123 pages
ISBN 0-919754-40-6
DDC C861





Translated by Ken Norris
Reviewed by John Walker

John Walker is a professor of Spanish studies at Queen’s University.


Canada and Chile at first glance do not have a lot in common. However,
in the aftermath of the fall of Salvador Allende’s socialist
government in 1973, Canadian cities and universities welcomed many
political refugees who embraced their adopted land and invested their
artistic talents in the field of Canadian/Chilean literature. With the
restoration of democracy, many exiles returned to Chile, while others,
for personal and artistic reasons, chose to stay, writing in both
Spanish and English, and contributing to the culture of both countries.

This eclectic collection is full of lyric poems that capture the spirit
of the two countries. “My Youth in Chile” serves as a powerful
contrast to “The Winter Where I Live.” Although love and death, and
other manifestations of the human condition, figure prominently in
Silence, Letelier-Ruz is most effective as a politically engaged writer
in the spirit of his compatriots Pablo Neruda and Nicanor Parra. When he
is not dealing with the politically corrupt in Chile (“Mister
President”) or the ill effects of U.S. “cocacolonization” (“I
Don’t Like These Verses”), the poet devotes much of his attention to
the socialist revolution in Nicaragua, in poems like “On Leave in
Managua” and “I Saw a Contra Killed.” Although death, war, hunger,
and murder prevail, the lyrical strains of Letelier-Ruz’s personal
poetry are never subdued.

Ken Norris’s translation is generally acceptable, if predictably
literal, often stilted, and in some cases downright erroneous. This does
not seriously detract, however, from the overall positive effect of this
welcome addition to Canadian/Chilean poetry.


Letelier-Ruz, Elias., “Silence,” Canadian Book Review Annual Online, accessed July 23, 2024,