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Poetry's total scandal: Poets and postmen in Antonio Skármeta’s El cartero de Neruda

Research output: Contribution to journalJournal article


Journal publication date1/02/2012
JournalTropelías: Revista de Teoría de la Literatura y Literatura Comparada
Number of pages21
Original languageEnglish


The argument put forward here takes Antonio Skármeta's short novel El cartero de Neruda (Con ardiente paciencia) as a theorization of the relationship between poetry and politics, by way of the concept-metaphors (Mieke Bal) that are deployed in the novel. Skármeta stages the public role of poetry through the telling of a story about the poet Pablo Neruda and his postman Mario Jiménez.

The relationship between poetry and politics is analysed with reference to Hazard Adams' concept of «the offense of poetry» and Roland Barthes'
reflections on the total scandal of language in his essay «Écrivains et écrivants» (1964), here adapted as «the total scandal of poetry».

In contradistinction to Barthes, who argues that the total scandal of language is impossible because of the absorption of scandalous language by the literary institution, Skármeta's short novel suggests that the total scandal of poetry is indeed possible when, as in the case of Pablo Neruda, Mario Jiménez and Salvador Allende, poetry becomes a constitutive part of a political project, within which it functions as a reminder of dignity and as the touchstone for political integrity.

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