Poetry News

On Raúl Zurita: 'Poet of the Disappeared'

By Harriet Staff
Raúl Zurita

At Literary Hub, read an excerpt from Norma Cole's introduction to Raúl Zurita's INRI, published by New York Review of Books. Cole writes: "Zurita chose to stay in Chile, enduring the brutal seventeen-year dictatorship when he could have gone into exile like so many others who feared for their lives." Picking up from there: 

There is power and agency in staying in a dangerous place when one has the choice to leave. “I had to learn how to speak again from total wreckage, almost from madness, so that I could still say something to someone,” Zurita writes in a note about INRI, at once making clear the immediate context for its composition.

On January 8, 2001, in a nationally televised speech, social-democratic President Ricardo Lagos announced, with brevity, information pertaining to those who were still unaccounted for in the government-sponsored killings during the 1970s. These missing people had been kidnapped by the security forces and tortured, their eyes gouged out, and their bodies thrown from helicopters “into the ocean, the lakes, and the rivers of Chile.” And the Atacama Desert in the north. People knew about it, but there was no corroboration. Then suddenly there was.

Looking for the disappeared was “a thorn in the country’s soul.” After this announcement, Viviana Díaz, the president of the Association of Families of the Detained and Disappeared, said, “I’ve spent my whole life looking for my father. Now I know I’ll never find him. . . . To discover that he is in the depths of the ocean is terrible and distressing.” Even though, as Zurita says, they knew what had happened, the actual acknowledgment, the validation, came as a shock and a rupture in time. Reports and evidence of committed poured forth. Not needing to prove the facts anymore, what does the tragedy mean? How do you carry on? How do you hold the remembering, the identification, the trauma that took place, is still taking place, taking space “to represent a memory”?

Read more at Literary Hub.

Originally Published: December 10th, 2018