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Porchia, Antonio

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ISBN 10: 0695891316 / ISBN 13: 9780695891312
Published by Big Table Publishing Company, 1969
Condition: Very Good In Worn Dustjacket Hardcover
From zenosbooks (San Francisco, CA, U.S.A.)

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About this Item

Chicago. 1969. Big Table Publishing Company. 1st American Edition. Very Good In Worn Dustjacket. 30. 64 pages. hardcover. Cover art - The gouache by Rene Magritte-Le Mat du Pays (1940). 0695891316. keywords: November 13. inventory # 8675. FROM THE PUBLISHER - Here is the first English translation of the lucid, enigmatic poems by Antonio Porchia-the great but little-known Argentine who died at 82 in 1968. Born in 1886 in Italy, Señor Porchia lived from 1911 in Buenos Aires, writing in Spanish and working as a potter or carpenter. The distinguished younger American poet W. S. Merwin has selected some 250 poems-often one or two line aphorisms-out of the 600 contained in the several editions of Voces which Señor Porchia published since 1943. Of the originality of these poems, Mr. Merwin comments in a succinct introduction: ‘The aphorisms are not, in his view, compositions of his own so much as emanations which he has heard and set down. The fidelity of Porchia’s vision, and its personal embodiment in language, is too sharp, and frequently too desperate, to be tempted to homiletics. On the contrary, the distillate of suffering. is pure and profound irony- an irony not of defense but of acceptance.’ The first collection of Porchia’s VOICES appeared in Buenos Aires, in a private edition, in 1943, and attracted little attention. A copy was sent by the author to the French critic Roger Caillois, who was moved to translate a selection of the aphorisms and publish them, with an introduction, in 1949, The somewhat patronizing tone in which Caillois presented his discovery did not conceal a sense of having been given a rare and original work, and the aphorisms themselves, in his versions, found at the time a number of admirers in the French literary world. Caillois, wanting to find out what sort of man had written and sent this surprising volume, had looked into the matter and ‘found myself in the presence of a man somewhere in his fifties, respectably-though neither studiously nor elegantly-dressed; a potter or carpenter by trade, I forget which, and self-employed, what is more; at once simple and shy, and altogether such that I assured myself, simply as a formality, first by means of certain subterfuges, and then quite openly, that he had never in his life heard of Lao-Tzu or Kafka,’ (By whom Caillois had suspected his unknown author to be influenced.) Judging by Caillois’ observations, the remarkable content of the Voices is iii a peculiarly pure sense the product of Porchia’s own non-literary experience. Of this, or of its circumstances, little is publicly known beyond a few facts so bare that they would fit on any tombstone, Antonio Porchia was born in Italy in 1886, lived in Argentina from 1911, and died in 1968, VOICES represents the whole of his writing-some six hundred entries in all, There have been several editions since the first one. The most recent (and in Porchia’s judgment the most complete, though it does not include some from the first collection) was published in 1966, and it is from this edition that the present selection has been made, Some of the entries, Porchia has stated, evolved over the course of years; some he has deleted in favor of later ones which, in his opinion, convey the same sense better, But the aphorisms themselves are not, in his view, compositions of his own so much as emanations which he has heard and set down. It is easy to see why Caillios might have imagined that Porchia owed something to certain Eastern texts, and perhaps to some moderns such as Kafka, A few of the aphorisms have close affinities with sentences from Taoist and Buddhist scriptures; others suggest, among the moderns, not only Kafka but Lichtenberg, or-to someone whose language is English-Blake. Caillois’ determining, to his own satisfaction, that Porchia was unfamiliar with such possible mentors is interesting, surprising, and in the end remains for the most part a matter of curiosity rather than a contribution to an assessment of. Bookseller Inventory # 8675

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Bibliographic Details

Title: Voices

Publisher: Big Table Publishing Company

Publication Date: 1969

Binding: hardcover

Book Condition:Very Good In Worn Dustjacket

Edition: 1st Edition.

About this title


Antonio Porchia (1886–1968) wrote one book, a slender collection of poetic aphorisms that became a classic in the Spanish-speaking world. With affinities to Taoist and Buddhist epigrams, Voices bears witness to the awe of human existence. Revised and updated with a new introduction by translator W.S. Merwin, this bilingual volume brings back into print one of Latin America’s great literary treasures.

He who tells the truth says almost nothing.
I know what I have given you. I do not know what you have received.
Only a few arrive at nothing, because the way is long.
Out of a hundred years a few minutes were made that stayed with me, not a hundred years.
When I come upon some idea that is not of this world, I feel as though this world had grown wider.
This world understands nothing but words, and you have come into it with almost none.
We become aware of the void as we fill it.

Antonio Porchia (1886–1968) was born in Italy. After his father died, he emigrated to Argentina with his mother and seven siblings, and as the eldest child, started working at the age of 14. He was self-taught, and his only book, Voices, caught the attention of a noted French critic who assumed him to be a scholar of Kafka and Buddhism, rather than the humble man who loved to tend his garden. Today, Porchia’s aphorisms are published in more than a dozen Spanish-language editions as well as in German, French and Italian.

W.S. Merwin’s awards include the Pulitzer Prize, the Tanning Prize, the Bollingen Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and the NEA. He is the author of dozens of books of poetry and translations. He lives in Hawaii.

About the Author:

W.S. Merwin is one of America's leading poets. His prizes include the 2005 National Book Award for his collected poems, Migration, the Pulitzer Prize, the Stevens Award, and fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation and Lannan Foundation. He is the author of dozens of books of poetry and translations. He lives in Hawaii, where he cultivates endangered palm trees.

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