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Recital of the Dark Verses

Recital of the Dark Verses

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By Luis Felipe Fabre
Translated by Heather Cleary

A road novel, a coming-of-age tale, and a raunchy slapstick comedy that tells—in careening, charismatic prose—the (true) story of the theft of the body of Saint John of the Cross.

Publication date: October 10, 2023

Paperback: 9781646052790
eBook: 9781646053001


In August 1592, a bailiff and his two assistants arrive at the monastery of Úbeda, with the secret task of transferring the remains of Saint John of the Cross, the great Carmelite poet and mystic, to his final abode. When they exhume him, they find the saint's body as incorrupt and fresh as when he died. 

Thus commences a series of adventures and misfortunes populated by characters that seem to be drawn from mythology. Luis Felipe Fabre masterfully incorporates Saint John's verses into his prose, as if the saint had prophesied the delirium that would surround his own posthumous transfer. This funny, highly entertaining novel manages to honor the mystical poetry of the Carmelite while inviting the reader to reflect on issues such as the sacred and the profane, the body and the soul, and spiritual (as well as carnal) ecstasy.

Biographical Note

Luis Felipe Fabre is a poet and critic based in Mexico City. He has published six volumes of essays and poetry, and curated the Poesía en Voz Alta (Poetry out loud) Festival and Todos los originales serán destruidos (All originals will be destroyed), an exhibition of contemporary art by poets. He is a recipient of the Punto de partida and José Revueltas prizes, as well as grants National Fund for Culture and the 2 Arts; his works in English include Sor Juana and Other Monsters and Writing with Caca, both translated by JD Pluecker. Recital of the Dark Verses, for which he was awarded the prestigious Elena Poniatowska Prize, is his first novel.

Heather Cleary
is an award-winning translator whose work with the poetry and prose of writers including Fernanda Trías, Brenda Lozano, Roque Larraquy, Sergio Chejfec, and Oliverio Girondo has been recognized by English PEN, the National Book Foundation, and the BTBA, among others. A member of the Cedilla & Co. translation collective, she has served as a judge for numerous national translation prizes. She teaches at Sarah Lawrence College and is the author of The Translator's Visibility: Scenes from Contemporary Latin American Fiction (Bloomsbury 2021).


“Luis Felipe Fabre, one of the most original and provocative poets in Latin America, has written a genre-bending novel full of humor and a blazing intelligence.” —Valeria Luiselli, author of Lost Children Archive and The Story of My Teeth

“Absurd, philosophical, playful and episodic, Recital of the Dark Verses is a revelation. The theft of a saint's body creates the occasion for a hilarious road trip through provincial Spain. A cousin to Quixote, Fabre's historical novel takes history and religion and manages to shape it into something entirely new. By turns brilliant, wise, entertaining, and profound. Cervantes would be proud.” —Mark Haber, author of Saint Sebastian’s Abyss and Reinhardt’s Garden

“Though short and structured simply, there is a profound complexity to Fabre’s Recital of the Dark Verses, one that evokes reader emotion and reflection throughout, whether a fan of poetry or not. Moreover, it contains a complexity of language to match the paradoxes of its themes. … I sincerely hope that Fabre writes further novels, and that Cleary will be there to English them so well.” —Daniel P. Haeusser, World Literature Today