Juana I

Juana I

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Author: Ana Arzoumanian

Translator: Gabriel Amor

Publisher: Kenning Editions (2018)

Passionate and intelligent, Juana unexpectedly inherits the throne and becomes trapped in a power clash between her father and her husband. Juana’s fiery relationship with both men bubbles to the surface in the poem’s delirious voice; her story unfolding in the context of an arduous cortege accompanying her husband’s corpse to Granada.

Tales of Juana’s lack of self-control while in Flanders had already reached Spain. Now the rumors really started to fly: She sleeps in the coffin alongside her dead husband! She wets herself! She fasts on the Jewish Sabbath! Arzoumanian renders both the rumors and the accompanying 16th Century juridical texts in italics, as though they were distant whispers.

Juana’s narrative blurs fact and imagination, as she conflates past with present, brother with father and husband, and marriage bed with childhood bathtub and royal coffin. This leaves us to wonder, was Juana truly la loca, or was her mental state the consequence of incredible personal loss, abuse and trauma? Or, were the accusations of madness merely a ploy to suppress her voice? In her own time, the courts judged against Juana and sentenced her to confinement for over forty years. Five centuries later, Arzoumanian’s powerful verse and provocative imagery is another sort of justice, one that gives a mouth to the silenced.