Skip to main content

Legendary Scientist-Turned-Anti-Poet Nicanor Parra Dies Aged 103

Parra published his most famous poetry book while studying cosmology.

Chilean Poet Nicanor Parra died at his home in Santiago on January 23rd at the age of 103. Upon hearing the news of his death, Chilean President Michelle Bachelet tweeted that "Chile has lost one of the greatest authors in the history of literature and a singular voice in Western culture. I am touched by the death of Nicanor Parra! My deepest condolences to his family."

 

 

Parra described himself as an "anti-poet," as he turned away from traditional poetic techniques and styles, and in doing so revolutionized Latin American verse by rejecting fanciful language and forging a stripped-down, darkly comic and direct verse.

 

 

Image Via 24Horas

Image Via 24Horas 

 

His poems often feature lost souls with wandering minds, unable to connect with other people and his blunt, subversive style is heavily influenced by the precise formulas and rational theorems of science, as well by the nightmarish visions of Franz Kafka and T.S. Eliot. This scientific thinking came from his nearly four decades teaching theoretical physics at the University of Chile. Parra wrote his most renowned book, Poems and Antipoems while studying cosmology in Oxford between 1949 and 1951. His enormous influence won him the most prestigious literary award in the Spanish language in 2011, the Cervantes Prize.

 

j

Image Via  El Confidencial

 

Following is Parra's poem The Last Toast, which he wrote about the journey of life. 

 

The Last Toast

Whether we like it or not,
We have only three choices:
Yesterday, today and tomorrow.

And not even three
Because as the philosopher says
Yesterday is yesterday
It belongs to us only in memory:
From the rose already plucked
No more petals can be drawn.

The cards to play
Are only two:
The present and the future.

And there aren't even two
Because it's a known fact
The present doesn't exist
Except as it edges past
And is consumed...,
like youth.

In the end
We are only left with tomorrow.
I raise my glass
To the day that never arrives.

But that is all
we have at our disposal. 

 

Featrued Image Via Proceso