January 19, 2019

David Coulter/E.F. Granell & Tom DeBeauchamp

Saturday, January 19
7:00 pm

1223 NE ML King Blvd.

David Coulter reads from his translation of The Novel of the Tupinamba Indian by Surrealist Spanish Civil War writer and painter Eugenio Granell, recently published by City Lights. An artist, educator, and translator (from Spanish and Portuguese), Coulter is currently at work on collections of stories by Granell and Miguel Carvalho; his visual work has been exhibited widely in the USA and Europe.

Coulter will be joined by Portland writer Tom DeBeauchamp, whose prose has appeared in Hobart, The Collagist, Ragazine, and elsewhere on the world wide web.

Written by Galician surrealist artist and revolutionary E.F. Granell, The Novel of the Tupinamba Indian is a picaresque, Cervantes-influenced allegory of the Spanish Civil War. Set against a cruel landscape peopled by generals, priests, conquistadors, poets, witches, and nuns, Tupinamba Indian embodies Granell's wartime experiences while transforming them through his lush and incendiary surrealist imagination.

With his capricious behavior and detachable head, the protagonist--a member of one of Brazil's indigenous tribes--parodies the Enlightenment concept of the noble savage as he investigates a Spanish civilization upended by conflict. Like Robert Desnos's Liberty or Love or Michel Leiris's Aurora, Tupinamba Indian proceeds by the logic of dreams, resisting the brutal realities of Franco's ascent to dictatorship through absurdist travesty and paying homage to the classless society that might have been. 

(City Lights)

"What a marvelous expectoration, Madrigal. Children, see what Madrigal has produced."

A beam of morning light descends from the classroom's only window. In it, Mrs. Esperanza's gauzy dress glows, her wet teeth sparkle. She cradles in both hands, on the blanket of her hanky, Madrigal's still warm, opalescent lunger. It shines like a jewel.

"Children," she says, "Madrigal has been sick. Too sick I'm afraid for our daily exercises. Her feet have been above her heart, her finger-paintings incomplete." The humming masses around me drool un-artistically, and I push them aside for a better view.

"Out of my way," I hiss at the Tony by my side, and claw past two Mildreds and even a James. "Let me see!"

To Mrs. Esperanza's right, on a wheeled cot strung with tubes, shawled in a thin quilt, the little girl Madrigal, the best among us, shivers and blinks like a kitten. The crusts of dry snot flap on her cheeks in the quickness of her breathing.

"She's had to forfeit her role in the seasonal spectacle," Mrs. Esperanza says. "Nevertheless, her sick little body has fought on. What you see in my hanky here is quite honestly a miracle of the plastic arts. Come. Touch. Sniff. Just don't scoop."

As Mrs. Esperanza directs us into rows with her free hand, the janitor, Mr. Mannish, pumps a bellows with his foot, its rubber hose disappearing under Madrigal's blanket. He holds onto the cot's metal railings and whispers viciously. I imagine him saying, "my precious little genius, what else have you got for me?" He pats Madrigal's mouth with his open hand and waits like a cat hunting goldfish.

All one hundred of us children stand before this presentation basted in awe. As we one by one dab our index fingers into Madrigal's cooling goo, the only sound louder than our squeaky tennis shoes or Mr. Mannish's bellows is the loop of Mrs. Esperanza saying, "Yes, yes. Don't be afraid." 

Tom DeBeauchamp
excerpt from "Scenes from the Lung"