Oneiric landscapes of creation: Visions of life and death in José Gorostiza's 'Muerte sin fin'
journal contributionposted on 24.09.2012, 13:47 by Sheldon C. Penn
José Gorostiza remains the most celebrated of the Contemporáneos poets, a group active during the 1920s and 1930s and one Mexico's most significant twentieth-century literary movements. This article offers a new reading of Gorostiza's major work, ‘Muerte sin fin’ (1939) that examines connections with indigenous Mesoamerican culture, the Mexican baroque, and European modernist poetry. Concentrating on Gorostiza's construction of an oneiric landscape inspired by Sor Juana Inés de la Cruz's’ ‘Primero sueño’ (1692), the study examines how the poet develops a conceptualization of death. Following indigenous mythopoetic traditions, death is figured not as an opposite to life, but as a state and a phase that interconnects with life as a part of a cosmic system. This attitude, in turn, is combined with a Surrealist sensibility that connects spatial representations of the physical and the metaphysical to the conscious and the unconscious. Revealing links to the clear influence of European modernism, the study draws comparisons with ‘Die Sonette an Orpheus’ (1923) and, in particular, with Maurice Blanchot's reading of Rainer Maria Rilke's attitude to death. In conclusion, the article underlines the importance of this comparison for an understanding of ‘Muerte sin fin’, but emphasizes the differences in tone that stem from the specifically Mexican undercurrents of Gorostiza's poem.