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Sunday, 4 December 2011

Fulano de Tal: Las notas tocados en un piano de cola (Notes played on a grand piano)


Andes North of San Pedro de Atacama, Chile: photo by Nanosmile, December 2007

Las notas tocadas en un piano de cola

No hay piedad en el escenario, hoy en día,

No hay compasión por las personas ha muerto,

Hoy en día la mente no es parte del tiempo,

Hoy el aire está limpio de todo,

Hoy el mundo es un desierto sin fin,

Lleno de nada, salvo el vacío tintineo del piano de cola,

Las pocas notas escuchadas por el hueco de unos pocos privilegiados,

Una música que no tiene conocimiento, excepto de la nada,

Y se apodera de nosotros sin sentido

Como si ninguno de nosotros había estado nunca aquí antes

Y no son ahora, en este espectáculo superficial,

Este país libre, este espacio invisible,

Este presentimiento, esta consideración oscura, este sentido

De una ausencia enorme, un dolor en el corazón, un vacío

Que ninguna cantidad de más nunca se llenará.

Panamericana in the Atacama Desert, southern Peru, south of La Joya: photo by Angelica Jacobi, November 2006

Notes played on a grand piano

No mercy in the scenery, today,

No compassion for people now dead,

Today the mind is not part of the weather,

Today the air is clear of everything,

Today the world is a desert without ending,

Filled with nothing save the empty tinkling of the grand piano,

The few hollow notes heard by the privileged few,

A music that has no knowledge except of nothingness,

And it washes over us without meanings

As if none of us had ever been here before

And are not now, in this shallow spectacle,

This vacant country, this invisible space,

This inkling, this dim consideration, this sense

Of an enormous absence, an ache in the heart, a void

That no amount of more will ever fill.

A chilla (South American Gray Fox, or Zorro: Lycalopex griseus) in Pan de Azúcar National Park on the coast of the Atacama Desert, Chile: photo by Alejandro Torres Frías, 2008

Fulano de Tal: Las notas tocadas en un piano de cola (Notes Played on a grand piano), 1954; trans. TC


Nin Andrews said...

Beautiful, and more so in Spanish.

Makes me think of El Salvador, the people there telling of how recently they would wake to find fresh dead bodies by the road. Btw earth quakes and war . . .
and I think the 14 families with all the wealth . . .

gamefaced said...

love this, the translation. i miss playing piano.



Ah, the road south of "The Joy" (going down the hill to nowhere), "the air . . . clear of everything" ---


pink of clouds in sky above still black
ridge, bird chirping on branch in field
in foreground, sound of wave in channel

is made more than in itself,
close to tree at left

where “is” and “be” are not
given, as such, there

orange line of sun reflected in channel,
cloudless blue sky to the left of point

TC said...

In my salad days (sometime back round the Wisconsonian Glaciation) I created, on a typewriter, in a rooming house hid deep in the uncivilized snows of Michigan, my first slim collection of poesies; tentative in this virgin effort, I shyly offered it to the world (very small world it was then) under the pseudonym "Fulano Tal".

It's always wonderful to lose and/or forget almost anything, at almost any time, so that it's with relief and satisfaction I can report that I lost my last copy of that slim collection somewhere around forty-seven years ago.

But a good fairy has just unearthed two tiny yellowed slips of paper containing typescript comments, dating from early 1963, on the work of "Fulano Tal", by the poet-critics Charles Tomlinson and Louis Simpson.

Mind you, I cannot remember a line of these poems (my Spanish was sharper then, so they're likely a lot better than anything I've been capable of lately), and did not know these comments existed until about fifteen minutes ago.

So, for the sake of !!!HISTORY:

"Fulano Tal. While many of these poems are not fully realized, my final impression was that the book as a whole showed an identity, a tenseness and richness of imagery, a hold on macabre detail which combined to give it a range and force beyond the other manuscripts. The book carries all the conviction of desperation and some of its moral limitations. There is little standard of reference other than the 'I' of the poet. On the other hand the energy brought to expressing the 'quality' of this state of mind and the nagging awareness of the insufficiency deserve the highest commendation. After being put off by the monotony of the sentence structure in the first two poems, one quickly warmed to the inventiveness of the others. The shape of 'Lakes' is rather floppy, but its details are excellent. Particularly interesting are 'Love Song in Two Parts', 'Three Records of the 11th Year' and (on a smaller scale) 'The Birth of Christ'."

-- Charles Tomlinson

Cor, I do like that. It seems this Fulano Tal could really sling the Shoe Vanilla.

It comes back to me through the lacustrine mists of age that "Lakes" was a sort of elegy having to do with the drowning in a Wisconsin lake of a kid I knew. Its shape probably WAS '"rather floppy". "...all the conviction of desperation and some of its moral limitations." (I love that!)

"Fulano Tal. This poet is able to describe, with frenetic energy, the feelings of a young man in modern life. He gets himself into his poems. There is sharp, original imagery, and experimental nerve in his constructions of free verse. The poem 'Lakes' is quite moving."

-- Louis Simpson

The good fairy says, "But people are going to think you wrote this poem fifty years ago!"

And I say, "I hope so!"

And the good fairy says, "No, you should say, 'Lazarus got a second chance!'"

TC said...

If Fulano de Tal were a savage detective, he might have gone hunting for those bodies... and perhaps found his way to the secrets of the Atacama Desert.

