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Book Title: An Absence of Shadows|
The author of the book: Marjorie Agosín
Edition: White Pine Press
Date of issue: November 1st 2009
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 4.78 MB
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Loaded: 2727 times
Reader ratings: 4.8
ISBN 13: 9781877727924
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Just a few years after 9/11, I was in a poetry class where Marjorie Agosin was invited to talk. She proceeded to talk about a different 9/11, from 1973, when Chile was taken over by the military, initiating a near two-decade tyrannical regime under Pinochet. Incredibly, the reaction of the classroom after the visit was that this woman had no right to try and “appropriate” 9/11, that whatever she’d experienced couldn’t have been nearly as devastating as “our” 9/11...I’ve been outraged about that ever since.
What makes it so much worse is that Agosin’s medium of expression is poetry. Poets in the US, as with much of the arts, tend to lean left. They were among the vocal detractors of the Iraq War, the vitriolic reaction against which was playing out at the same time as the visit. The poem I remember best is “The President,” which is the most casually arresting piece in this collection, a portrait of Pinochet’s elegant inhumanity, contrasting his white outfit with the blood he so readily sheds from others. The rest of the collection (actually featuring two smaller ones, plus new material) is otherwise drenched in pathos concerning the disappeared, a theme so unrelentingly revisited that it becomes incredibly hard to imagine anyone missing the point.
But isn’t that why poetry of this kind is written? In the years after this visit, I became familiar with another Chilean poet, the late novelist Roberto Belaño, who among other books wrote 2666, a devastating tapestry of death concerning an unsolved series of murders in a Mexican border town. Reading An Absence of Shadows, it’s hard not to imagine in retrospect that Belaño was in fact writing an elaborate analogy of the brutal Pinochet years, which like Agosin he escaped by exile.
Agosin’s poetry is the kind that affirms the craft. Too often poetry becomes indulgent, the work of dilettantes more excited about tradition and being a part of an increasingly niche medium than adding something worthwhile to it, of using the language (and poetry is a language all its own) to sound mysterious or clever rather than be a witness, whether to one’s own life or to the times they live in. If Agosin is part of the tradition of sorrow, she has something real to be sorry about, and that makes it true, too. That she reports both on her own pain, and the memory of things she didn’t experience herself, makes the results that much more compelling. Pointedly, she likes to evoke Anne Frank, and reminds us that Jews suffered in Chile, too.
As with all books of poetry, there can sometimes be a feeling of indulgence, that if she had sharpened this or that piece, rather than thrown it all together, there might have been one definitive piece to point to. I choose “The President” partly or perhaps entirely due to my personal experience with Agosin. But it’s as concise as the collection gets. I’m just not sure it’s the one that summarizes the whole thing.
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Read information about the authorMarjorie Agosín was born in Maryland and raised in Chile. She and her parents, Moises and Frida Agosín, moved to the United States due to the overthrow of the Chilean government by General Pinochet's military coup. Coming from a South American country and being Jewish, Agosín's writings demonstrate a unique blending of these cultures.
Agosín is well known as a poet, critic, and human activist. She is also a well-known spokesperson for the plight and priorities of women in Third World countries. Her deep social concerns and accomplishments have earned her many awards and recognitions, and she has gained an international reputation among contemporary women of color.
Agosín, a passionate writer, has received critical acclaim for her poetry collections, her close reflections on her parents and family, and her multi-layered stories. Within every novel, story, or poem, she captures the very essence of Jewish women at their best. Agosín's works reveal the experiences of pain and anguish of Jewish refugees. She writes about the Holocaust as well as anti-Semitic events that occurred in her native land.
Agosín has many fascinating works and is recognized in both North and South America as one of the most versatile and provocative Latin American writers. Agosín became a writer to make a difference: "I wanted to change the world through peace and beauty," she said. Today she is not only a writer, but also a Spanish professor at Wellesley College.
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