Sor Juana & Other Mon­sters

Chap­book, Luis Felipe Fabre (trans­la­tor: John Pluecker), 30 pgs, Ugly Duck­ling Presse, ug­ly­duck­ling­, $10

Broken Pencil - - Zine Reviews -

The only thing most schol­ars can agree on about Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz — a 17th cen­tury philoso­pher, com­poser, poet and proto-fem­i­nist — is that she must be some kind of mon­ster, says Luis Felipe Fabre. She’s too much of an aber­ra­tion to sim­ply be a woman. “What kind / of mon­ster is it whose power / re­sides in lan­guage? A sphinx?” he asks. “Sor Juana schol­ars, I have here a topic for your next con­fer­ence.”

In an un­apolo­get­i­cally sar­donic tone, Fabre, via this “aca­demic pa­per in verse,” pro­ceeds to sys­tem­at­i­cally mock and chas­tise Sor Juana schol­ars (the “sor­juanistas”) for the com­mod­i­fi­ca­tion of her life and legacy: “In or­der to re­hearse their dif­fer­ences in re­gards to what other / Sor Juana schol­ars say, / Sor Juana schol­ars or­ga­nize con­fer­ences about Sor Juana / where they differ.”

Fabre has man­u­fac­tured a com­i­cal and tragic trea­tise, and it’s ri­valled by an equally as­tute and in-depth trans­la­tor’s note, writ­ten by John Pluecker, that not only re­veals the meth­ods by which he brought Fabre’s po­ems into English, but also speaks to the spirit of the art of trans­la­tion: “What you see here is the re­sult of many enig­matic mur­ders, but hope­fully mur­ders that left clues be­hind.” (Scott Bryson)

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