Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

From Athens to Managua: Myth and Sacrifice in Michele Najlis' Cantos De Ifigenia

Academic journal article Bulletin of Hispanic Studies

From Athens to Managua: Myth and Sacrifice in Michele Najlis' Cantos De Ifigenia

Article excerpt

Abstract

Michele Najlis is a Nicaraguan poet whose work emerged alongside the Sandinista insurrection. The Sandinistas were removed from office in 1990, creating, in political and cultural terms, one of those 'boundary situations' outlined by Paul Ricoeur, when a community will 'return to [...] that mythical nucleus which ultimately grounds and determines it' (Ricoeur 1982: 262). In 1991, Najlis published her collection Cantos de Ifigenia, which mines that mythical nucleus. This article reads Najlis' collection in the light of hermeneutic theory and classical myth, and situates it as a conscious reworking of the Iphigenia myth and an exploration of the dynamics of sacrifice in Sandinista Nicaragua. It examines the profound sense of war-weariness that Najlis' Iphigenia shares with the dramatizations of Iphigenia by Euripides and Aeschylus in fifth-century BC Athens. Ricoeur's reflections on myth and 'the recreation of language' are presented as a possible explanation for Najlis' use of classical mythology in her work at this time.

Resumen

Michele Najlis es una poeta nicaragüense cuya obra está estrechamente vinculada con el periodo insurreccional del sandinismo. En 1990 los sandinistas perdieron el poder en las elecciones. Fue, en términos políticos y culturales, una situación como las descritas por Paul Ricoeur cuando una comunidad tiene que 'return to [...] that mythical nucleus which ultimately grounds and determines it' (Ricoeur 1982: 262). En 1991, Najlis publicó su colección titulada Cantos de Ifigenia, en donde interroga este 'núcleo mítico'. Este artículo pretende examinar la colección de Najlis a la luz de la teoría hermenéutica y la recepción de la mitología clásica, para leerla como reinterpretación de la narrativa griega de Ifigenia y exploración de la dinámica del sacrificio en la Nicaragua sandinista. También revela cómo los poemas de Najlis comparten su sentido profundo de cansancio y hastío causados por la guerra con las dramatizaciones de Ifigenia escritas por Eurípides y Esquilo en Atenas en el siglo V a.C.

My father, at thy behest I come,

And for my country's sake my body give.

(Euripides, Iphigenia in Aulis)

Esto es mi cuerpo

esta es mi sangre

(Michele Najlis, Ars Combinatoria)

There are certain boundary situations such as war, suffering, guilt, death etc. in which the individual or community experiences a fundamental existential crisis. At such moments the whole community is put into question. For it is only when it is threatened with destruction from without or from within, that a society is compelled to return to the very roots of its identity: to that mythical nucleus which ultimately grounds and determines it. (Ricoeur 1982: 261)

Michele Najlis is one of a number of Nicaraguan women poets whose work emerged from the insurrectional period of the late 1960s and the 1970s, along with Gioconda Belli, Yolanda Blanco, Ana Ilce Gómez, Vidaluz Meneses, Rosario Murillo and Daisy Zamora.1 A prolonged period of insurrection against the Somoza regime brought the Sandinistas to power 1979, but they inherited a divided country, which was soon plunged into the 'Contra War' against counterrevolutionary forces in the 1980s. In 1990 they were removed from office by the democratic system they had helped to establish.2 This was, in political and cultural terms, one of those 'boundary situations' outlined by Paul Ricoeur: a period of difficult transition for the Sandinista movement, the culmination of a protracted period of armed conflict that brought widespread suffering and death, and gave rise to some soul-searching, re-evaluation and feelings of remorse. It is at precisely such times, Ricoeur suggests, that a community is inclined to 'return to the roots of its identity: to that mythical nucleus which ultimately grounds and determines it' (Ricoeur 1982: 262).

In 1991, Nicaraguan poet and Sandinista Michele Najlis published her collection Cantos de Ifigenia, where she mines that very mythical nucleus. …

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