Cover

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Half Title, Frontispiece, Title Page, Copyright

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Contents

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pp. v-vi

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Acknowledgments

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pp. vii-viii

The decision to complete this translation was the fruit of conversations I had with Gladys Flores Heredia, Stephan Hart, Andrés Echevarría, Kenji Matsumoto, Jesús Cabel, José Antonio Mazzotti, and Antonio Gonzáles Montes, during and after the Congreso Internacional Vallejo Siempre, held in Lima in October 2014. ...

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Introduction

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pp. ix-xx

Scales comes out of César Vallejo’s experimentalist phase, which is to say, between 1919 and 1923, thus making it contemporaneous with Trilce. The writing produced by the Peruvian during that period shattered many aesthetic notions prevailing in Latin America and Europe at the height of avant-garde literary production. ...

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This Edition

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pp. xxi-xxii

The first edition of Escalas was published in 1923 by Talleres Tipográficos de la Penitenciaría in Lima in a run of two hundred copies. Since then, numerous editions of varying quality have been published with lesser or greater variations to the text. Aside from the verification of the correct title of the book, the neologisms particular to Vallejo’s experimental phase ...

Scales

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pp. 1-2

Cuneiforms

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Northwestern Wall

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pp. 5-6

Penumbra.
The only cell mate left now sits down to eat in front of the horizontal window of our dungeon, a barred little opening in the upper half of the cell door, where he takes refuge in the orange anguish of evening’s full bloom. ...

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Antarctic Wall

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pp. 7-8

Desire magnetizes us.
She, at my side, in the bedchamber, charges and charges the mysterious circuit with volts by the thousand per second. There’s an unimaginable drop that drips and pools and burns wherever I turn, trying to escape; a drop that’s nowhere and trembles, sings, cries, wails through all five senses and my heart, ...

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East Wall

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p. 9

Wait. I can’t figure out how to start this. Wait. Now.
Aim here, right where I’m touching the tip of my left hand’s longest finger. Don’t back down, don’t be afraid. Just aim here. Now! ...

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Doublewide Wall

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pp. 10-11

On this swelter of a night, one of my inmates tells me the story of his trial. He finishes the abstruse narration, stretches out on his soiled cot, and hums a yaraví.7
I now possess the truth of his conduct.
This man is a criminal. His mask of innocence transparent, the criminal has been arrested. Through the course of his prattle, my soul has followed him, step-by-step, through his unlawful act. ...

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Windowsill

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p. 12

I’m pasty. While I comb my hair, in the mirror I note that the bags under my eyes have grown even blacker and bluer and that in the angular brass of my shaved face the hue has scathingly jaundiced.8
I’m old. I wipe my brow with the towel, and a horizontal stripe highlighted by abundant pleats is highlighted therein like a cue of an implacable funeral march. . . . I’m dead. ...

Western Wall

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pp. 13-14

Wind Choir

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Beyond Life and Death

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pp. 17-22

Stagnant rockrose of July; wind belted around each of the great grain’s one-armed petioles that gravitate inside it; dead lust upon omphaloid hillsides of the summertime sierra. Wait. This can’t be. Let’s sing again. Oh, how sweet a dream!
My horse trotted thataway. After being out of town for eleven years, that day I finally drew near to Santiago, where I was born. ...

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The Release

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pp. 23-31

Yesterday I was at the Panopticon print shops to correct a set of page proofs.
The shop manager is a convict, a good guy, like all the criminals of the world. Young, smart, very polite, Solís, that’s his name, he’s whipped together excellent intelligence and told me his tale, ...

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The Only Child

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pp. 32-36

Yes. I once knew a man who underwent quite an undergoing. There was so much to it that I let myself get carried away by what happened to someone who, in all honesty, deserved curiosity and roomy meditations, on account of the terribly odd air to his way of being. . . . The city had thought he was mad, ...

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The Caynas

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pp. 37-44

Luis Urquizo let out a snort and, while swallowing his last glimmers of laughter, avidly drank his beer. He then smashed the empty mug on the zinc bar and shouted, “That’s nothing! Scores of times I’ve ridden atop my horse as she walked with her four black hoofs sticking straight up in the air. ...

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Mirtho

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pp. 45-49

A lunatic for candor, I take shelter under the firmament’s indigo fingernail and under the nine remaining nails of my hands I add, wrap up, and pinch the fundamental digits, with one at the bottom, toward the highest awareness of right sides. ...

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Wax

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pp. 50-60

That night we couldn’t smoke. All the bodegas in Lima were closed. My friend, who led me through the taciturn mazes of the renowned yellow mansion on Calle Hoyos, where numerous smokers converge, said good-bye to me and, with soul and pituitaries porcelained,29 he jumped the first streetcar he saw and fled through midnight. ...

