A Stab in the Dark
The Milestone Poetry Collection of Border Region Literature
by Facundo Bernal/Translated by Anthony Seidman
Facundo Bernal’s A Stab in the Dark (Palos de ciego) is a poetic chronicle of the struggles and joys of the Spanish-speaking community in Los Angeles and in the burgeoning border town of Mexicali in the early 1920s. Sharply satirical, yet deeply empathetic, Bernal’s poems are both a landmark of Chicano literature and a captivating read. Anthony Seidman’s energetic translation — the first into English — preserves the prickly feel of Bernal’s classic, down to the last stab.
This edition also features the original Spanish text, introductions by critic Josh Kun and prominent Mexicali writer Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz, and a foreword by novelist Yxta Maya Murray. It is edited by Boris Dralyuk.
Praise for A Stab in the Dark
This book truly changes everything in Latinx literature.
–Juan Felipe Herrera, US Poet Laureate Emeritus
A wildly energetic journalist-writer with satirical wit, a side-order of machismo, and a lifelong distrust of politicians, Facundo Bernal might be compared to Ambrose Bierce, author of The Devil’s Dictionary, who disappeared into Mexico during the very revolution that forced the younger Bernal north across the border. Bernal may not be a great poetic innovator, but he is a brilliant documentary versifier whose small body of work takes on a whole new life in Seidman’s fabulously resuscitative translations. Bernal delivers the sounds and images of a critical epoch when a large number of Mexicans were making new lives (and a new idiom and culture) in California. His poems are caricatures, dramatic monologues, provocations. And they are also a glorious record of theater reviews, bank foreclosures, headlines, the advent of radio, immigrant labor, and overheard talk at carnivals and in dance halls. Bernal has a keen ear for the very alive, vernacular voice of that moment, when the City of Angels was begrudgingly adjusting to its immigrant-ushered reinvention.
–Forrest Gander, author of Core Samples from the World
Bernal has a keen eye and a smart mouth, and this combination provides many satisfactions. Without detracting from Bernal’s book, it’s fair to say that Seidman’s able translation accounts for half the success of this edition.
—Johnny Payne, director the MFA in Creative Writing at Mount Saint Mary’s University, Los Angeles, in Cleaver Magazine
¡Újule! Míster Blind still sweeps the world with his “palo de ciego,” his blindman’s cane. Facundo Bernal’s verbal theatrics, his biting insights, his astringent and truthful voice, his irreverent humor, and his great love of who he is — a Mexicano in a time when being one is both a challenge and a joy — cover as much ground today as they did in the 1920s. Then is Now: immigration, displacement, racism, the hatred of the refugee, the power of the rich, the voiceless poor, “los bichis del gud taim.” ¡Cheeses Cries! Yankee-landia will never be the same. We needed Facundo Bernal more than ever.
—Denise Chávez, Fronteriza writer, author of The King and Queen of Comezón
Seidman’s inventive translation recovers Bernal’s essential work from a historical and geographical margin.
—Bernardo Jáuregui, founder of Bagatela Press and editor-in-chief of Revista de Literatura Mexicana Contemporanea, in Asymptote Journal
A Stab in the Dark is also important because it offers a geographical coordinate previously omitted from the vanguardias — a literary snapshot of northern Mexico that otherwise would have been left off the map because of its very location.
—Martín Camps, Director of Latin American Studies, University of the Pacific
I don’t know what I was expecting when I started reading A Stab in the Dark, a collection of the poetry of Facundo Bernal, but upon completion I find myself thoroughly amazed, deliciously amused, and surprisingly hopeful. It is a thorough and elegant dressing down of systems and societal ignorance, poignant enough to ask hard questions and explore the hypocritical cruelty of social constructs with a sardonic smile on its face.
—John Venegas, Angel City Review
About The Authors
Facundo Bernal was a poet and journalist. He grew up in Hermosillo, Mexico during a time of political and social conflict, coming of age just before the Mexican Revolution. With his brother Francisco, he is representative of the bohemian Mexican literature of the era. He died in 1962.
Anthony Seidman is the author of three collections of poetry, including Where Thirsts Intersect (The Bitter Oleander, 2006). His latest collection of poetry, A Sleepless Man Sits Up In Bed, was published in 2016 from Eyewear Publishing of London, England. He has published dozens of poets from the northern border region of Mexico, and his poetry has been published in the United States, England, France, Mexico, Romania, Bangladesh, and Nicaragua, in numerous journals and anthologies.
Gabriel Trujillo Muñoz is a poet, narrator, essayist, and professor at the Autonomous University of Baja California-Mexicali. He has published 130+ books as author and compiler, and is a founding partner of the Mexican Association of Science Fiction and Fantasy. He has received Baja California State Literature Award nine times, and many other prizes, and is widely considered one of the biggest voices in contemporary Mexican science fiction for more than 30 years.
Josh Kun is an American author, academic and music critic. Kun is the inaugural holder of the Chair in Cross-Cultural Communication and an associate professor of communication in the Annenberg School at the University of Southern California. He also holds a joint appointment at USC’s Department of American Studies and Ethnicity. He is the director of The Popular Music Project at USC Annenberg’s the Norman Lear Center and co-editor of the book series “Refiguring American Music” for Duke University Press. He was a 2016 MacArthur Fellow.
Yxta Maya Murray is the author of The Conquest ― winner of the Whiting Award ― and The King’s Gold, the second novel in her acclaimed Red Lion series. She is a professor at Loyola Law School and lives in Los Angeles.