‘Without a rudder and in delirium’: Ulises Lima walks backwards through Mexico

Esteban Feune de Colombi and Marc Caellas, founders of Compañía La Soledad, this Wednesday in the Santa María la Ribera neighborhood.
Esteban Feune de Colombi and Marc Caellas, founders of Compañía La Soledad, this Wednesday in the Santa María la Ribera neighborhood.Gladys serrano

José Alfredo Zendejas wrote hundreds of poems, was lost for years between Barcelona and Tel Aviv, and was run over in Mexico City in 1998. He was 45 years old. Anonymous founder of a literary movement that shaped generations, he signed his poems as Mario Santiago Papasquiaro and barely published while alive. Roberto Bolaño said that he read in the shower and wet his books, and Juan Villoro once said that he recorded messages with poems at dawn. The year of his death, the Chilean writer made him the protagonist of The wild detectives and he baptized it with the name of his legend: Ulises Lima. Little else is known about him. Bolaño himself, who used his most popular verse as an epigraph in one of his first novels, discovered later that his friend had taken it from the end of a Gilberto Owen poem:

“It is already heaven. Or the night. Or the sea that claims me / (…) / If I have to live, let it be without a rudder and in delirium “

After Bolaño’s top novel, the chaotic work and apocryphal life of Mario Santiago Papasquiaro became the stone of movements, anthologies and tributes. The last one opens this Friday in the Mexican capital, in a fleeting proposal that celebrates his poetry as it was written: walking the streets aimlessly. The writer and playwright Marc Caellas (Barcelona, ​​1974) and the writer and performer Esteban Feune de Colombi (Buenos Aires, 1980) present Rudderless and in delirium, a walk through the Santa María la Ribera neighborhood and around the poems of Mario Santiago.

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The creators define the performance as “theater on foot”, “poetic drift”, “apocryphal route”. “Deep down it doesn’t matter,” says Feune de Colombi. “We depend on the artists who provoke us, whose art was so close to his life that they were confused. In that sense, Mario Santiago is paradigmatic: he lived in an artistic way rather than his art ”.

“It’s a kind of antitheater”, defines Caellas. “We have tried to create something far from traditional theater, from imposed emotions. We want to connect art with the living neighborhood, chance, unforeseen encounters. Mario Santiago wrote on the move, on papers he found, always on the street ”.

Feune de Colombi y Caellas with Jesús, a neighbor of Santa María la Ribera who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years.
Feune de Colombi y Caellas with Jesús, a neighbor of Santa María la Ribera who has lived in the neighborhood for 30 years.Gladys serrano

The work, which is presented this Friday until Sunday in the Living Arts program of the El Chopo University Museum, closes a cycle on the legacy and margins of Roberto Bolaño that began last year in Barcelona. As a residual Christ of the youth movements of the sixties, the Chilean writer lived an intense youth and only achieved recognition after the age of 40. In the middle, a desert that he later filled between the epic and the chaos of his novel. On Bolaño, come home, Caellas and Feune de Colombi sought to reconstruct the silent years that the writer spent in El Raval, the mestizo and multicultural epicenter of Barcelona. “We set up a route through cafes, cinemas, various essential places for their literature that no longer exist today,” says Caellas. “Bruno Montané helped us, who told us several things and connected us with neighbors to illuminate that side of the marginal Bolaño that came to the city in the seventies.”

Montané, one of the last living poets of the infra-realist movement founded by Bolaño and Mario Santiago, once told this newspaper that in Los detectives there was “no more than 30% real material.” For the case it is the least. If Bolaño made cities like Mexico, Santiago de Chile or Paris living characters in his narrative based on memories and inventions, Mario Santiago created a city with poems that walked the same way through the fetid hotels of the Guerrero neighborhood and the stately mansions of La Condesa . The artists do not want a rigid map either. “We seek to take poetry out of the solemn drawers and spread it on the street,” says Caellas.

“We infrarealists walk backwards, looking at a point and moving away from it, in a straight line towards the unknown,” says Bolaño’s Ulises Lima. The movement was born between the poetic avant-garde and the youth movements, from the French May to the incipient left in Latin America. The infra-realists had as their enemy Octavio Paz, the official poet and intellectual of the hegemony of the PRI, and before him they claimed a certain surrealism. The last thing, they said, was to publish. The first thing for these teenagers was to fill themselves up.

Mario Santiago published just two books in the last years of his life. The Gilberto Owen poem that he appropriated ended up as the title of another that is now in anthologies of the Fondo de Cultura Económica or the Editorial Almadia. Caellas and Feune de Colombi claim it as the name of their performance. “It is a mantra, a beautiful epitaph. I would like someone to say that about me, ”says Caellas.

In an interview with full editorial success, Roberto Bolaño was fuming about the phrase. The poet’s life was not desired for his children. “I think Bolaño was very clear that death was stalking him,” says Feune de Colombi. “He spoke about death with a deep love for life. Living without a rudder is perhaps better when you grow up, with a certain perspective. There is no way to feel loved, it is something that Bolaño makes very clear to Mario Santiago in a letter at the end of his life ”.

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George Holan

George Holan is chief editor at Plainsmen Post and has articles published in many notable publications in the last decade.

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