Author: Susana Thénon
Translator: Rebekah Smith
Publisher: Ugly Duckling Presse (2021)
Susana Thénon (1935–1991) is a key poet of the ’60s generation in Argentina. In Ova Completa, her final, most radical collection, Thénon’s poetics expands to incorporate all it touches—classical and popular culture, song lyrics and vulgarities, incoherence and musicality—embodying humor and terror while writing obliquely of femicide, Argentina’s last dictatorship, the Malvinas / Falklands war, the heritage of colonialism. Ova Completa is a collection full of stylistic innovation, language play, dark humor, and socio-political insight, or, as Thénon writes, “me on earth; me with the others; me ignorant, rude, all mixed in Latin, Greek, shit, noodles, culture, and barbarism.”
"I’m in disbelief that these poems were written over thirty years ago by someone born in 1935. How can it be? Susana Thénon’s flair for code-switching—from Argentine regionalisms to mock etymologies to an ever-seductive English—seems ahead of its time, as do her poems’ fragmentariness, skepticism of language and its institutions. (Vide letters, bureaucracy.) Clearly, they weren’t, but that’s the magic of their immediacy and of Rebekah Smith’s brilliant translations. Caustic, restless, and delighting in their own performativity, they’ll make you want to catch up with them."
–Mónica de la Torre
"One of the best kept secrets of Argentine literature, Susana Thénon’s poetry takes on new life in this subtle English version of her Ova Completa. Wisely mixing critical reflection and casual impudence, literary references and unruly banter, Thénon draws her readers into a powerfully disquieting reading, a dialogue not only with her many voices but with literature itself."
"This is the first time I’ve endorsed a book after reading a handful of poems because I’ve never encountered a handful of poems this intriguing. Is Susana Thénon Jorge Louis Borges' long lost daughter, is she Juan Gelman’s sister, or is she a star from some wholly underrecognized dimension? It took just a sampling of Ova Completa to expand both my sense of the Argentinian literary landscape and my sense of poetic innovation. I can’t wait to read the rest of this rich and resonating collection."
"Experiments with language, with writing, with discursive genres, with situations and communicative actions or with pragmatic effects; [Thénon's later poems] are, in a parodic version, a reflection on all of these. They are also… a bleak and acidic gaze on a world that “enduring—until when?—it destroys itself” and that incessantly longs to see reconstruction rising up over destruction."
–Ana María Barrenechea
"The thematization is almost obsessive around the book as aesthetic object and as commodity that offers a double market to circulation: that of the buying and selling, and that of the critical and academic discourse. In the face of both, this text shows itself as a relentless mocker. And so an anti-aesthetic proposal arises… the effect is to topple hierarchies and distances, contaminate territories, violently erase the limits of a discourse typified as “cultured poetry.” … A heterogeneous and mutant text that on a few pages reasons with cartoonish humor, on others becomes linguistic decomposition à la Girondo, and on others almost a Cortázaran fantastic tale or almost a Borgesian essay, almost a popular song. The reader can perhaps find in these almosts a little appeasement: a powerful discursive will seeps through..."–Delfina Muschietti