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Gregorio Kohon

Odetta in Babylon and the Canada Express

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Translated by Gregorio Kohon with Toni Griffiths.

Introduction by Gwen MacKeith.


Bearing the unmistakable imprint of its time, as a voice in a chorus of writers from the counterculture of 1960s Argentina, Gregorio Kohon’s celebrated 1968 narrative poem is a masterful tale of a life lived on the edge, a transient life of odd jobs, moving around, impermanent homes, shared rooms, crashed parties, whole nights spent in bars and cafés, sleeping rough, surviving from one moment to the next. Through the protagonist’s anchorless lifestyle we encounter weird, haunting and ubiquitous characters who exist on the margins of society. Inferior social and economic positions are given special focus and special status. We bear witness to the people of an underworld – mad-men, prostitutes, spiritualists, the suicidal – and we hear what they have to say. There is flight and escape but the escape is as much psychical as physical, through altered states of mind brought on by the heady mix of sex, alcohol, marijuana – and by the power of music.

Kohon and Toni Griffiths’ stunning translation has the power to transport you to the 1960s, to Buenos Aires, to those first overpowering experiences of sexual love. Odetta in Babylon and the Canada Express invites you to step onto the train, and to let go.

Lose yourself in the music and enjoy the journey, wherever it takes you.

 

"It’s terrific – such energy, so many different moods and stories, people, happenings; a mysterious involvement with the deepest things – life, death, love, failure, aspiration, youth, sensuality, knowledge…. Its length gives it a mythic quality. I loved the pace and rhythm, which made it almost chantable. It has such an un-English freedom to it…"  Melanie Hart

 

 

Gregorio Kohon was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has published four books of poetry in Spanish: Puntos de Partida (1963), Ebrio Sale el Sol (1967), Odetta en Babilonia y el Rápido a Canadá (1968) and El Estilo del Deseo (2008). His novel Papagayo Rojo, Pata de Palo (2003) was a finalist in manuscript form for the 2001 Fernando Lara Prize, and was published in English as Red Parrot, Wooden Leg in 2007. He moved to England in 1970, where he studied and worked with R.D. Laing and his colleagues in the anti- psychiatry movement, qualifying as a psychoanalyst of the British Psycho-Analytical Society in 1979. From early 1988 to December 1994, he lived in Australia, where he co-founded and directed The Brisbane Centre for Psychoanalytic Studies. He has edited and published a number of books on psychoanalysis, many of which have been translated into French, Italian, Polish, Swedish, Portuguese, German, Spanish and Japanese.