Historias y poemas de una lucha de clases / Stories and Poems of a Class Struggle (Paperback)
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“His prolific artistic production, cut off at the age of forty, remains a monumental artifact . . . illustrating his profound conviction that the poet can and must, in his life as well as in his work, serve as the finely-honed scalpel of change, both in word and deed.” —Claribel Alegría
“The most daring and innovative Salvadoran writer and intellectual of the twentieth century.” —Jaime Barba
Poems of revolution by one of Latin America’s most beloved poets
Born in San Salvador in 1935, Roque Dalton dedicated his life to armed struggle while writing fierce, tender poems about his country and its people. In Historias y poemas de una lucha de clases / Stories and Poems of a Class Struggle, Dalton offers a road map for a liberated El Salvador, writing through the lens of five poetic personas, each with their own imagined history and distinct voice. This collection shows a country caught in the crosshairs of American imperialism, where the few rule the many and the many fight to survive—and yet there is love and humor and self-mockery to be found here on every page, in every verse, as well as an abiding faith in humanity. “I believe the world is beautiful,” Dalton writes, “and that poetry, like bread, is for everyone.”
About the Author
ROQUE DALTON was born in El Salvador in 1935. As a student at the University of San Salvador, he helped found the University Literary Circle, traveled to Soviet Russia, and joined the Salvadoran Communist Party. He was arrested in 1959 and 1960 for inciting peasant revolts and sentenced to execution by firing squad, but was saved by a coup d’état that overthrew the dictatorship of José María Lemus. In 1961, Roque left for exile in Mexico, and then for post-revolutionary Cuba, where he received guerrilla training and where the majority of his works were published. In 1965, two months after he returned to his native country, Roque was arrested, tortured, and again sentenced for execution, this time saved by an earthquake that crumbled his cell walls.
A poet who brilliantly fused politics and art, Roque’s literary work permanently changed the direction of Central American poetry. The author of eighteen volumes of poetry and prose—among them Un libro rojo para Lenin (written between 1970 and 1973), Las historias prohibidas del Pulgarcito (1974), and Pobrecita poeta que era yo (1976)—his writing combines fierce satirical irony with a humane and exuberant tenderness. His book Taberna y otros lugares, a reflection on his time spent in Prague as a correspondent for The International Review, won the Casa de las Américas prize in 1969. In 1973, Roque clandestinely returned to El Salvador to join the armed struggle. Two years later, the poet-revolutionary was falsely accused of being a CIA agent and assassinated by members of his own faction, the Ejército Revolucionario del Pueblo, during an internal struggle within the organization.
JACK HIRSCHMAN (1933–2021) was a poet, translator, and Poet Laureate of San Francisco. Among his recent collections of poetry is The Arcanes #2 (2019).
BARBARA PASCHKE is a translator and member of the Center for the Art of Translation, the Roque Dalton Cultural Brigade, and the Revolutionary Poets Brigade. Her publications include Riverbed of Memory (City Lights Books, 2001), Volcán (City Lights Books, 2001), and New World, New Words (Two Lines Press, 2007).
CHRISTOPHER SOTO is a Salvadoran poet. His debut poetry collection, Diaries of a Terrorist (Copper Canyon, 2022), was honored with them’s Now Award in Literature for representing the cutting edge of queer culture.
TATIANA MARROQUÍN is a Salvadoran feminist economist and critic of capitalism. She is a former analyst for the country’s national assembly.
JAIME BARBA is a Salvadoran writer and social researcher, based in San Salvador, where he is director-editor of Istmo Editores, a book publisher.
MARGARET RANDALL is a poet, scholar, social activist, and recipient of the Poet of Two Hemispheres award from Poesía en Paralelo Cero, among other recognitions.
“A poet of humor and crass and unrepentant truth . . . his poems have remained a constant in anti-capitalist and anti-fascist struggles over the years, not only in El Salvador but internationally.” —Christopher Soto & Tatiana Marroquín
“Roque Dalton’s commitment to the Revolution was like a marriage contract . . . It was his destiny not only to sing it but also to give his life for the Revolution.” —Ernesto Cardenal
“This collection comprises five diverse personalities, all poets and each an aspect of the intricate consciousness of one man, Roque Dalton, a Salvadoran writer who sought justice through verse as well as action and whose work is timeless. Dalton became an avid participant in the guerrilla army called the People’s Revolutionary Army and at the same time began publishing poetry with political and sarcastic undertones that make his work so identifiable. . . . A great addition to any collection; recommended for all students and lovers of poetry.” —Criticas
“For those who aren’t sure where El Salvador is, this book will locate it for them . . . in the heart of blood and bravery.”—Lawrence Ferlinghetti
“Roque had a sense of life and struggle that enabled him to laugh at himself, dig beneath the surface and bring up the most difficult areas of human experience... touching them deeply, exploring them, and projecting them in a way both useful and beautiful.” —Margaret Randall
“Roque Dalton’s Historias y poemas de una lucha de clases (Stories and Poems of a Class Struggle) dates back to 1975, and remains as timely as ever. . . [this] is a book filled with courageous testimony, the poet’s typical dry humor, and bone-chilling depictions of state violence. Here, Dalton is hyperaware of the pain and plight of his compatriots, but in addition to his typical grittiness and social critique, we also find tenderness, softness, beauty, and frailty; Dalton’s acute perception is both a rifle and a compass, manifesting in words of both rebuke and encouragement.” —José García Escobar, Asymptote