Nymphs of evening skimming the waves
Cape Verde is a highly literate place in West Africa. As a Lusitanist, I should have much more to say about the archipelago than just that the local literary movement started as early as 1930s with the journal Claridade. But I am lazy to recapitulate a history that has been taught to me in detail in my Lisbon times, under the now obsolete denomination of literaturas de expressão portuguesa. I would just add a short comment on a recent poetic volume that strikes me not as much through its quality of expressing the Lusophone spirit, but quite to the contrary, by its pronounced inscription in the World Literature. As already its title, Zen limites, indicates.
The author, Filinto Elísio, has nothing to do with the celebrated Arcadian Portuguese poet. He is born in Cidade da Praia, Cape Verde. His eu viajante travels as far as Passargada, in Persia, I presume. And even farther into Central Asia, with Omar Khayyam. And to Japan, which is obvious. Also westwards, to Brasil of Drummond de Andrade, and to the other archipelagos, those of Derek Walcott.
It is a white man's prejudice to ask what does the poet actually understands from the world, how deep are his readings of that World Literature to which he aspires. He makes impression of merely surfing the waves of the Great Ocean with the suspicious ease of a pseudo-erudite, which is by the way so very Portuguese. Nonetheless, it is also the distinct spirit of Claridade, a group that strive to give a classical touch of Hesperides to the West African archipelago. And this is how he defines his African Lusophone post-Homerian/post-Camonian antiquity in this kind of broken and staggering aftertaste of hexameter:
Os deuses, em dissídio, como por Olimpo,
cogito de Luís Vaz, à sorte de Gama, diziam
que à morte de Omerus, no canto de Walcott,
era, em tudo, senão Odisseia, a de Ulisses.
Herói, além dos ventos furibundos nos odres,
nas delícias de Nausicaa, das encantadas,
que preso ao mastro, e como em Quixote,
Cervantes irou Alonjo Quijano aos moinhos.
Amar Penélope, doze machados vencer,
tal flecha em Soyinka, da prole do leão,
ao que Sidi, era vinho em Omar Khayyam... (p. 53)
Coming so late to World Literature, he takes it surfing, to be sure; he goes skimming the very surface of the global ocean. It takes him not more than a dozen of referential texts to complete the circumnavigation of his simplified geography. But he does it with such a delightful Creole touch.
Filinto Elísio, Zen Limites, Lisboa: Rosa de Porcelana, 2016.