Literature and Revolution

-by Fernando Alegria-

translated by D. Ohmans
(c) copyright 1997

Text imprint - Mexico City, Fondo de Cultura Economica, (c1970)

                           Table of Contents

       I.    Literature and Revolution
       II.   Portrait and Self portrait:
             The Hispano-american Novel Confronted with Society
       III.  "Der Zauberberg" in the Literature of Latin America
       IV.   Miguel Angel Asturias, Novelist of the Old and the
             New Worlds
       V.    Alejo Carpentier:  Magic Realism
       VI.   Rayuela:  or, Order out of Chaos
       VII.  Cesar Vallejo:  The Mestizo Masks
       VIII. Parra anti Parra
       IX.   Anti-literature
       X.    Antipoetry

Chapter 3 - "Der Zauberberg" in the Literature of Latin America

     It is not my intention in this essay to follow like a detective the
influence of an author or of a work upon the body of Latin American narrative.
My objective is more modest and, for that reason, more precise. With reference
to a particular problem of comparative literature I would wish to sketch the
development of a theme which, turned into a myth by a master of German
neo-romanticism, rigorous and firmly distinct, like an aesthetic mold, passes
to other authors and other works picking up the essence of varied philosophies.
The theme to which I allude is the integration of man, nature and time in the
symbol of the magic mountain. Thus understood, the mountain ceases to be mere
surrounding to become an active agent of ideas and passions; it intervenes in
the destiny of man; it approves or it denies him, it provokes him, it saves or
it condemns him, from the heights it witnesses his crises, his efforts and
anguish, disintegrating his ongoing misery in the ashes of time. "Der
Zauberberg": this Thomas Mann called it.
     The "magic mountain" as aesthetic symbol has existed throughout history
mysteriously expressing revelations of diverse peoples and cultures. There were
magic mountains in the biblical literature of the Sinai, from whose flanks the
law of the Hebrew people emerged in letters of fire, and the Ararat which arose
from the depths of the divine ire so that humanity would disembark, in terror,
from the Universal Flood. A magic mountain was the classical Olympus and also
the circles, the levels and terraces of the metaphysical promontory of Dante.
The Himalayas were and continue to be magic mountains, as with the volcanic
summits of the Mayan "Popol-Vuh." "Der Zauberberg," as a literary, novelistic,
philosophical, religious or poetic formula, appears and re-appears in the
golden ages of western literature, in romanticism and in modern realism. In the
20th century and from the American hemisphere it is seen under the guises of
Kilimanjaro and of Machu-Picchu.
     The mountain comes to symbolize a conception of the world through
experiences in which the intellectual passion and the erotic secretly combine,
physical heroism with metaphysical terror, social conscience with the dark
currents of instinct. The initiate will easily recognize this symbolization in
nature. Whoever has had supreme revelation reduces the vital experience to
certain basic concepts and a small number of hallucinatory intuitions that
permit him to define his own condition in terms as much physical as spiritual.
In "Der Zauberberg" these ideas and intuitions refer essentially to a concept
of Time and, on a second plane, to the conflict between humanism and
materialism. The magic mountain permits one to confer upon the experiences of
the hero a transcendental sense: the adaptation to the schedule of the Swiss
sanatorium becomes a subjectivist theory of Time, the triumph over sickness a
sensualist doctrine of behavior and intimate nature of matter, and the loving
embrace to a practical exaltation of the temporal in the face of the
     Before assuming a mythological power in our modern literature, the Latin
American mountain was an instrument of destruction. In the regionalist novel,
the mountain-- like the plains and the ocean--dominates man and hits him with
an individual sorrow. That is to say, it becomes personified not to integrate
itself into the progressive dynamism of a civilization, but instead to unite
with the diabolic power that threatens and destroys it. The mountain of an
eminent writer of the past century, for example, the Colombian Tomas
Carrasquilla, is never separate from the land; it is true that its roots are
confused with those of man, but they fuse at the surface of daily life or at
the bottom of a pedestrian nostalgia. The mountain there fills an aesthetic
function in the measure that it complements the immediate action of man, not
his creative activity on a universal plane. The mountain of the Chilean Mariano
Latorre, like that of Ricardo Leon or Jose Maria Pereda, is a synthesis of
concrete values projected in a local tradition. These are mountains without
summit; more properly, they are roads on the mountain. They belong to a
literary tradition that resonates in the agricultural, in the social and in the
historical. One cannot say that tradition has completely disappeared, but it is
possible to affirm that at the middle of the 20th century our mountain, as an
aesthetic factor, already corresponded to mythic symbols of contemporary
humanity. Examples abound in the novel and poetry. Works such as El Mundo es
Ancho y Ajeno by Ciro Alegria, Los Peregrinos Inmoviles by Gregorio Lopez y