Escalas

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pp. 61-62

Cuneiformes

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Muro noroeste

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pp. 65-66

Penumbra.
El único compañero de prisión que me queda ya ahora, se sienta a yantar ante el hueco de la ventana lateral de nuestro calabozo, donde, lo mismo que en la ventanilla enrejada que hay en la mitad superior de la puerta de entrada, se refugia y florece la angustia anaranjada de la tarde. ...

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Muro antártico

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pp. 67-68

El deseo nos imanta.
Ella, a mi lado, en la alcoba, carga y carga el circuito misterioso de mil en mil voltios por segundo. Hay una gota imponderable que corre y se encrespa y arde en todos mis vasos, pugnando por salir; ...

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Muro este

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p. 69

Esperaos. No atino ahora cómo empezar. Esperaos. Ya.
Apuntad aquí, donde apoyo la yema del dedo más largo de mi zurda. No retrocedáis, no tengáis miedo. Apuntad no más. ¡Ya! ...

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Muro dobleancho

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pp. 70-71

Uno de mis compañeros de celda, en esta noche calurosa, me cuenta la leyenda de su causa. Termina la abstrusa narración, se tiende sobre su sórdida tarima y tararea un yaraví.
Yo poseo ya la verdad de su conducta. ...

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Alféizar

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p. 72

Estoy cárdeno. Mientras me peino, al espejo advierto que mis ojeras se han amoratado aún más, y que sobre los angulosos cobres de mi rostro rasurado se ictericia la tez acerbadamente. ...

Muro occidental

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pp. 73-74

Coro de vientos

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Más allá de la vida y la muerte

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pp. 77-82

Jarales estadizos de julio; viento amarrado a cada peciolo manco del mundo grano que en él gravita. Lujuria muerta sobre lomas onfalóideas de la sierra estival. Espera. No ha de ser. Otra vez cantemos. ¡Oh qué dulce sueño! ...

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Liberación

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pp. 83-91

Ayer estuve en los talleres tipográficos del Panóptico, a corregir unas pruebas de imprenta.
El jefe de ellos es un penitenciado, un bueno, como lo son todos los delincuentes del mundo. Joven, inteligente, muy cortés; Solís, que así se llama el preso, pronto ha hecho grandes inteligencias conmigo, y hame referido su caso, hame expuesto sus quejas, su dolor. ...

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El unigénito

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pp. 92-96

Sí. Conocí al hombre a quien luego aconteció mucho acontecimiento. Tanto tuvo, pues, haberme ido en lo sucedido a aquel sujeto, en verdad, siempre digno de curiosidad y holgadas meditaciones, a causa del aire de espantadiza irregularidad de su modo de ser. . . . La ciudad le tenía por loco, idiota o poco menos. ...

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Los caynas

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pp. 97-104

Luis Urquizo lanzó una carcajada, y, tragándose todavía las últimas pólvoras de risa, bebió ávidamente su cerveza. Luego, al poner el cristal vacío sobre el zinc del mostrador, lo quebró, vociferando: ...

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Mirtho

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pp. 105-109

Orate de candor, aposéntome bajo la uña índiga del firmamento y en las 9 uñas restantes de mis manos, sumo, envuelvo y arramblo los dígitos fundamentales, de 1 en fondo, hacia la más alta conciencia de las derechas. ...

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Cera

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pp. 110-120

Aquella noche no pudimos fumar. Todos los ginkés de Lima estaban cerrados. Mi amigo, que conducíame por entre los taciturnos dédalos de la conocida mansión amarilla de la calle Hoyos, donde se dan numerosos fumaderos, despidióse por fin de mí, y aporcelanadas alma y pituitarias, asaltó el primer eléctrico urbano y esfumóse entre la madrugada. ...

Appendix

“The Gravest Moment of My Life,”

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pp. 123-131

From Trilce

II. “Time Time”

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p. 132

XVIII. “Oh the four walls of the cell”

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p. 133

XX. “Flush with the beaten froth bulwarked”

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p. 134

XLI. “Death on its knees is spilling”

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p. 135

L. “Cerberus four times”

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p. 136

LVIII. “In the cell, in the solid”

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pp. 137-138

LXI. “Tonight I get down from my horse”

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pp. 139-140

Letter to La Reforma [August 12, 1920]

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p. 141

Letter to Óscar Imaña [October 26, 1920]

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p. 142

“Poet Vallejo Jailed in Trujillo”: Gastón Roger

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p. 143

Letter to Gastón Roger [December 29, 1920]

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p. 144

“Poet Vallejo Imprisoned”: Víctor Raúl Haya de La Torre

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p. 145

Petition of Universidad de Trujillo Students

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pp. 146-147

Petition of Trujillo Journalists

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pp. 148-149

Letter to Óscar Imaña [February 12, 1921]

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p. 150

“Imprisonment of César Vallejo in Trujillo Jail”

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pp. 151-152

Notes

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pp. 153-160

Selected Bibliography

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pp. 161-164

Index

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pp. 165-169

About the Authors

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