Vision of the Children of Evil

Miguel Ángel Bustos

Translated by Lucina Schell

Bilingual Edition

Perfect Bound Trade Paperback, 318 pages, 6" x 9"

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Simultaneously prophetic and blasphemous, Vision of the Children of Evil by Miguel Ángel Bustos presents a mystical rejoinder to the inequities of the Americas, a revision of history through the motif of divine descent, as relevant and revolutionary today as when the poems first debuted in the 1960s. In Bustos's poetry, language is both a tool of subjugation and a device to conjure a strange world that transcends the one we only think we know. And like a postcolonial Rimbaud, he repurposes symbols to develop his own: universal, synesthetic, and above all, musical. Polyvocal, intertextual, and hybrid in form, these books span aphoristic fragments, prose poems, lyrical prose chapters, and linguistically experimental free verse, voicing Spanish colonizers and invented indigenous characters alike. In this bilingual dual edition featuring both Fantastical Fragments (1965) and Vision of the Children of Evil (1967), anglophone readers have their first opportunity to experience Bustos's poetry, as the poet fell victim to a double silencing in Argentina—he was disappeared at the beginning of the 1976 military dictatorship and, subsequently, his work was suppressed and his name absented from the literary record. Lucina Schell's translations are nothing short of extraordinary—urgent, adept, and possessing the necessary temerity to match wits with a poetic voice as strident as Bustos's. A poète maudit whose untimely death was ironically brought on by his leftist politics, Miguel Ángel Bustos reinvents the origin myth of Argentina—and the Americas—laying bare all its promise, all its pain.

This essential voice of a "disappeared" poet from the brutal period of Argentina's Dirty War is electrifying. Miguel Ángel Bustos's poetry shakes me with its aching sense of existential abandonment—just as "a land that trembles like the lung of a boy." His work is populated with demons, vampires, fantastical cabinets, hallucinations, llamas, condors, tigers, a word-womb of prophecy, the Legion of the Children of Evil, and "the rust on the nail that eats at you." His dark visions exhilarate, infect, inflame. Like César Vallejo or Alejandra Pizarnik, he is a poet who eats radiance even as night falls in his poems (to paraphrase him). A poet, journalist, and anthropologist, he diagnoses society's diseases and trumpets the damage they do to the human soul. Writing at a time when Argentina was plunging into horrifying repression in a series of violent coups, Bustos fuses the eerie visions of Baudelaire, Nerval, and Poe with the prophetic tones of Milton and Blake. Bustos's prediction held true: "When I die, the prophet in me will rise like a child without morals or motherland." I'm grateful for Lucina Schell's artful rendering that recreates the visceral yet oneiric impetus and the adroit wordplay of Bustos's poems. The appearance of this translation is an event to celebrate.
Rachel Galvin

Like the tormented Peruvian César Vallejo or the Spanish madman-savant Leopoldo Panero, Argentina's Miguel Ángel Bustos ransacks the unconscious for its darkest revelations of the inexpressible. Like García Lorca forty years before in Spain, Bustos was murdered for his politics in 1976 by his country's military dictatorship. To render his hallucinated language and his dream-nightmare visions in credible English, Lucina Schell reaches for the edges of expression and introduces us to a strangely gifted, wildly imaginative, prematurely silenced twentieth-century voice.
Stephen Kessler

The radiant, devastating poetry of Miguel Ángel Bustos reads as a glorious act of resistance to Argentina's dictadura, and to all brutal takeovers of language and reality that attempt to deaden us with cliché and denial. We can be certain: "the world had changed with his howl. With his strange howl." And "were a monument to a howl possible," it would no doubt be Lucina Schell's dazzling, courageous translation, which never for a moment flinches from difficulty as she delivers this piercing, perturbing message from history. This book has moved me unspeakably. What a masterpiece, and what a spectacular translation!
Michelle Gil-Montero

Miguel Ángel Ramón Bustos von Joecker, un poeta desaparecido, a victim of Argentina's Dirty War, reappears, is made visible to the anglophone reader, in this splendid translation of his book of poems, Visión de los hijos del mal. The translator, Lucina Schell, presents us these beautiful remains of the murdered poet, the words that survived him like the exhumed dead calcium of his very body: "When I die / beneath the inhumane song of my/brothers / I'll be a relic urine smell. / I'll remain in my bones for all / eternity. Amen."
Arturo Mantecón

Bustos is a major poet and Vision of the Children of Evil is an important book, not only for our time, but, well, all. Lucina Schell's translations are a gift: thoughtful, imaginative, faithful, smart.
Mark Statman

And in reality, if we can ascribe these pages of Miguel Ángel Bustos to any poetic genre, it is to the genre of labyrinth, in all of its transcendent commitment, its effort to reveal the intricate webs of the spirit, through which are formed these singular stories, which in many cases are not stories but rather simple and at once complex identities. The absurd, fully achieved and poetically installed with its intuitive grace, has a prestigious tradition within these pages of Bustos. Vision of the Children of Evil turns out to be, paradoxically, a purifying book, in which everything is arranged for reading to bring about a recovery within the spirit of the reader. In no way can it be called an easy, comfortable book. No. Readers should prepare for surprise, for an anguished situation of expectation. Those that have these operational instruments at hand—similar to those that the author must have employed in conceiving it—will find that this prose poetry offers them an opportunity to find themselves in a universe rarely proposed in the literature of our time.
Alberto Blasi Brambilla

There are few poets as committed as Miguel Ángel Bustos. But it will be useful here to clarify the final sense of the poet's commitment: it's to the word. By that willful embrace of the unity of man with the world, Bustos has been transiting a path of plunder, especially vital. The richness—apparent luxury—of his language is strictly the product of this plunder. And, interestingly, although it distances it from the immediate comprehension of today's reader, it nears it—and that distancing, perhaps, is a precise point in that sense—to the authentic roots of humanity.
Juan Gelman