The Brush


Translated from by

Published: March 5, 2024


ISBN: 9781953861863
This item will be released on March 5, 2024.
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Book Description

Pablo Rodríguez steps thirteen paces out into the night and buries a wooden box. Its contents: a chain, a medallion, a few overexposed photographs, and finally, a deed. He burrows into the ground without knowing quite why, but with the certainty of a heavy change pressing through the air, of fear settling “like a cat in his throat.” Meanwhile, his wife Ester a sharpshooter and keeper of all village secrets slips into her fifth dream of the night. As Ester tosses and Pablo pats his fresh mound of earth, another character emerges in Eliana Hernández Pachón’s vivid and prophetic triptych.

The Brush is a tangled grove, a thicket of vines, an orchid pummeled with rain. Told from the voices Pablo, Ester, and the Brush itself, Hernández Pachón’s poem is an astounding response to a traumatic event in recent Colombian history: the massacre in the village of El Salado between February 16 and 21, 2000. Paramilitary forces tortured and killed sixty people, interspersing their devastating violence with music in the town square. The Brush is an incantatory, fearless exploration of collective trauma and its horrific relevance in today’s Colombia, where mass killings continue. It is also an extraordinary depiction of ecological resistance, of the natural world that both endures human cruelty and lives on in spite of it.

A poetic, polyphonic work that explores what the El Salado massacre might have been like... As the story progresses, so does the Brush, which gains ground—including the ground of literature. It has no limits... Hernández’s work, her fragmented narration, takes an oblique approach to horror—or, in the words of artist Juan Manuel Echeverría, it observes via reflection, to keep from being paralyzed by horror. For the author, this kind of gaze avoids two possible risks: narrating violence as a spectacle and looking away.
Beatriz Valdéz Correa

The Brush is not just a poem about the massacre in El Salado, at least not in a documentary sense. It is a work of fiction, built out of multiple poetic voices—peasant farmers Pablo and Ester, the witnesses, the researchers, and the brush itself, the most artful and profuse of these voices, a solitary observer of horror—encircling the event, trying to make contact with a more intimate, sensorial experience of violence.
Lina Vargas

The Brush doesn’t stop at what we already know, because, twenty-two years later, condemnation is no longer enough: it’s a story that recounts, both starkly and sensitively, a terrifying event in sharp-edged verses... It is the fact of acknowledging horror, as Eliana Hernández does, that another soul-state may emerge. Literature as redemption: daring to tell the story and confront the gruesomeness of human beings and society, because it’s there, in absolute abjection, that we will all recover our dignity—not just Pablo and Esther or the Brush, but also the writer and her readers. In this sense, Eliana Hernández’s fresh literary exercise is a precious one: she dares to tell the story of her time... A book-length poem that could easily be a fixture in literature classes and contemporary Colombian history.
Diana Castro Benetti

Each poem is autonomous, but linked together in a kind of sequential chronicle... Fusing together numerous voices, this narrative poem is a work of genre hybridity. The author’s investigative labor is also worth emphasizing: the work is inhabited by a plurality of voices, gazes, and practices of memory... the author addresses, names, and depicts nature as the living being it is, not as just another element of the landscape; there is an ecopoetic impetus in this book that also traces a physical and spiritual map of the events it describes.
Colombia National Poetry Prize jury