The only prose work from Martín Adán, The Cardboard House
was originally published in 1928 when the Peruvian poet was 20 years young. Set in the Barranco district of Lima, The Cardboard House
came to be an influential work preceding the Latin American Boom. Nearly plotless, the story follows a young narrator around the city's resort area as he makes fragmentary observations about the intriguing sights and individuals he encounters along his way. With rich, descriptive, and melodious prose, The Cardboard House
is a thoughtful and beautifully written work. Sadly, it appears that none of Adán's collections of poetry have ever been translated into English.
Graywolf Press first published The Cardboard House
in a slightly different translation in 1990, but it quickly went out of print. In this new edition, Katherine Silver (translator of Aira, Sada, Castellanos Moya, et al.) revisited her previous translation, updating it with minor revisions, an uncovered fragment omitted from the original book, and an accompanying autobiographical poem ("Written Blindly") composed in reply to correspondence seeking information about the poet and his life.
In the bewitched mirror of the rainy street — a drop of milk, the streetlamp's iridescent globe; a drop of water, the sky above; a drop of blood, one's self with this foolish joy at winter's unannounced arrival... Recommended By Jeremy G., Powells.com
Synopses & Reviews
Published in 1928 to great acclaim when its author was just twenty years old, The Cardboard House
is sweeping, kaleidoscopic, and passionate. The novel presents a stunning series of flashes — scenes, moods, dreams, and weather— as the narrator wanders through Barranco (then an exclusive seaside resort outside Lima). In one beautiful, radical passage after another, he skips from reveries of first loves, South Pole explorations, and ocean tides, to precise and unashamed notations of class and of race: an Indian woman “with her hard,shiny, damp head of hair—a mud carving,” to a gringo gobbling “synthetic milk,canned meat, hard liquor.”
Adán’s own aristocratic family was in financial freefall at the time, and, as the translator notes, The Cardboard House is as “subversive now as when it was written: Adán’s uncompromising poetic vision and the trueness and poetry of his voice constitute a heroic act against cultural colonialism.”
""Wonderfully youthful, poetically miraculous, is the most representative -- and the best -- of the Latin American avant garde of the 1920s."" César Aira
""This book is profoundly realist, but it is not a reproduction of exterior reality;it is rather the poetic, sensorial, intuitive, non-rational testimony of this reality."" Mario Vargas Llosa
""I dreamt I was sixteen and Martín Adán was giving me piano lessons. The old man's fingers, long as the Amazing Rubber Man's, plunged through the floor and played a chain of underground volcanoes."" Roberto Bolaño
A sweeping, kaleidoscopic, and passionate novel that presents a stunning series of flashes -- scenes, moods, dreams, and weather-- as the narrator wanders through Lima.
About the Author
The award-winning translator Katherine Silver has won a PEN Translation Fund Award, an NEA grant, and a Black Mountain Institute/Rainmakers Grant. She is now the Co-director of the Banff International Literary Translation Centre.