A big hug of memory

Por: Daniel Céspedes Góngora

Eliseo Diego

The true work of art is made with suffering and joy, just as a woman gives birth to a child. Everything else is virtuosity and not worth it.

Eliseo Diego

Despite the first pandemic year, the centenary of Eliseo Diego (1920-1994) transcended. Being a writer of his importance, he could not be otherwise. For some, the celebration was limited in the first place to unveiling at noon on July 2, 2020 a plaque in the Casa Borbolla, located in Compostela No.318 (before No.56) on the corner of Obrapía, and later the tribute that He would surrender that same day at the National Library where the poet, narrator, essayist and translator had worked a good part of his life.

During the presentation on December 28, 2020 of the XL number of the Vivarium magazine, Josefina de Diego, Fefé, evoked the setbacks to visit the grave of her father in the Colón cemetery. On July 2, a day of almost total urban recollection, she came perhaps to cheer Fefé with bewilderment, thanks to a strange and precious anecdote that occurred there with two people she had never seen.

The scholars of Diego’s work trusted and did the impossible so that throughout the year newspapers and magazines accentuated the celebration of an endearing writer for many generations of the world. While the Granma of July 1, 2020 almost completely closed the last page with an article by Virgilio López Lemus named “Centennial of a great poet. Eliseo Diego ”, El Cultural, a supplement to La Razón, from Mexico, published in its number 259 of July 11 a dossier about the hundred years of the author of En la Calzada de Jesús del Monte. Matanzas such as Matanzas (No.1 / 2020) and Cuadernos Hispanoamericanos (No 839-840, May-June / 2020) —to mention two very distant ones— honored the National Prize for Literature in 1986 and the Juan Rulfo, for Latin American and Caribbean literature , in 1993. On the other hand, Ediciones Cátedra (Grupo Anaya, SA) presented the most recent compilation of Diego’s poetry: We are left with the gifts (2020), edited by Yannelys Aparicio and Ángel Esteban.

This year, just before July 2, the extensive volume In the Shelter of Time that is devastating me has come out on Sapienza Università Editrice. Eliseo Diego on his centenary (1920-1994), an edition by Mayerín Bello and Stefano Tedeschi. From what is inferred, it is a book that should have come out in 2020, but now it could become an editorial event. I underline the event because it also appears to me – according to the words of a friend – “the most important editorial endeavor to study the work of Eliseo Diego on his centenary”. We have already known of several poetic anthologies, independent of his reflective and fictional testimony of him. It is now the occasion to appreciate nearby firms; family, retouched and other more recent writings that return to the poetry, narrative and essays of Eliseo Diego. There are twelve texts centered on an edge or two, but their editors seeking and achieving a very appreciable harmonic sum in dispositions and judgments.

It is not fortuitous that, after the introduction, the first text (“The English language and English literature in the life and work of Eliseo Diego”) starts from the biography to narrate in retrospect the formative stage of this potter of the word , who learned early to look at the poetics of visible and furtive space, the inner world of so many characters and thus embrace enduring visions of foreign authorship in the home. Nobody can do it better than his own daughter Josefina de Diego, editor and prose writer.

Aramís Quintero, considering the confessional side of Diego’s writing and then his affinity —not directly stated— with the cinema (“photograms”, “close-up”, “the fragmentary of memory” …), is pleased to share his own interpretation of a poetic, which also presents, as a compendium, Mayerín Bello [i] in “Keys to a poetic: Eliseo Diego (almost) by himself”; a poetics for a long time received by readers for confessional texts such as “This afternoon we have met”, “Through my mirror”, “Little life and less work” and “On the job of composing poems.” In a moment of “La sombra y del oro en el taller de Eliseo Diego”, before exploring the strong link between childhood and the terrible in Diego’s narrative, Quintero writes:

The image in him resists taking on a body and being a poetic body; the object remains unexpressed until the inner vision and the material touched are conformed into the image of language; the very process of creation becomes a poetic body and, with that image, never entirely “satisfactory”, but generous in its deficiency, poetry is expressed and the material becomes poetic. (43)

While Rafael Rojas in “Eliseo Diego: the mystery of bare reality” achieves a balance between bibliographic repair and his own analysis, Omar Sánchez Aguilera in “Through the sonnet: almost all of Eliseo” recalls: “Miniaturist by vocation, that preference would be understood of Eliseo for the sonnet ”(91), which starts from the poem strictly speaking and expands – as some may not expect – in confessional prose, the lecture …, than in the essayist poet – as Enrique Saínz rightly points out in “Permanence of Eliseo Diego. The routes of the poet and the essayist “- are reflective prose,” passionate and intense dialogues with various themes and authors, approaches of an unforgettable refinement, testimonies of jubilant or gloomy meditations with books and places “. (33)

