the empty set

An evening with Violeta


I discovered Violeta Parra, a Chilean poet and visual artist, through an remarkable performance of Michí¨le Millner together with Yves Cerf, Paco Chambi and Sylvain Fournier last might at the AMR.

Michí¨le Millner interprets Violeta Parra with her heart and soul, in a rich and warm voice that conveys the happiness or sorrow, the opposition, rage, love and despair that made up Violeta Parra's life, part of which was spent in Geneva around 1963. Paco Chambi was awesome at the guitar, and so were Yves Cerf and Sylvain Fournier for that matter.

Throughout the show the lyrics were translated into French on slides projected to the right side of the stage, with black and white photos and short videos clips of interviews of Violeta Parra.

It was an intimate performance, not unlike those that usually take place at the Sud des Alpes, but with a different tint. Its south american latin touch gave it I don't know what that gave it that texture, depth and vibration I have already felt in different latin american events.

The public was diverse, but with a definite latin accent. I really enjoyed discovering this poet, her life and work, her simplicity and richness. Her depth.

A tragic yet inspirational life, that drives me to explore and discover more of her writings, and makes me regret to have given up on the usage of the Spanish language years ago. I love latin american Spanish.

Gracias a la Vida que me ha dado tanto
me ha dado la risa y me ha dado el llanto,
asi yo distingo dicha de quebranto
los dos materiales que forman mi canto
y el canto de ustedes que es el mismo canto
y el canto de todos que es mi propio canto.

Gracias a la Vida

Listen and watch Michí¨le Millner sing Violeta Parra:

Ø permalink:

Reponses to “An evening with Violeta”

#1 by lavinia schuler faccini

17:32 on 8 March 2009

David, I am posting a poem from an Uruguaian writer which describes perfectly, in latin spanish the Latin (South) American spirit.

Thanks for saying all you wrote about Violeta Parra and the Spanish from Latin America. We are deeply touched.



Mario Benedetti

Con su ritual de acero
sus grandes chimeneas
sus sabios clandestinos
su canto de sirenas
sus cielos de neón
sus ventanas navideñas
su culto a dios padre
y de las charreteras
con sus llaves del reino
el norte es el que ordena
pero aquí abajo abajo
el hambre disponible
recorre el fruto amargo
de lo que otros deciden
mientras que el tiempo pasa
y pasan los desfiles
y se hacen otras cosas
que el norte no prohíbe
con su esperanza dura
el sur también existe

con sus predicadores
sus gases que envenenan
su escuela de chicago
sus dueños de la tierra
con sus trapos de lujo
y su pobre osamenta
sus defensas gastadas
sus gastos de defensa
son su gesta invasora
el norte es el que ordena

pero aquí abajo abajo
cada uno en su escondite
hay hombres y mujeres
que saben a qué asirse
aprovechando el sol
y también los eclipses
apartando lo inútil
y usando lo que sirve
con su fe veterana
el sur también existe

con su corno francés
y su academia sueca
su salsa americana
y sus llaves inglesas
con todos sus misiles
y sus enciclopedias
su guerra de galaxias
y su saña opulenta
con todos sus laureles
el norte es el que ordena

pero aquí abajo abajo
cerca de las raíces
es donde la memoria
ningún recuerdo omite
y hay quienes se desmueren
y hay quienes se desviven
y así entre todos logran
lo que era un imposible
que todo el mundo sepa
que el sur también existe.

#2 by lavinia schuler faccini

17:44 on 8 March 2009

And here you find the translation to English

And here you can listen the song composed by JM Serrat with Benedetti's lyric (El sur tambien existe)

#3 by David Roessli

21:25 on 8 March 2009

Thanks for your input lavinia :)

#4 by lavinia

03:23 on 19 May 2009

David, I found this today (tomorrow for you since I am 5 hours after you).

I would never ever be able to translate this to English nor to French, nor to any other language, but I just hope you can follow these words in Spanish. But definitely it is a turning point... It is like a bottle in an ocean..

Title: In defense of happiness

Mario Benedetti

Defender la alegría como una trinchera
defenderla del escándalo y la rutina
de la miseria y los miserables
de las ausencias transitorias
y las definitivas

defender la alegría como un principio
defenderla del pasmo y las pesadillas
de los neutrales y de los neutrones
de las dulces infamias
y los graves diagnósticos

defender la alegría como una bandera
defenderla del rayo y la melancolía
de los ingenuos y de los canallas
de la retórica y los paros cardiacos
de las endemias y las academias

defender la alegría como un destino
defenderla del fuego y de los bomberos
de los suicidas y los homicidas
de las vacaciones y del agobio
de la obligación de estar alegres

defender la alegría como una certeza
defenderla del óxido y de la roña
de la famosa pátina del tiempo
del relente y del oportunismo
de los proxenetas de la risa

defender la alegría como un derecho
defenderla de dios y del invierno
de las mayúsculas y de la muerte
de los apellidos y las lástimas
del azar
y también de la alegría

#5 by lavinia

13:17 on 19 May 2009

Forgot to tell that Mario Benedetti died the day before I posted this last comment.

#6 by David Roessli

08:32 on 20 May 2009

Thanks for the poem Lavinia, it is beautiful even with my faint notions of Spanish.

It is all the more dramatic in view of the context.

#7 by lavinia

12:14 on 20 May 2009

Finally I managed to find some Mario Benedetti translations to English. I believe poems are impossible to translate, they only could be rewritten sometimes. But you can have a taste below.

M. Benedetti was exiled from Uruguay for many years since he was a strong critic of military dictatorship and of the influence of US on Latin America. What I loved about him is that he stayed being optimistic until the end of his life.

So, another poem, now in English.

Don´t Save Yourself

Mario Benedetti

Don't Save yourself,
Don´t be immobile
On the edge of the road,
Don't freeze the joy,
Don't love with reluctance,
Don't save yourself now
or ever,
Don't save yourself,
Don't fill with calm,
Don't reserve of the world
Just a calm place,
Don't let fall your lids
Heavy as trials,
Don´t speak without lips,
Don't fall asleep without sleepiness,
Don't think of you without blood,
Don't judge yourself without time.

But if in spite of everything
You cannot avoid it
And you freeze the joy,
And you love with reluctance,
And you save yourself now,
And you full with calm,
And you reserve of the world
Just a calm place,
And you let fall your lids
Heavy as trials,
And you speak without lips,
And you fall asleep without sleepiness,
And you think yourself without blood,
And you judge yourself without time,
And you are immobile
On the edge of the road,
And you save yourself,
Don't stay with me.

#8 by lavinia

12:27 on 20 May 2009

I promise this is my last post for Mario Benedetti. The best obituary in English I found for him came from Cuba (!). Here is the link if you are sitll interested...

#9 by derecho

06:37 on 19 August 2013

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