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This review is taken from PN Review 17, Volume 7 Number 3, January - February 1981.

MAKING LOVE MORE SOLID César Vallejo: The Complete Posthumous Poetry, translated by Clayton Eshleman & José Rubia Barcia, (University of California Press) £14.

As a young man the Peruvian César Vallejo (1892-1938) expressed the ambition to create a poetry that would make him more famous than Rubén Darío, the founder of modernismo. Vallejo's first collection of poems, Los heraldos negros (1918) is modernista in inspiration and can be seen simultaneously as the payment of a debt to the great initiator of Latin American poetry and as a deliberate exercise to exhaust the procedures and themes of modernismo by taking them to their limits. With the publication of Trilce in 1922, Vallejo cast aside inherited literary forms and demonstrated a highly inventive and unique poetic vision: far from desiring the detached "automatisme pyschique" of the Surrealists, he saw the key to the new age lay not in the adoption of new words and new metaphors for their own sake but as important material in awakening a new sensibility, with the ultimate aim of making love more solid ("densificando el amor").

In 1919 the poet lost his teaching job in Lima for refusing to marry a girl with whom he was having an affair; and in the following year in Trujillo he was jailed for 105 days after being blamed as an instigator of political feuding. He left Peru for Paris in 1923 and never returned to his homeland. By the late twenties clear political affiliations were confirmed by his Marxist reading; during a second visit to Russia in 1929 he interviewed Mayakovsky. Soon he ceased to publish poetry, turning his full ...

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