Fuentes, Hombres de Maiz by Miguel Angel Asturias, Los Rios Profundos by Jose
Pilaria Arguedas, Hijo de Ladron by Manuel Rojas, are essentially narratives in
which the mountain exercises magical powers.
     It will be surprising to mention Manuel Rojas in this respect, but Aniceto
Hevia, the protagonist in "Hijo de Ladron," traverses the ranges to discover in
the common man and in the worker's task the seeds of fraternity; in the alpine
steppe and lowlands, in the frozen tents of the nomadic encampment, in the
market place and in the train station, in the Andean shelter as much as upon
the open road, in the soldiers' barracks and on the banks of the Rio Blanco and
the Aconcagua, there hides a simple and lyrical apparatus of symbols, like the
lights of a starry illumination. From the emotion of tenderness, of solidarity
and respect toward man, Rojas extracts a norm of life and a definition of the
human condition. That his mountain range is also a magical power is proved, in
part, by his theory of the invisible wound, set down in Hijo de Ladron and
directly related to the idea of illness characteristic of Thomas Mann and of
German romantic literature.(1)
     In the novel of Lopez y Fuentes the indian moves the length of the river
and onto the highlands re-living and recreating the history of man and that
Mexican plateau that had been a road for porters or revolutionaries soon
becomes a pathway of symbols and myths. The route is laid out since ancient
times; the questions allude to cosmogonies and religions, to ethical values, to
roots that weigh upon man like chains. The marks of time are disfigured. The
indian goes to the mountain where his experience will unite the primordial to
the final causes. It deals with revelations beneath a lyric splendor: the man
faces the reality of his impotence and abandonment, fashions a stone god and
carries it with him, begins to get answers from it, but the god weighs greatly
and circles with its creator among the passes. The tribe penetrates the
mountain and discovers the anti-pilgrimage of its pilgrimage. Nothing has
moved; in the newly won freedom hides treason, war, another slavery. The bell
that sounds the alarm, safeguard from the avalanche, is no more than a deceit.
While the young heroes prepare for the wedding, the unmoving pilgrims once
again ready their lances, their shields, their stone knives and the mountain
offers its high ledges so that the sacrifice will begin again.(2)
     "El Mundo es Ancho y Ajeno" is a book that shows marked ideological
concomitants with Der Zauberberg. The Peruvian sierra conceived as a world
apart in which the tragedy of the indian becomes a symbol of the injustice, of
the solitude and of the physical and moral anguish of modern humanity, Ciro
Alegria puts it to work around a unique axis, from which the themes of social
inequality, Peasant solidarity, heroic sacrifice, disorganization and
fatality, turn like minor mechanisms. This axis, as in the work of Thomas Mann,
is that of time. It is obvious that Ciro Alegria paraphrases Mann in his
speculations about the nature of time. In them we are led to understand that he
arrived at the magic concept of the Andean mountain through a wise and deep
consideration of the nature of memories and of their adaptation to a slow
rhythm, a rhythm that corresponds to the technique used by Mann in his novel.
That technique is a direct consequence of a subjectivist doctrine of time; Ciro
Alegria also thus understands it and interprets it in this way. These
concomitants should be examined without a desire to give disproportionate
importance to the establishment of a case of literary influence, but better to
indicate how a philosophical idea which gives birth to an aesthetic formula in
European literature serves a Latin American writer for expressing a
characteristic experience of his land and his epoch.
     Ciro Alegria is a novelist who works fundamentally from the ground of
memories. His works are evocations in the strictest sense of the word and
function on the strength of stimulating one resurrection after another which,
cumulatively, produce a deceptive effect or movement. Essentially, they are
static. Within them, time does not pass: it is an abstraction composed of the
spiritual experience that is comprised of beings, objects and pieces. In the
foreword of The Magic Mountain one reads things like these:

     This story, we say, belongs to the long ago; is already, so to speak,
covered with historic mold, and unquestionably to be presented in the tense
best suited to a narrative out of the depth of the past. That should be no
drawback to a story, but rather the reverse. Since histories must be in the
past, then the more past the better, it would seem for them in their character
as histories, and for him, the teller of them, rounding wizard of times gone
by. With this story, moreover, it stands as it does to-day with human beings,
not least among them writers of tales; it is far older than its years; its age
may not be measured by length or days, nor the weight of time on its head
reckoned, by the rising or setting of suns. In a word, the degree of its
antiquity has noways to do with the passage of time in which statement the
author intentionally touches upon the strange and questionable double nature of
that riddling element.(3)

     Compare those words with these others by Ciro Alegria in "El Mundo es
Ancho y Ajeno":

     Days pass, new days come....

