Norah Zapata Prill: Mare Nostrum - Irma Weissenberg | VDE-GALLO

Norah Zapata Prill: Mare Nostrum – Irma Weissenberg Perenyi


Norah Zapata PRILL: Mare Nostrum

Ernest BLOCH: From Jewish Life, B. 54: III. Jewish Song – Norah Zapata PRILL: N’émerge pas – Nous n’avons jamais été aussi près les uns des autres – Nous allons – Je suis de passage – Après avoir négocié avec le merle – Ernest BLOCH: From Jewish Life, B. 54: II. Supplication – Norah Zapata PRILL: Souviens-toi – Une embarcation de fortune pour mon malheur – Pauvreté aux mille-pattes – Que diront les palmiers dattiers à ta mère? – Tu ne voulus pas quitter ton village – Le vieux – Ernest BLOCH: From Jewish Life, B. 54: I. Prayer – Norah Zapata PRILL: Je marche sur ces plages où la noyade menace – Peut-être ne reviendrais-je plus – Si par hasard je ne reviens pas au printemps – Epilogue. On dit qu’heureux est le voyageur qui à son retour – Piotr Ilyich TCHAIKOVSKY: Romance in F Minor, Op. 5.

Roberto Sawicki, Violin and artistic Direction.
Elisabeth Dönni Kocher, Piano.
Irma Weissenberg Perenyi, Narrator.

The octopus’s embrace will be sweet: TRAGEDY AND TENDERNESS in MARE NOSTRUM

This new collection of poems by Norah Zapata-Prill dances on the tightrope of tenderness, making its author a tightrope walker of verse, always careful not to slip into pietism or morbidity, capable of tiptoeing us into stories of excruciating pain, true tragedies of our time that the Bolivian poetess collects with respect and tells with equal delicacy.

This is no easy task, considering that the theme of this collection of poems speaks unequivocally of our Mediterranean as a graveyard of migrants. We are faced with a balancing act that does not resort to acrobatics, virtuosity or stunts, but rather captures the reader’s attention with diametrically opposed qualities: psychological and emotional depth, and a fundamental, familiar and empathetic poetic language. It is thanks to this that, as we progress through the reading, we make the life stories of the protagonists of the various poems more and more our own. The others – the migrants and the uncertain and dangerous adventure of crossing the Mediterranean – become familiar faces, far removed from the cold statistics or images repeated on the news.

The disturbing yet omnipresent presence causing tragic havoc in Mare Nostrum is undoubtedly that of death. It transforms migrants into an anonymous mass, both compact and undefined, without a story, reducing them to mere bodies (“We have never been so close to each other/Heap together, Strangers, Mute, Undefined wandering in the dark sea”), until, suddenly, the poet reverses the meaning of this lack of definition, suggesting to the deceased migrants that they do not return to the light and do not reveal their identity, if all this were only to fuel the chronicle of a new failure or the simple curiosity about their fate, an interest totally absent when they were alive (“Let them not name you one more among so many/Let the human comedy weave its masks/Let them not name you/Do not tell them who you are.”). “Los Olvidados” (The Forgotten) is the title of a poem not included in this collection but perfectly illustrating the situation of many oppressed by the gears of injustice, as is the case with migrants, to whom the poet dedicates her current work.

As Vilma Tapia Anaya (1) puts it, “Norah Zapata-Prill’s writing contains little that is specifically Bolivian; there is no expressed nationality, and the roots and original territory are confined to childhood […]. However, one of the main resources of her poetry is the conversational style, the dialogues that have the fundamental voices of national literature, such as those of Óscar Cerruto, Juan Quirós, Julio de la Vega, René Bascopé Aspiazu, are the different roles that are added, the sowings for the land/herself/poetess, and the ‘transitory passion’ of exchanges constituting a history, that of her writing.”

That being said, it is worth noting that the theme of the Mediterranean, present in Italian-language literature (which internally comprises various declinations, perspectives, and very different forms), is less recurrent in Latin American literature, even though eminent poets like Raúl Zurita have dedicated part of their efforts in this direction, as seen in “La Mer de la Douleur,” an exhibition that has toured the world.

Norah Zapata Prill, born in Bolivia, adopted by Switzerland, and a long-time lover of Puglia, where she founded a House of Poetry and a festival, embodies biographical complexity and a variety of identities that naturally extend into her philosophical writing, thoughts, and poetics. A part of Norah is also Mediterranean; she expresses indignation about the humanitarian crisis in the Mediterranean, seeking a poetic language to capture and narrate it from her perspective. She opts for a concise form, a familiar register, simple language, intimate spaces, and confessions, even if one often finds oneself catapulted into the midst of waves or places distant from our daily mental maps. Human portraits emerge, dense in a few verses, evoking deep intimacy, despair, nostalgia, but also dignity, gentleness, and perseverance.

A particularly intriguing aspect of this book is a non-anthropocentric view of reality. Beyond the superiority of humans over the animal world, pain is the common ground, uniting and bringing them together in their diversity. This becomes evident in poems like the seventh in this collection, through the extreme fusion of human maternal pain with the animal pain caused by the loss of its offspring.

Thus, in another highly intense poem, even though it constitutes the last message of a migrant’s life, the protagonist bids farewell with the feeling that a certain relief and solace come precisely from the marine world: “What happier tomb than the azure song of the sirens? / My nights will be hammocks without insomnia / Without the shame of not putting bread on the table / The embrace of octopuses will be gentle.” Finally, the contrast between the depths of the sea, where one touches the abyss marking the end of the migrants’ terrestrial life, and the sky, the opposite pole where they arrive through a transmigration of the soul, from the darkness of the waters to the transparency of the celestial vault. It is no coincidence that birds fly through the pages of this book. “My sorrow will turn into escape,” says another voice in this chorus of migrants constantly suspended between the immeasurable tragedy, memories of horror, sometimes tender as well, and the persistent vision of a not-too-distant redemption.

Lucia Cupertino (trad. ChatGPT)

CD-1704 Booklet.pdf


CHF 19.50

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