Breaking the silence.

I only slightly remember the face of the man I met once in Jerusalem, where we both stood alone on a balcony, smoking to much and talking much lesser. But I still remember his hands tender and pale, can still see his eyes with the longest eyelashes I ever saw, and I hear him saying: Argentina and than a long time of silence followed and I did not ask any questions and he did not ask me anything, and even the night in Jerusalem went silent, not even the big cypress under the balcony whispered in the wind. And it was in this long-lasting moment of silence, when I heard the name Juan Gelman for the very first time. Esto sucede. La luna y ellucero de aquí no son palabras, son la luna y ellucero de aquí.La sangre piensa, la luna calla. Es todo, said the voice into my ear. But by then I did not know that Juan Gelman, who was born in 1930 as the third child into a jewish- Ukrainian family, who recently emigrated to Argentina. I did not know, that he Juan Gelman wrote poetry not from an aesthetic point of view, but connected it inseparable with political engagement.I learned that in his country, Argentina, he became an object of hate from  all possible political sites. The anti- communists as well as the left-wings did not have an ear for the speech of the non-hatred, but the long Argentinean silence began when the junta came to power and a nearly 30 year lasting time of exile began for the poet, who gave a generation a voice and remained in all his places of exile- Rome, Paris and Mexico City a tarty critic of the political sphere, a clear- sighted journalist and essayist. But even in exile he could not escape the hate of the junta who established immorality as a form of culture and newly invented the word disappear for torture and death. Briefly after Gelman left Argentina, his son Marcelo was arrested and in the torture camp “ Automotores Orlotti“ killed by the henchman’s of the military dictatorship. Marcelo’s wife tried to escape to Uruguay but „disappeared“ there, after her child was born.In his programmatic poem „Ars poetica“, Gelman describes how writing, became the way to endure the pain. And it  was Juan Gelman, who does not only lived in exile, but left his language Spanish behind him, to write in ladino, the language of the Sephardic Jews haunted by the Spanish Reconquista. Poetry in opposite to Mallarmés dictum that poems are made of words not ideas, meant for Gelman to take the world at their word and to break this long-lasting Argentine silence.  Poetry as Gelman said, meant for him to call everything into question and became for him the obsessive search for the truth. Therefore Gelman devised many identities of a poets identity, to be able to change his angle of view again and again, by viewing the world through the eyes of the Uruguayan Jóse Galvan, the Japanese Yamanokuchi Anda, the US-American Sidney West and the Argentinean Julio Greco. Every evening, let Gelman, say José Galvan, he counted his poets and added himself. So poetry became a way to reassure the own identity, in face of the disappearance of so many, too many women, children and men in the Argentinean years of silence. On January 14, Juan Gelman died in Mexico-City.

But in the night on the balcony, which I only slightly remember, I did not know any of these things, I just listened and then suddenly the men fade away, without a further word. But sometimes I can recall his voice and me listening to his words:“ Esto sucede. La luna y ellucero de aquí no son palabras, son la luna y ellucero de aquí.La sangre piensa, la luna calla. Es todo“, quoting Juan Gelman from his poem Tepoztlán.

Here,Juan Gelman reads Arte Poetica ( Spanish ). Dark Times filled with Lights contains a collection of Juan Gelmans poetry translated into English.

One thought on “Breaking the silence.

  1. Zuerst, als ich den Titel gelesen habe, dachte ich, es geht um Israel und die Palästinenser. Aber es war eine andere Art von Schweigen. Oder doch nicht? Ist es nicht immer das selbe Schweigen, das Nicht-Aufbegehren gegen die Gewalt, die sich anmaßt, im Recht, sogar: DAS Recht zu sein?
    Ich war bis gerade vorhin so ahnungslos wie Sie, was Gelman angeht. Aber von allen Seiten, von allen politischen Seiten gehasst und verfemt zu werden, das ist oft ein gutes Zeichen, es spricht für Authentizität und Unabhängigkeit gegenüber all jenen, die meinen (das) Recht zu haben. Danke für diesen Beitrag.

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