Additional Book Information
Series: NYRB Poets
Publication Date: December 11, 2018
by Raúl Zurita, translated from the Spanish by William Rowe, introduction by Norma Cole
In 2001, the president of Chile publicly acknowledged that many of the bodies of the people who had disappeared under the dictatorship of General Augusto Pinochet would never be recovered. The victims had been flown up in planes and, after having their eyes gouged out, were ejected over the mountains and deserts of Chile or the Pacific Ocean. Raúl Zurita’s INRI (these are of course the letters nailed to the cross on which Jesus was crucified, identifying him as Jesus Christ, King of the Jews) is a visionary, prescient response to this atrocity, an agonized and deeply moving elegy for the dead in which the whole of Chile, with its snow-covered cordilleras, fields of wild flowers, empty spaces, and the sparkling sea beyond, is simultaneously transformed into the grave of its lost children and their living and risen body. This incantatory, prophetic work—prophetic in the same way that Jeremiah and Isaiah are prophetic, which is to say unapologetically political— is one of the great poems of our new century.
Because redemption is not possible in this world as it is, the murderers unconsciously betray themselves: in brutal opposition to the pouring of libations into the earth for future good harvests, Pinochet’s regime harvests humans and dumps them into the holes of the earth: the oceans & volcanoes. These deaths cannot be understood and this poem is not for understanding. Zurita’s INRI asks without asking: what forms may avenge our avalanche of unjust deaths.