If Sánchez Aguilera conceives what is perhaps the most philological essay without incurring in academic coldness, Roberto Méndez (“The truncated staircase. Architecture and ruin in the poetry of Eliseo Diego”), Milena Rodríguez Gutiérrez (“Eliseana eternidianidad or some trails of En la Calzada de Jesús del Monte, by Eliseo Diego: the penumbra, the dream, the time ”) and Yoandy Cabrera (“ The shabby interior of the Greek: Eliseo Diego’s mythpoetics ”) inaugurate or resume intertextual links that begin and even they are due to the poetic but they go beyond it. In “The shabby interior of the Greek …” for example, the concept of mythopoetics in relation to Diego “seems more aimed at making the poetic process coincide with a mythologization of the environment” (128). In a precise prose that does not gloat – being able to do so without difficulty – in terminologies for specialized readers, on the contrary, Cabrera is very right when he says:

After reading authors such as Píndaro, Luis de Góngora and José Lezama Lima, and coming to recognize them as defining tensions between the poetic and the mythical, between chaos and order, between the thinking being and his environment, it is difficult to locate moments of mythopoetic tension that deserve to be highlighted and taken into account within other authors who are more moderate in tone and who are interested in less strident poetry. These are authors whose works propose a whole cosmogony in a big way, a living, universal and changing operating system of enormous magnitudes. If, in addition, one of these authors coincides in time, space and word, the challenge is more complex. Perhaps that is why Eliseo Diego took so long to make himself known as a poet, which, however, did not prevent a more local and domestic theogony of color from being forged in his thought, in his individual sensitivity. Diego himself recognized that growing up under the aegis of an author like Lezama made him avoid writing poetry for a long time. (135)

The same happens in the particular stories of a poet that he also tells almost always in his reflective prose. Take into account what Salvador Redonet tells us in “Among the great little pieces (narratives) of Eliseo Diego” and Arnaldo L. Toledo in “The fantastic in Eliseo Diego’s narrative. Tradition and novelty ”.

A new volume, which includes more than a sample book of the work of an author in question, in this case of poetry, and more than an essential essay such as “Eliseo Diego in Italy. A story of friendship, readings and translations ”, by Stefano Tedeschi, ensures that its anthology character does not commit exorbitancy or outrage. Consequently, the anthological will acquire the condition of orbit. It is enormous what that effort represents. Authorized voices are expected to appear, not necessarily the recurring ones. Hence, the connoisseur could wonder why the absence of other authors, whose studies on Diego display opinions different from what has been repeated for years due to tradition or lack of skill. But, in principle, what is different is not a guarantee of greater legitimacy or even prolongation. It is well known, the quality of the page exceeds the domain of language and the elementary knowledge of the analyzed work. The challenge consists of the cultural association that the interpreter uses to enter the universe of a dynamic and demanding creator.

It is clear that more scholars of Eliseo Diego could be understood. But, in addition to the articles and interviews, essays and theses that were published while he was alive and after Diego’s death, 2020 was the year of his centenary and the authors of In Shelter of Time That Ravages Me had the right to group and distinguish what they preferred for quality and contribution to the sense of harmonic constitution. Here coherence prevails as unity without neglecting plural points of view.

The present volume will be discussed — already being discussed — if the purpose of paying homage to a worthy architect is justly. We are facing an essential book for the overview and the warp of details. For experts and insiders. More initiated with readings beforehand. Those who hesitate to consult the index, I urge you to start wherever you wish. I guarantee satisfaction along the way, over time.


[i] Mayerín Bello also recalls the contrast between the inside and the outside — a key element — that is recontextualized as a constant in many of Diego’s poems. On this issue also reflected in the documentary on board in my soon-to-appear book Eliseo Diego: permanence record (Ediciones Ávila, 2021). It is valid to point out the following fragment from Bello:

The house opens up to the world with its patios, they also demarcate between the inside and the outside. Gardens, bends and streets are also added to this procession of borders between “a more here” and “a hereafter”, which is not from another world but is also, in some way, in this. The ladder, on the contrary, activates the contrast between the top and the bottom, without being able to associate such dimensions in an absolute and proportional way with positive or negative values. Such relativization is common for almost all the binary oppositions that can be distinguished in the representation of reality operated by Eliseo Diego, to which the labyrinth should also be added. (79)

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