Issa's Untidy Hut said...

No one should say "Lazarus didn't get a second chance!"

Great story, solid poem (seems to me a poem that would work very well in a public reading)- the critiques are charming.

I do believe this is the second time this week Mr Tomlinson was evoked in the comments. If you ever institute a comments award, I propose it be named after "CT."

Thank you for sharing this.


TC said...

Patricio Guzman's film is beautiful and startling.

The bodies of Pinochet's victims still scattered in the desert, an ossuary.

The good fairy thinks it's the best film she saw last year.

The "anti-Tree of Life".

(Fulano Tal thought The Tree of Life was the worst film ever made, by the way.)

The good fairy is (by the way) at this moment reading aloud a Sunday newspaper-magazine article about "Oven" Mitt Romney, whose early endurance of poverty and hardship would make him uniquely qualified as a thread-breaker at this point.

It seems that on one incredible journey into the Unknown, he was made to cohabit for a year, in France, with "members of the lower middle class". (I think he means the petit bourgeoisie.) Apparently this was meant to be a sort of educational/disciplinary ritual, along the lines of boot camp. "The bathroom was actually all the way down the hall".

The experience of deprivation on such a scale, awful to consider.

The Birth of Christ, in a humble manger, on a smaller scale (as Charles Tomlinson might have said), in comparison.

The world a vast graveyard and vale of tears.

TC said...


Sorry you were stuck in Moderation, there. Fulano could have used a bit of the same.

That's interesting about the CT scan. I don't remember another Charles Tomlinson comment. But as, obviously, I can't even remember my own poems as well as Charles Tomlinson once could, the old memory is clearly going, going, gone.

(I'm afraid to poke around too much in that desert any more, not knowing whose bones might turn up.)

Issa's Untidy Hut said...


Of course, the only reason I remember was it was me, dragging William Carlos Williams "Ashpodel" poem into the discussion about "Red Pigeon", Tomlinson editing one of the two editions I have of WCW's selected poems ...

In any case, I seem to be very off the main jib again - apologies, it's just that CT doesn't get name checked once, never mind twice, in too many places these days.


Anonymous said...

I was thinking about Bolano's novel as you told the tale of Fulano Tal, and appreciated your nod in that direction in the subsequent comment. All very fascinating indeed. What, specifically, does Tal find so awful about Tree of Life? The pretension? pace? In many respects I see van Trier's Melancholia as a kind of "answer" to Malick's film. As pretentiously and poor paced, to be sure, but perhaps also more honest.

TC said...


Happy you found the great Chilean writer's footprints in this desert of the disappeared. His work is indeed one of the many fossils planted therein.

The post was meant as a sort of "blind study". I had hoped to remove the traces of authorship (and attendant affect) to whatever degree possible, just to see if that might help readers to come upon the work with as little predisposition as possible.

In a way, the experiment worked. I learned some things. Not all totally reassuring. But then I had never promised myself a rose garden. Do roses bloom in deserts?

One back channel note suggested I had done right to "reveal" this to be a disclosure of juvenilia (or Shoe Vanilla).

I suppose the fictive date made that error not only possible but permissible.

Another reader, seeking clues, politely admitted he did not "know much" about Fulano de Tal.

(Of course, to anybody who knows a word of Spanish, that phrase simply means "so-and-so", or "whoever", or "John Doe", or "nobody"... its use, in any "literate" context, not unlike the clever little Enlightenment joke smuggled into The Odyssey to enable the postmodern smarty-pants Odysseus to escape the big slow stupid prehistoric Cyclops by saying his name was "Outis", that is, "Nobody". But wait, maybe I've spoken too soon here... can we be confident our present context is really any more "literate" than that which pertained in the cave of poor shaggy old one-eyed Polyphemus?)

That sheepish admission ("not know much" = "not know anything") underlined my initial sense that, these days, readers don't feel comfortable saying anything about a work by an unknown author, and require signals (handrails over the abyss of not knowing anything) to facilitate a "position" or an "angle of view".

The haste (and consequent superficiality) that seem built into the nature of this medium (blogging) are probably responsible for that sort of "positioning need". (A little like the kind of museum-visiting in which the haste to speed along causes the viewer to look first at the caption-tags... and then only later, if indeed ever, at the works themselves).

But hey, it's a busy world.

Anyhow, there are various other perhaps "meaningful" fossils secreted beneath the surface of this desert. Well, no, lying right out there on the surface, like opals in the outback.

When the grand piano tinkles, the obedient sheep come... but only to the designated (self-appointed) shepherds.

In truth, the two poems, in their present shape, did not exist before a few nights ago; and if meant to be "about" anything, I suppose it ought to be discreetly hinted that, er... well, to appropriate the wonderful Trollope title, they were meant to be about The Way We Live Now.

After all, it is getting late, and later, and who has the leisure, the luxury or the privilege to write, "in conscience", about anything else?

Re. The Tree of Life, I thought it was a triumph of the genre Unintentional Disaster Movie. For the reasons you suggest, plus several more. A colossus of overinflated self-indulgent pseudo-cosmic American suburban special-effects hokum. And my heavens, the terminal agonies of Sean Penn... the poor fellow should have given up acting after his one great in-character performance, in The Falcon and The Snowman. Then he might have been able to concentrate all his enormities of angst on saving the world (and sparing the movies).