Clemente Palma

In looking for more background on The Invention of Morel, Clemente Palma‘s name turned up. He was a Peruvian science fiction writer, influenced by Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam, the Frenchman who popularized the word android in the 19th century. I think that i recall Huysman referring to him, but i didn’t pay close enough attention.

Guess what?

Nothing by Palma is in English translation, and very little of Auguste Villiers de l’Isle-Adam’s work is. Damn it to hell.

I confess that i’m more interested in Clemente Palma for the moment. I found a book by Nancy M. Kason titled Breaking Traditions: The Fiction of Clemente Palma, a critical overview of his work, and a Spanish language summary of XYZ that attempts to fend off the labeling of Palma as a racist. XYZ apparently has some ugly black stereotypes, mixed into the story about cloning homunculi from Hollywood stars of the Twenties and Thirties. Also, from what little i could read of Kason’s paper, there’s a story titled “La ultima rubia” that could be interpreted as a dig against racism, as it is set in a future in which all races have blended (and speak Esperanto,) and the protagonist sets on an insane quest to find a blonde woman so that he can make gold, or it could be interpreted as actual racism, warning of the “danger” of miscegenation. To be honest, without reading the actual story, i can make no sense of the author’s intent.

Where Palma was politically might be another factor. Palma wrote XYZ while in exile, after a coup led by Colonel Sánchez Cerro in 1930, against Augusto B. Leguía. Since Leguía was opposed by both ARPA and the Communist party, if Palma was aligned with Leguía, he’d probably remain deeply unfashionable for a long time, whether he was a racist or not.

It also seems that Palma didn’t win any love by trashing the poet César Vallejo as Vallejo was emerging on the scene.

Most likely though, Palma remains untranslated to English just because he’s just kinda obscure. Trying to guess why various authors are not translated seems like a fun game.

Is Palma one of the authors Bolano was mocking in Nazi Literature of the Americas?