Translated by Heather Cleary
Recital of the Dark Verses is 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: September 19, 2023
In August 1592, a bailiff and his two assistants arrive at the monastery of Úbeda, with the secret task of transferring the body of Saint John of the Cross, the great Carmelite poet and mystic who had died the previous year, to his final abode. When they exhume him, they find a body uncorrupted and as fresh as when he died.
Recital of the Dark Verses follows the three hapless thieves as they sneak the corpse of Saint John of the Cross from Úbeda to Segovia, trying not to lose too many pieces of the body to his frenzied disciples along the way. It is the (true) story of a heist, a road novel, a coming-of-age tale, and a raunchy slapstick comedy told in careening, charismatic prose. It is also a witty and wise commentary on the verse of one of Spain's most important poets woven from the lines for which he is best known——a revival of words written more than four centuries ago, and a centering and celebration of their intrinsic queerness.
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).