     We admire the natural wisdom of those popular story tellers who, to
separate events, between one item and another in their narrative, interpolate
the grand and spacious words: days pass, new days come.... That is what is
     Time acquires much meaning when it passes over a deed prosperous or
unprosperous, in any case noteworthy. There accumulate at the side or, better,
in front of the occurrence, tasks and problems, projects and dreams, nothings
that are the fabric of the minutes, fortunes and misfortunes, in sum: days.
Days that have passed, days yet to come. Then the prosperous or unprosperous
deed, faced with time, which is to say, with the daily reality of life,
assumes its true significance, but it always remains behind, always further
behind, in the hard grip of the past. And if it is true that life often turns
one's eyes back toward the past, bespeaking a natural impulse of the heart
toward what it had loved, and in order to extract a useful lesson from the
experience of humanity or to heighten its glory with what was noble, it is also
true that the same life is affirmed in the present and is 'nurtured by the hope
of its prolongation, or rather, in the projected unfolding of its destiny.
     After the demise of Pascuala, then, time advanced. And we too shall say:
days pass, new days come....(4)
     It is not merely a coincidence in tone that we point to here. It is
something deeper. The Peruvian writer, like Thomas Mann, captured the sense of
universality of his story in its sense of permanence, that is to say, he
integrated space and time. The chronological imprecision which characterizes El
Mundo es Ancho y Ajeno is an aesthetic element. Throughout a speculation about
time and of the fusion of man with the mountain as a symbol of immutability,
Ciro Alegria, the same as Thomas Mann, projects the drama of his characters
upon an image of humanity. His story grows, then, from an individual conception
of eternity until it arrives at the limits of the collective experience. This
phenomenon of sublimation occurs in consequence of the liberating action that
the mountain exercises upon the spirit of man. The indians of this novel are
surprising in their spirituality; it is because they live within the superior
influence of a magic mountain. The coldness of the moon has touched them, just
as Hans Castorp was transformed by the assault of the snow. The story of the
exodus from Rumi is the story of man's eternal exodus: the world being alien
and not being owner of one's own self, man keeps moving in a perpetual exile
and remains alone in the continuity or his downfall. Thus too move the indians
of Lopez y Fuentes. Thus the young warriors of Thomas Mann are uprooted. But in
the attitude with which the writer contemplates that departure rests the
crucial difference that exists between the message of Thomas Mann and that of
Ciro Alegria and other Latin American novelists. Not to call attention to that
difference would be lamentable. Thomas Mann leaves his hero without bitterness,
perhaps with a little piety, but in no way shamefully. He disassociates from
him.(5) Ciro Alegria, on the other hand, identifies with the indigenous
community of his narrative and shares in its persecution and its exile. Thomas
Mann has manipulated his symbols with the key of his irony; the Peruvian, with
the key of his genuine sentimentalism. Thomas Mann, in possession or his role
as magician and interpreter of the mysteries of the mountain, is present
throughout the entire story, commenting in the first person upon the actions of
his characters, the development of the plot, even the technique of his novel.
Like the Spanish novelists of the picaresque and the English Victorians, he
requires a role for his own voice and he fulfills it with gusto and without
hesitation. Ciro Alegria follows him in part.(6) But irony is not the device
which suits him, nor is it the authentic tonality of his voice. A lyric poet,
it does not embarrass him to empathize with his little heroes; on the contrary,
it overflows at each step; he dreams with his shepherds, sings with his flute
and string players, he rebels and suffers with his peons. Whereas Mann breaks,
in the end, the spell of the mountain and remains untouched beside the
apparatus of his transcendent spectacle the Peruvian novelist never can
liberate himself from his fable, and goes on making impact with the desolation
of his people, decrepit and defeated on the vast icy plateau.
     A biographical note could be offered here to accentuate this difference of
attitudes. I do not know in what circumstances Thomas Mann conceived his
grandiose epic. In a personal letter that I guard like a relic, he spoke of his
novel as a super-romantic work of his youth.(7) I thought I could still detect
irony in such an affirmation. He was an experimenter and as such did not fail
to deal with the conflicts that agitated his characters. From the margin of his
work he manipulated the strings like an illusionist of the Renaissance.
     Ciro Alegria, for his part, conceived and wrote El Mundo es Ancho y Ajeno
in very peculiar circumstances not a little dramatic. Romantic, Thomas Mann
would have said. Between the years 1935 and 1940 Ciro Alegria was confined to
the sanitarium El Peral, in the vicinity of Santiago. He suffered from
tuberculosis and had submitted to a rest cure. La Montana Magica was then a
best seller. It was read and discussed in all the intellectual circles. I can
imagine Ciro Alegria, to whom his friends Manuel Rojas, Enrique Espinoza,
