Between Words: Juan Gelman's Public Letter
Translated by Lisa Rose Bradford

Between Words: Juan Gelman’s Public Letter (Carta abierta) is a collection of poetic elegies addressed to his son, Marcelo, who disappeared in 1976 during Argentina’s “dirty war.” With an inimitable voice and Argentine rhythms, Gelman works the language to come to terms with sorrow and exile. Created in close collaboration with the author, Between Words: Juan Gelman’s Public Letter offers the first complete edition of these poems in English, and the translator’s essay and interview with the poet provide valuable insight into Gelman’s poetics as well as the translation process.

“A man, whose family has been mowed down, who has seen his most beloved friends die or disappear: no one has been able to kill within him the will to under/stand the sum of horror as an affirmative countercoup, a creator of a new life. Perhaps the most admirable part of his writing is the nearly unthinkable tenderness, where more justifiable would be a paroxysm of rejection and condemnation, this invocation of so many shadows from a voice that shelters and lulls, a permanent caressing of words upon unknown tombs.”

—Julio Cortazar, “Against the Cobwebs of Custom,” (Interrupciones 1)

“Lisa Bradford has elegantly recreated the silent spaces between the words and has brought the silence to sing in her translations of Juan Gelman’s poetry collection Public Letter.”

—Rainer Schulte, Editor, Translation Review

“Gelman’s sorrow-laden wordplay finds its felicitious counterpart in these sensitive renderings by Lisa Rose Bradford, as skilled a translator as this poet of the voiceless is likely to encounter.”

—Gary Racz

About the Author

Juan Gelman was born of Jewish Ukrainian parents in Buenos Aires and grew up amid a myriad of languages and acquired a fascination for words early on in life. He published his first book of verse, Violín y otras cuestiones (Violin and other questions, 1956), in a time of coups and countercoups of a nascent Peronism. In order to bring to life the streets and common people of Buenos Aires, in this book he created a collage of the everyday speech of the “rioplatense” including their slang and grammar, current events, and the tango imaginary. With the publication of Cólera buey (oxen rage, 1965), his surreal blending of social engagement and wordplay expressed in a colloquial language marked and unnerving irony and poignancy that would continue to characterize his poetry.

After actively participating in the movements that brought back Perón in 1973—both the FAR (Revolutionary Armed Forces) and the guerrilla group Montoneros—he was sent to Europe in 1975 to work in public relations as a journalist. After the military coup of 1976, he remained in exile in Europe, denouncing human rights abuses, which by August of that year would involve the personal loss of his son, Marcelo, and his pregnant daughter-in-law who “were disappeared” during the military dictatorship. Having worked as a journalist and a translator in Argentina, Spain, France, and Italy, Gelman is presently living in Mexico City.

 

About the Translator

Lisa Rose Bradford was born in Dayton, Ohio and presently teaches Comparative Literature at the Universidad Nacional de Mar del Plata and raises horses and cattle in Madariaga, Argentina. Her doctoral work was completed at the University of California at Berkeley, and since then she has edited two compendiums on translation and cultural studies, Traducción como cultura, La cultura de los géneros, and two U.S. poetry anthologies in Spanish: Los pájaros, por la nieve (RIL, Chile, forthcoming) and Usos de la imaginación: poetas latin@s en EE.UU (EUDEM, Argentina). Her poems and translations have appeared in various magazines and journals.

 

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