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YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY THE POETICS OF WAR: DISJUNCTION AND VIOLENCE IN CARMEN CONDE’S MIENTRAS LOS HOMBRES MUEREN LISA NALBONE CARMEN Conde garnered the distinction of being the first female member of the Spanish Royal Academy, elected in 1978; however her literary corpus has garnered relatively limited literary acclaim. With her collection Ansia de gracia (1945), Dámaso Alonso asserts that Conde “se colocó en primera fila en nuestra poesía actual” (365). According to John Wilcox, Conde serves as a “model to every other woman who has written poetry in Spain during the second half of the twentieth century” (138) due in part to her ability to speak to the reader in a socially and culturally relevant manner that challenges traditional images of society, gender roles within it, and the direction of her country in the times to come. Of this collection, Zenaida Gutiérrez-Vega remarks that it offers the poet’s “respuesta angustiada y a veces violenta ante el espectáculo de la tierra manchada por la sangre y la muerte” (81). As the subject of this study, the examination of the notions of space, time and gender as they relate to the concept of wartime conflict in the collection titled Mientras los hombres mueren, reveal how Conde’s poetics of war appropriate the propagation of war through imagery of internecine strife affecting the victims as well as their loved ones. Published in 1953 and written some 15 years earlier, during the precise moments that men were dying during the Spanish Civil War (19361939 ), the collection captures the feminine voice that urges the finality of war in order to protect the lives of her fellow citizens: men, women and children alike. Each group occupies a unique space depending upon the role assigned to it by the poetic voice. While Conde primarily sustains the traditional role of men as propagators of war, she also places YYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYYY 277 the burden of responsibility on them for the continuance of conflict and at the same time holds them accountable for recognizing the horrors they have inflicted. Women, on the other hand, hear the exhortation to enter a new space, forging way to find their own contribution toward ending the conflict, and children become symbolic victims of violence who represent the country’s future. Beginning with the preface, Conde recognizes the inclusionary impact of war on its victims and states that the poems in the last section dedicated to the children “me fueron arrancados de la entraña con más profunda desesperación todavía” (186). Conde’s “sorrowful contemplation of human suffering” (Debicki 69) results in a novel attempt to taxonomize war’s atrocities and to respond to them. According to Christian Manso, her words confront the tragedy (142), and in doing so ask the reader to do the same. Male figures become extensions of the instruments of war who emaciate the landscape previously filled with living beings that formed part of a human dynamic in relationship to their roles as fathers, brothers and children. No longer faceless victims, the poet recognizes that these bodies belong to an identity of which they were deprived. According to Lynda Jentsch, “[h]er dismembered corpses are not elements in a surrealist chaotic enumeration, but the torn bodies of beloved sons and daughters (26-7). With “cada día tengo un hermano menos sobre la tierra, que se suma a los que dentro de las raíces yacen con las frentes vaciadas de ojos” (191), the disjunctive relationship among living brother, dead brother and those who have previously lost their lives attests to the timeliness of horrors facing numerous victims and their families. The resulting image of the foreheads without eyes decodifies the impact of war by relating it to a shift in the visual field and redressing distortion as a byproduct of violence. Men portrayed either as victimized or victimizers now decorate the landscape riddled with bodies. In the case of the latter, the indirect results of the deaths they cause splay outward to reach all human domains. As casualties of war, the victims meld with the survivors in “las muchedumbres se dislocaron de llanto sobre la atezada carne de guerra” (193), punctuated by the...


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pp. 277-285
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