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A disclaimer: I am not a reader of poetry. Too much work.

Martin Adan (accents over the “i” and second “a”), pseudonym for Rafael de la Fuente Benavides, is a known Peruvian poet. Contrary to his real name, his life was not a good life. He was an alcoholic and spent many years in sanitariums. The “Cardboard House” (La casa de carton- accent over the “o”) was his first and only novel, written when he was 20. It takes place in Barranco, a seaside resort area of Lima, which was on the decline. The novel has no plot. It is best described as vignettes, although this too overstates the narrative. It is more poetic than prose. He was asked about this work and he said he wrote it to practice grammatical rules his professor gave to him. This too is seems inaccurate. The work is best read as a resource for descriptive expression. This is particularly true for landscapes and cityscapes. In his metaphorical way his writing can be imaginative and beautiful. His work is described by some as transcendental, but it can be overdone, particularly in volume. Best read as if poetry.

“Between one pole and the next there is a distance of eighty feet that never decreases or increases– the poles neither love nor hate one another… misanthropy, misogyny, at the most a grumble of irritation or a greeting from one to the other, and this only because they can’t not do so… At night the poles go for walks. On a street quite far away. I recognized a pole that spends the whole day at the door of my house with hat in hand, stiff and thoughtful, as if suffering quietly from a pain in the kidneys or doing arithmetic in its head. The poles never gather. During these strange walks the distance between them remains constant; they tie ropes around their waists: mountain climbers on the mountain of their lives at twenty-five degrees below zero. We attribute to them the reckless daring of men without families or trite pleasures– a Count Godeneau-Platana, pederast and Egyptologist; another Prince Giustati, Castilian and aesthete; a Mexican millionaire suddenly impoverished by a revolution…The following morning (mornings always follow) the poles return to their assigned places. And there they are while fourteen gyrating hours mutate the color of the air– long, skinny, erect, rigid, wondering whether or not it will rain. One pole is called Julian, because he lets his beard grow… the beard: paper streaming from the carnival of 1912. Another pole is called Matias, because that is his name. A poor asthmatic pole on Mott Street dreams of buying an overcoat made of French fabric. There are poles that cater to dogs. There are poles that are friends of beggars. There are European poles with green eyes of crystal insurlators. There are streetlight poles. There are telephone poles.”

A description of an ice cream vendors cart being pulled done the streets of Barranco are similiar.

“How does this cart sound! The poor thing tears its soul out on the stones. Yet it would not alter its course for anything in the world– its straight course past the walls of the dead-end street, straight into imbecillity. O little cart, cross over this lawn kept smooth for you by water of the fountain. Between these things there exist bonds of mutual aid hampered by man. The rumble of the cart’s wheels on the paving stones gladdens the sad waters of the fountain.”

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