Gonzalez Vera, Cesar Cecchi brought books, horizontal and still, reading and
assimilating the prose of Thomas Mann, identifying with the characters of the
Swiss sanatorium, living--and in this case the word need not be taken
metaphorically--the great experience of Time as it bore on his particular case.
The routine of Hens and Joachim is his own, precisely; like them, he gets up,
he rests, he takes his temperature, reads, eats, then rests.... The faces of
doctors and nurses blur like astral forms in the midst of X-rays, injections
and blankets. He eats and he rests; reclines and reads. His life takes on the
slow rhythm that the leader directs with a thermometer. In the evening he
lingers like Castorp, alone beneath the stars, savoring the shadows that come
to him from the mountains; the airy figures of the Chilean poplars disappear,
the mountain winds breathe and the transfiguration effortlessly takes place. We
have here the Peruvian plains, the solitude, the rocky Peaks where the pastoral
family learns of its damnation; there are the thatched huts, the lake
surrounded by rocks, the caves that shelter the voice of the fugitive and the
council of the thief. Above it all one sees the myth of a village advancing
from the fog and, little by little, acquiring humanity. They are the indigenous
commoners who he knew in his adolescence and to whose tragic destiny he already
alluded in "Los Perros Hambrientos." The fable takes shape: it shall be a
message of re-vindication of the indian, a gigantic work, dense, solid, epic,
with a rich treasure of customs and folkloric legends, with an idea of liberty
sounding at the base by way of a single hapless unfortunate. This novel already
had its style, that is, its form and its mythological apparatus: it was the
style of Der Zauberberg. Ciro Alegria, already an inhabitant of the high
altitudes, had only to enter the magic circle and his indians, breathing the
rarefied air of an eternal present, affixed the statuary of myth upon the
pedestal of the sierra.
     Miguel Angel Asturias, exploring the mysteries of Hispano-american
experience, concerned with reconstructing the Mayan-Quechuan cosmogonies
through poetic images and later applying them, like transparencies, to the
existing reality of Guatemala, often refers to the magical, defining and
resolving sense of the mountain. The most impressive example of this search and
of the literary rendition he gives it is to be found in two episodes, the
fourth and the fifth, of his novel, Hombres de Maiz. Let us say here that
Asturias does not center upon symbols and allegories, like Lopez y Fuentes, nor
on anecdotes and philosophic commentaries, like Ciro Alegria. To know, Asturias
returns to pre-historic myths; to define reality, he accepts the pre-logical
relations of the magical and, to project his knowledge, he uses images,
principally auditory--repetition, incantation, basic values of nouns-that will
create a resonant ambit where the Guatemalan of the 20th century can seek the
reflection of his own soul. The episodes to which I refer are those of Blind
Goyo Yic and Maria Tecun, and of Correo-Coyote.
     In the first of these episodes is presented the case of the woman who
abandons her man, flees into the mountains, is changed into stone and weighs
down her lover, who chases her, to the end. The mountain exercises a double
power: it punishes the betrayal, but in the punishment it gives the punished
the permanence of myth, which is the perfect and eternal function of her crime.
Elsewhere, it returns the man's sight to him, it opens his eyes for him to
discover his abyss and fall into it under the weight of his secret. The second
episode is of a more essential kind: in the search for the woman, Niche Aquino
discovers his demon, unites with it in the flesh, and in the body of a coyote
finds the road to Xibalba, the subterranean world where man learns the secrets
of the beyond. The Pass in the mountain is here the key to final knowledge, a
true gateway, a magical power that touches man in an instant and converts him
into light so that he will go to occupy his place among the shadows. Whoever
doubts the existence of this gateway should go to Peten, search in Tikal and
identify in the rocks the women and the men who lost and found their way.
     Asturias' novel makes me think of another, by Jose Maria Arguedas, Los
Rios Profundos, whose leitmotif is the secret mythological life of the Cuzco
highlands. The mountain of Arguedas is a witch. His is a most delicate
operation in which the myths do not have direct effects but rather remain
hidden like human forms in the shadows, and talk or simply dream inside the
rocks, in the walls, in the bells, in the rivers and the animals. A child
listens to them. It is not a miracle of communication, nor the vision seen in a
campfire. The action of the mountain is now slow and cumulative: phenomenon of
atmospheres, of instants and contacts. One could say that if a revelation is
produced, it is the effect of ecstatic contemplation or of meditation; but, on
the whole, the secret is also revealed in the pass from one Andean region to
another, in one plaza or another, at the churches, the markets, the shortcuts,
upon the lunar plateaus, sometimes on the run, because the idea of the journey
requires swiftness: to learn to live when the little hero detaches from his
father's side. I shall cite some sentences I wrote some time ago about this
novel to give a clearer base to this idea:

