Adolph Couve: A prince in exile

“I’m leaving Chile, I’m going to Cartagena” was one of the most interesting expressions of the writer Adolfo Couve in the 1990s, a decade in which his work began to be valued, re-edited and updated in its aesthetic foundations, with episodes such as La commedia dell ‘art.

It was the Chile of the transition to nothingness, a simple rearrangement of powers to consolidate an eternal post-dictatorship, the 1980 Constitution, AFP and Isapres, consumer credit, a chauvinistic macroeconomic discourse, the depoliticization of citizenship and the first sketches on lumpen -citizen, prophesied by the poet Armando Uribe.

Couve is one of the great Chilean writers and one of the least read, which is why the recent launch of the book “A Prince in Exile. The Aesthetic Ideas of Adolfo Couve” by the famous University of Chile academic and poet Rodrigo Zúñiga Contreras.

The work presented at the Centro Cultural de La Reina by the nascent publishing house Circe Creaciones is a strong work, which outlines the mark that Couve has left, not only on the beaches of Cartagena where he strolled in the company of his dog Moro.

This precious thread of Rodrigo Zúñiga makes it possible to broaden the profile of the artist, who has left his comfort zone in painting towards the rude foreign legion of literature, to deploy his aesthetic foundations there.

Zúñiga invites us to review the painter’s ideas and with the pulse of a master, wishes to work on this fundamental heritage for today’s country, where everything has collapsed again, in a contingency of languages ​​that are unaware of themselves, such as he claims.

Zúñiga’s book invites us to discover the coherence and rigor of the aesthetic “program” with which Couve painted his literary work, as an original thinker. The pages reveal how a recalcitrant skepticism and his blind devotion to the history of art coexisted in him. Zúñiga was a student of the painter-writer and is an attentive reader of his essays. “A Prince in Exile” offers four areas of the Rope Train author’s aesthetic ideology: The Literature Lesson, A Plastic Realism, The Photographic Schism, and The Painting Lesson in Post-Pictorial Time.

In the prologue, Zúñiga explains how all of Couve’s fascinating and extravagant personality and his doctrine were based on very evident truths, since in him there was a profound meditation on the history of art, where the crisis stemmed from the encounter between the future of painting, the irruption of photography and the function of plastic realism could only be tackled in a fusion of writing and painting.

Reality has no surname, those who can’t handle it don’t even dare, because there is no “magic realism”, he said to sum up how he came out to face the world. Eternal burlesque child, “it hurts me not to have become a poet. I also have the name of a poet. You shouldn’t have found a pseudonym like Neftalí Reyes and Lucila Godoy Alcayaga. But I lacked the talent,” Couve said.

The author Rodrigo Zúñiga.

His alleged emotional weakness was portrayed in captivating metaphors. “I’m a boat with a hole in the middle. I can’t say go to Easter Island, because I sink right there on the beach,” she said. All of his artistic and academic heritage is that of a stateless nobleman. Painting, his mother tongue, was exiled and marginalized during the 20th century. So Zúñiga’s proposal is so successful.

Couve was already considered anachronistic or alien in the second half of the 1960s, from a hyper-ideologized and ultra-militant Chile.

After the dictatorship, Jaguar Chile seemed to him just as unbreathable, or even more unbreathable, which is why, like other artists, he chose a voluntary departure. From Cartagena he knew how to found an anti-Macondo founded on realism, from which he moved to Santiago to fulfill the duty and pleasure of forming, deforming, encouraging and discouraging generations of artists at the University of Chile.

Not only was he a character with an aesthetic and artistic program fought or opposed by the predominant groups, he was also the “black sheep” of a wealthy family, one of those isolated from the countryside, in that Chile 1. Adolfo, on the other hand, since from infancy he knew how to observe and interpret the Chilean language 2 and 3. Like a frightened child, I used to hang out with that lady from the upper quarter of whom they spoke badly, because she was a divorced stewardess. He managed to create the atmosphere of a cultured pharmacist of the first half of the 1900s, obsessed with the idea of ​​boosting the career of a poor child, a prodigy of painting and lost in a rural redoubt in the Valparaíso region.

Capable of attunement to that middle-class merchant of the fifties, various types of children, ladies strolling through a spa at sunset, or giving credibility to the inhabitants of a cité, his greatest literary achievement, in his vision, was to be included in the school readings, for the morphosyntactic sharpness of his works.

A prince in exile, both in the book by Rodrigo Zúñiga and in his short novels, because less is more. A worker of synthesis, because only he with two or three strokes could portray a Chilean master in “The painting lesson” and how we live in our country.

“The teacher, on the other hand, relieved that she no longer represented her character for that afternoon, slowed down and was tempted to approach the seashore. Her humble origins had always caused her to overreact to the rich, who sadly she knew were the ones who turned the horn of fortune over the heads of the poor.

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  • The content expressed in this opinion column is the sole responsibility of its author and does not necessarily reflect the editorial line or position of The meter.

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