that written pieces of work in Catalan with references and direct contact with Latin American literature exist. This brings us to another very interesting element, Tarraco. Tarraco are not only “four stones”, Tarraco is what provides us Martel·lus, the one that creates bonds and dialogues with its contemporanity.

Martel·lus would have found the room where the book was introduced the very right place to do so, even though he never got to see this building. Or he did see it, if we don’t take into account the historical and archeological studies that date its destruction years after the death of the poet. But as soon as we are making literature, we can image anything we want, even the fact that he put on here the breastplate to march very close to Publi Corneli Escipió Emilià during the triumphal march for having conquered Numància.

I am very convinced that Mariátegui would also really agree with the chosen room, since a room like that one bounds that classical ideal, that under his opinion could have been personified by the very one Martel·lus, with the contemporary dialogue. The key is this dialogue and the way a classical poet from the republican Tarraco could inspire the ideals of the Marxist ideologist from Peru. Then, this room provokes dialogue because it has had many uses, among which stands being a Francoist political prison. Practically becoming the entrance hall before death from those who defended democratic and republican ideas. Mariátegui was the founder of the Socialist Party, which after his dead changed its name to Communist Party.

Mariátegui was born in a Lima marked by the ‘República Aristocrática’ of Jorge Basarde. It was the Lima that was having the cholificación, which is the way how the rural-urban migration is known in Peru. It is the Lima that’s centralized and controlled by a small oligarchy. Those years were the ones when the ground turned to have fewer owners. And in that Lima Mariátegui found shelter in literary magazines from that elite, who become so thanks to its discursive and personal quality, and not for being a result of gamonalismo, those landowners that became the lord and master of the Peru from the first half of the xxth century. It is also usually in these unfavourable contexts when the most wonderful reactions appear. Many of these proves raise mentioned by Juan. I am referring to the magazine Amauta, the book Trilce, the editorial Minerva or the social gathering or epistolary meetings where people talked about the European fascism or about the poet Martel·lus. These reactions are the ones that make us gain humanity.

And as a conclusion, many are the elements that inspire, only, the prologue of the book, even before getting to the poems that are, together with the photographs of Genoveva, the backbone of a book that shows how anachronism allows us to get the ideal, how nowadays poems could be the former ones and how actual landscapes are the same as thousands years before. And how both of them inspire themselves mutually without caring if they were previous or later to its moment. So Juan ends up the idea of time in favor of fantasy, because fantasy is the only one, as he says, that is not subject to forget nor alteration.

Juan González Soto. Autor del llibre. Fotografia: Genoveva Seydoux
Juan González Soto. Autor del llibre. Fotografia: Genoveva Seydoux

Check the full text from the introduction of the “Book of Mariátegui” here
Buy the book here
Check the photographical report of Genoveva Seydoux here

By Gabino Martínez
Translated by Laura Macià & Raül Gil

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