     ...that which could be a catalogue of churches, of town squares, of
decorated walls and ruins, comes to live independently; the stones speak, the
patios tremble, the ancient kitchens of Cuzco glow with gold, the bells call
from mountain to mountain across the shimmering valleys and rivers, the men
kneel, the women cry, and a child--the child that Arguedas was and whom he
carries in his shadows--embraces his father and sweetly suffers with the
native fantasies that eternally surround evening in the mountains....
     Arguedas first spoke Quiches and later, already grown, he learned
Spanish. Something strange, fascinating in its complex aesthetic and linguistic
significance, occurred in the process: as if, his Spanish idiom came to him
filled with living sounds, with quick spirits who, upon touching the words,
awaken all kinds of magic reverberations. Arguedas says 'muro,' says 'aguila,'
says 'piedras,' says 'angeles' and what we hear is a material world in
unexpected action, reaching out toward us, as if wishing to tell us of a secret
soul, imprisoned, pained, anxious to be rescued.(8)

     A brief example will suffice to illustrate how the young hero searches
in the mountain for the source of essential powers. Challenged to fight by a
fearsome enemy in the school, he senses that his will slackens, he knows that
he will be badly treated by the pack who consider him a "foreigner," so then he
goes to the god of the mountain requesting valor and strength. His invocation
is abrupt, irrational in the circumstances, but fatally assured:

     At night, at rosary, I wished to confess myself and I could not. Shame
tied my tongue and thoughts.
     Then, while I trembled with shame, the image of Apu K'arwarasu came to my
memory like lightning. I spoke to him, the way the scholars of my native
region prayed, when they had to battle or compete in races and in tests of
     -Only you, Apu and the Markask'a!, I told him. Apu K'arwarasu, to you I
shall dedicate my fight! Send me your emissary to watch over me, to cheer me
from on high. So by kicks, swine, to the rear, to your hungry dog ribs, to
your violin neck! Whatever! I am an indian, an indian miner! Nakak!
     I began to take spirit, to lift my courage, directing myself to the great
mountain in the same way that the indians of my region worshiped it, before
throwing themselves into the plaza against the brave bulls, condors overhead.
     K'arwarasu is the Apu, the regional god of my native territory. It has
three snow-covered summits that rise above a mountain chain of black rock.
Various lakes surround them in which live herons with pink plumage. The falcon
is the symbol of K'arwarasu. The indians say that in the days before Easter a
bird of fire emerges from the highest summit and hunts the condors, that it
breaks their backs, makes them moan and humiliates them. In brilliant flight,
it flashes over the fields, past the livestock farms, and then disappears into
the snow.
     The indians invoke K'arwarasu only in the greatest dangers. They need only
pronounce his name and the fear of dying vanishes.(9)

And the boy goes to the fight. The child who hears words in the walls of
Cuzco, who cries in silence glued to doors and columns and looks for signs of
the golden bell in the frozen skies of the plateau, is transformed: he has
become a man in the dialogue with the mountain and, tranquil and unafraid, he
awaits the decisive tests.
     A similar idea of metamorphosis in the mountains but this time not among
myths, but rather in the realm of Catholic symbology, appears in the poetic
work of Gabriela Mistral and, more particularly, in the poem entitled, "The
Flight." I shall quote two stanzas:

     O Mother, in a dream
     I traverse tarnished landscapes:
     a black mountain turning endlessly
     to reach the other mountain;
     and in the next you seem to be,
     but always another round mountain
     is there, to obstruct the way
     to the mountain of your joy and my joy.

