Vox Populi

A Public Sphere for Poetry, Politics, and Nature

José Emilio Pacheco: High Treason

I don’t love my country.

Its abstract brilliance

is unapproachable.

But (as bad as it sounds)

I’d die

for ten places,

a few folks,

ports, forests, deserts, forts,

a broken city, gray, monstrous,

various figures from history,

mountains

– and three or four rivers.

.

Translation copyright 2020 John Samuel Tieman and Paola de Santiago Haas

Alta traición


No amo mi patria.
Su fulgor abstracto
es inasible.
Pero (aunque suene mal)
daría la vida
por diez lugares suyos,
cierta gente,
puertos, bosques, desiertos, fortalezas,
una ciudad deshecha, gris, monstruosa,
varias figuras de su historia,
montañas
—y tres o cuatro ríos.


José Emilio Pacheco (1939 – 2014) is regarded as one of the major Mexican poets of the second half of the 20th century. In addition to his poetry, Pacheco was an essayist, a novelist and a short story writer. A native of México City, most of his career was spent teaching at the National Autonomous University Of México.

In 2009, Jose Emilio Pacheco was awarded the Cervantes Prize, the highest literary honor in the Spanish-speaking world.

7 comments on “José Emilio Pacheco: High Treason

  1. Vincent Spina
    September 22, 2020

    The translation is ok but left a key word. 10 lugares suyos means 10 of ITS places. So in English we have no idea what 10 places the poet refers to.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. kennethrosenpoet
    September 18, 2020

    What a pleasure, una pretiola, or reward in the form of hands clasped, elbows parted prayerfully, from bit of leftover dough loosely twisted, soaked in lye, dipped in coarse salt and baked to a dark brown, dabbed with mustard I learned in Pennsylvania Dutch country, then an outsider, a child lost in myself, now a weary old man facing infinity and sort of a child again, grateful for a pretzel’s plain pleasure.

    Liked by 1 person

  3. rosemaryboehm
    September 18, 2020

    Slightly improved translation:

    High Treason

    I don’t love my homeland.
    Its abstract brilliance
    is intangible.
    Still (even though it sounds bad)
    I would give my life
    for ten of its places,
    certain people,
    harbours, woods, deserts, fortresses,
    a broken city, grey, monstrous,
    some figures from its history,
    mountains
    –and three or four rivers.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Vox Populi
      September 18, 2020

      Thanks, Rosemary!

      Liked by 1 person

    • kennethrosenpoet
      September 18, 2020

      What a pleasure, una pretiola, or reward in the form of hands clasped, elbows parted prayerfully, from bit of leftover dough loosely twisted, soaked in lye, dipped in coarse salt and baked to a dark brown, dabbed with mustard I learned in Pennsylvania Dutch country, then an outsider, a child lost in myself, now a weary old man facing infinity and sort of a child again, grateful for a pretzel’s plain pleasure. (And you’re right, Rosemary, but wenare often imprinted like goslings with the first printed version of something we see, like we love someone and are strangely haunted by their imperfections.)

      Liked by 1 person

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