cover image Nostalgia for Death & Villaurutia: Hieroglyphs of Desire

Nostalgia for Death & Villaurutia: Hieroglyphs of Desire

Xavier Villaurrutia. Copper Canyon Press, $12 (144pp) ISBN 978-1-55659-053-5

``Death always takes the shape / of our bedroom,'' the openly homosexual Mexican writer Villaurrutia, who died in 1950, begins one of his more impressive poems. But the equation of sex and death is nothing new. The poems in this bilingual volume move from night, to death, to the final joyous realization that ``it may just be possible / to live after having died.'' Unimpressed by the poems, the reader may turn to Nobel laureate Paz's 1977 essay to better understand their importance. But the essay is ``intended as a critical description of Mexican culture at a given moment,'' and Paz focuses primarily on the cultural milieu and on Villaurrutia's criticism, theatre pieces and fiction. When actually discussing the poetry, Paz is lukewarm at best. His praise is often for the verbal puns and the formal structure (all lost in Weinberger's nevertheless readable translation). ``For the majority of readers, Villaurrutia is the author of some fifteen or twenty poems . . . that count among the best poems in our language and of his time . . . '' But it is still a ``solitary'' poetry in which even the eroticism lauded as the translators' impetus is kept hidden from a potential audience. (Feb.)