     And sometimes not hills ahead,
     not inner thoughts, nor breath can find you:
     you have fled with the mountain snow
     you have submitted to the black rocks.
     And you send me sarcastic voices
     from three points, and I break in pain,
     for my body is one, which you gave me,
     and you are the water with a hundred eyes,
     and are the landscape of a thousand arms,
     never again what lovers are:
     a living breast upon a living breast,
     bronze figures softening with cries.(10)

     The mother-mountain-mother chain has a secret meaning. In "The Flight,"
Gabriela Mistral expresses a fundamental idea: she carries and always will
carry the mother within her, like a fatal affliction. It will be a weight
within her that is tender and painful at the same time. These two sentiments do
not achieve integration. The image of the mother keeps escaping, calling her,
moving away. Upon following it, she thinks that she will cross one mountain to
find another and another until infinity. In one moment she sees her dissolve
like snow on the mountain and, then, the mother appears transformed into a
symbol of that identity--of the person and the native land--which Gabriela
Mistral tortuously pursues throughout her entire life.(11)
     The magic here is essentially lyrical and the mountain is its form: a
superimposed symbol to suggest the transience and the permanence of life in
circles that call to us, lose us, accelerate and overwhelm us in the divine
     If in El Mundo es Ancho y Ajeno, a symphonic novel, the Zauberberg is an
extended, spacious, intermittent theme, in the hands of a poet it can gain the
force of immediate revelation, the tone of a sudden exaltation, the sense of a
transcendental vision: this is the case with the poem, "Heights of Machu
Picchu" by Pablo Neruda.
     At first sight it could be thought that we are confronted with a
traditional theme of romanticism: the poet in exile with his melancholy burden
of national memories and his defeated judgment in the name of a lost liberty;
we think of Heredia singing to Niagara with voices evoking other sublime
terrors, those of Byron, or Schiller, of Goethe. But gradually we recognize in
Neruda's poem the light which by now is familiar to us: the splendor of the
magical revelation when it comes from the heart of the mountain. An essentially
lyric poet, for whom knowledge should derive from a subconscious immersion in
reality and the terms of its definition are a leading chain of images, a
descriptive and baroque poet, who when not imperative and visionary becomes
dialectical again, he uncovers his images, grouping and arranging them, and
with thorough lucidity proceeds to clearly define certain basic keys for the
destiny of man in his tragic movement through history.
     The mountain has, then, for Neruda the same power of supreme revelation
that it had for Mann, in equal transcendent tone, but without the doomed
imminence which is prolonged in The Magic Mountain, turning it into a mortal
trance. Neruda, inspired as by a slow fever, close to the lights of the summit,
feeling, not knowing, the mysterious propulsion of the mystical experience,
reflects upon man's destiny:

     What was man? Where in his ongoing conversation
     among the stores and the whistles,
     in which of his metallic movements
     could be found indestructible, imperishable

     Neruda examines the torsion springs of history, and his conclusions,
beyond his bedazzlement by nature, affirm an immediate reality and his
intuition of an inflexible physical order.
     The tone of the poem is anguished at first; obsessed by the memory of
political persecution, Neruda insists upon reproducing his agitation in the
static forms that surround him. In what follows, he gives himself over to a
metaphysical sadness, to a consciousness of his solitude and an examination of
mortality. What is fatality in the routine of man? A wreath of daily dyings,
the leaves that the tree loses in no order:

     The self like corn stores itself in the bottomless
     granary of lost deeds, of miserable events, from one
     to seven, and to eight, and not one fatality, yet
     instead many deaths came to each, every day a
     little demise, powder, worm, lamp that is
     extinguished in the suburban mud, a small dying with
     thick wings...(13)

     I could not love in each being a tree
     with its little autumn on one's back (the extinction
     of a thousand leaves)
     all the false deaths and the resurrections
     without homeland, without abyss...(14)

     The initial discomfort resolves into a dynamic confrontation with life.
The poet is in front of Machu-Picchu, the stone fortress, indestructible crown
of the Inca. He contemplates the ruins and on a plane combining classic
nostalgia with the firmness of his implacable materialism, he reviews the
Carpe Diem theme, and adds:

     Today the empty air no longer cries,
     no longer knows your feet of clay,
     has forgotten your vessels that filtered the sky...

