Puerto Rican poet Jack Agueros, who is being conferred with Asan World Prize 2012 on Saturday, is recognised in Latin American literature as a man of versatile talent. His son Marcel Agueros and daughter Natalia Agueros, who have arrived in Thiruvananthapuram to receive the award on his behalf, talks to Sangeetha Unnithan about their illustrious father.
Jack Agueros remained an active figure in modern Latin American literature until eight years ago when he was diagnosed with Alzheimer's' Disease. Because of his illness, the 78-year-old poet will not be able to make it to the award function. Known for his evocative sonnets that reflect the social conflicts and complexities of modern life, Mr. Agueros is also a well-known activist and administrator, who has remained a vocal critic of the ‘Americanisation' of his country.
His son Marcel is an assistant professor in Astrophysics at Columbia University, New York, while his sister Natalia is a student of Environmental Technology at the university.
“It is really extraordinary and unbelievable that we would come down to the God's Own Country to receive an award on behalf of our father. But after reading Kumaran Asan's poetry, we have discovered that there are a lot of parallels in the two poets' works. We wish our father could come along with us,” the duo said.
According to Natalia, it is the concern for social inequalities and social exploitation expressed in their works that has connected their father with the Malayalam poet.
“Our father has been an unequivocal critic of American colonisation in Puerto Rico, which is currently an unincorporated territory of the United States of America. There are debates over whether becoming a part of the super power would be good or bad for Puerto Rico. But our family, and especially our father, has always been in support for the independence of the country,” she said.
The siblings said that although their father has won numerous awards, he has never won a national literary prize, possibly because of his unabashedly political poems. Many of them deal with the issue of imperialism and the resulting erosion of cultural identity.
Some of his acclaimed works include ‘Dominoes & Other Stories from the Puerto Rican' (1993), ‘Sonnets from the Puerto Rican' (1996), and ‘Lord, Is This a Psalm?' (2002)
They said that even as the U.S. presses for integration of Puerto Rico, Latino art, literature, and culture are kept separate from Anglo or African-American literature even today.
Speaking about Mr. Agueros' association with Indian literature, Mr. Marcel said his father was familiar with Indian classical literature such as the Bhagavad Gita and the works of Rabindranath Tagore. “However, he has never been to India. He would have loved it to be here today,” he said.
“Our father lives by the famous maxim that ‘poetry, like bread, is for everyone.' This has inspired us to make art a part of our daily lives and aspirations. He has also been the source of our political engagement and commitments,” the duo said.
The Asan World Prize will be given away by Union Minister of Overseas Indian Affairs Vayalar Ravi on Saturday following the inauguration of Sahitheeyam-2012 literary festival organised by Asan Memorial Association in connection with the 140th birth anniversary celebrations of Kumaran Asan. The award carries a cash prize of Rs.3 lakh, a memento, and a citation.
Keywords: Latin American literature