     You no longer exist, hands of spider, frail
     strands, tangled cloth;
     what you were has fallen: customs, syllables
     spent, masks of brilliant light.
     Only a permanence of stone and word;
     the city like a cup was lifted in the hands
     of all, living and not, the silenced, sustained
     by the silent, a wall, from brimming life to impact
     of stone petals, the permanent rose, the mooring:
     this Andean reef of glacial colonies.(15)

     He discharges his lyrical dynamism and describes mystically, that is to
say, by naming. More than eighty lyrical epithets comprise the ninth section of
the poem, his litany to Machu-Picchu. The fundamental question can be seen
approaching, probing between the lines, ritualistically leading to the root of
the matter. What was this man who inhabited that rock in the sky? What became
of him?

     Stone within stone, the man, where was he?
     Air within air, the man, where was he?
     Time within time, the man, where was he?

     ...I ask you, salt of the roadway,
     show me your implements, let me, structures,
     trace with a twig the network of stone,
     mount all the stairways of the air into the emptiness,
     scrape inner organs until the man is touched.(16)

     Then there emerges an apocalyptic vision: that was an empire built on
blood, hunger, punishment. The solitude is suddenly filled with phantastic
forms, the river with voices, the hills with archers, the roads with moving

     Machu-Picchu, you put
     stones on the stone, and at the base, rags?
     Coal upon coal, and at the bottom tears?
     Fire in the gold, and within, the red trembling
     portion of blood?
     Return to me the slave you buried! (17)

     He implores that slave to arise from his granite tomb and to be incarnated
in his poet's voice and magician's blood.

     Juan Stonecutter, son of Wiracocha,
     Juan Coldfood, son of the green star,
     Juan the Barefoot, grandson of turquoise,
     rise to be born with me, brother.(18)

     The Andean Zauberberg has yielded its secret. It had been a fleeting
vision. The poet quickly re-integrates with the militant ranks, hurriedly, as
if descending from heights where the air became impossible to breathe; he takes
the weapons that are his, his armor, his dialectic. The resolution of the poem,
nevertheless, has clearly left its comet's mark in the sky: the legacy to
history is a lesson written in rock and its custodians can lift up one more
time and renew their destiny of struggle without end.

1 Cf. F. Alegria, "Manuel Rojas: trascendantalismo en la novels chilena," in
Literatura Chilena del Siglo XX, Zig-Zag, Santiago, 1967, pp.205-32.
2 The student will find a more detailed analysis of Los Peregrinos Inmoviles
in my Historia de la Novels Hispanoamericana, 3d ed., Ediciones De
Andrea, Mexico City, 1966, pp.165-67.
3 The Magic Mountain, Lowe-Porter translation, Knopf, New York, 1968, p. v.
4 El Mundo es Ancho y Ajeno, Diana, Mexico City, 1949, p.53. See also pp. 3
and 391, and compare then with the speculations of Thomas Mann concerning time
in Der Zauberberg, Berlin, 1924, pp. 80, 89, 90, 91, 452, 713 and 714.
5 La Montana Magica, 2d ed., Diana, Mexico City, 1957, pp.843-44.
6 El Mundo es Ancho y Ajeno, op. cit., pp. 30-31, 42-43, 245.
7 Thomas Mann says to me in his letter: "My impression of your book (Ensayo
sobre Cinco Temas de Thomas Mann, Funes, El Salvador, 1949) is that of an
unusually fine analysis of the chief motives of my novel - this arch-romantic
book that is, at the same time, a sort of farewell to romanticism, although
its irony makes this moral renunciation of the romantic a little doubtful
8 Historia de la Novela Hispanoamericana, op. cit., p. 273.
9 Los Rios Profundos, Ed. Losada, 1958, p.88.
10 Tala, Ed. Losada, 1947, pp.11-12.
11 Cf. F. Alegria, Genio y Figura de Gabriela Mistral, Eudeba, Buenos Aires,
pp. 105-06.
12 Canto General, Ediciones Oceano, Mexico City, 1950, pp. 41-42.
13 Ibid., p.42.
14 Ibid., p.43.
15 Ibid., pp.46-47.
16 Ibid., pp.51-52.
17 Ibid., p.52.
18 Ibid., p.54.