100 Refutations: Day 14

Excerpts from Ollántay, a Quechua Play

 

LIGHT-FOOT

I have slept, and dreamt sinister things.

OLLÁNTAY

What have you dreamt?

LIGHT-FOOT

That I strangled a fox.

OLLÁNTAY

The fox was surely yourself.

LIGHT-FOOT

It is true that my nose grows sharp, and my ears long.

OLLÁNTAY

Lead me to Star’s house then.

LIGHT-FOOT

But it is still light out.

*

[…]

*

OLLÁNTAY

Run, Light-Foot; go tell [Star,] my beloved to wait for me this night.

LIGHT-FOOT

Just a moment ago, at night’s fall, I was in her home. And her house was deserted, and no one could give reason as to why. There isn’t even a single cat in this house! All doors are locked, except for the main entrance, which no one guards.

OLLÁNTAY

And the servants?

LIGHT-FOOT

Mice themselves, finding nothing on which to gnaw, have abandoned this house; and the owl, atop a roof ledge, sings a sinister song.

OLLÁNTAY

Perhaps her father has taken her, and hid her away in his palace.

LIGHT-FOOT

Perhaps he has strangled her. Her mother has disappeared as well.

*

[…]

*

OLLÁNTAY

My heart tells me she has disappeared from Cuzco, and the song of the owl sings, in a message meant for me.

*

[…]

*

STAR

How old are you?

BELLA

Very old, I imagine. Because, oh, how I detest this house, how it bores me, how time seems truly long.

SALLA (Bella’s Maid)

By my count, you must be ten years old, more or less.

*

[…]

*

OLLÁNTAY

Where is your mother?

BELLA

In a faraway corner of this house. Here it is, my lord, that my mother is consumed. Perhaps she is already dead.

*

[…]

*

MOTHER STONE

Is it real or is it a dream, seeing you here before me now, beloved king?

ASTROLOGER

It is my job to untie her, and console the wretched.

Bios

Author unknown

Over the years there has been debate regarding the true origins of this play, whether certain similarities with European theatrical structure (e.g. a “fool,” three acts) reveal a forgery, coincidence, interference by a translator, or a colonial rewrite which infused an older text with new European influences. Many continue to maintain that it remains one of the few and last Incan dramas, and its appearance in Peru in colonial times may make it a vital part of early American literature, regardless of its mixed heritage.

According to F. Pi y Margali (Madrid, 1885), Ollántay is a play “in Quechuan verse from the time of the Incas, […] one of the few literary compositions left from the ancient Americas. It is written in Quechua, the language of the Incas, […] there is nothing in it that reveals European thought or feeling, nor anything in it that does not fit the institutions, the customs, and the social state of that vast empire […] which extended from shores of the Ancasmayu to those of the Mauli.”

The play, writes Jorge Basadre in Literatura Inca (1938), is named after its protagonist, Ollántay, a great military leader who, for his courage and despite being a member of the lower classes, has been raised far, far above his station. Not far enough, however, to be able to pursue his beloved, the king’s daughter, who is forbidden to mix her royal blood with that of a mere commoner, regardless of love or valor.

Ollántay was initially translated into French by Gabino Pacheco Zeguerra. The Spanish translation was undertaken by G. Madrid in 1886.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V.

Lina M. Ferreira C.-V. earned MFAs in creative nonfiction writing and literary translation from The University of Iowa. She is the author of Drown Sever Sing from Anomalous Press and Don’t Come Back from Mad River Books, as well as editor, with Sarah Viren, of the forthcoming anthology Essaying the Americas. Her fiction, nonfiction, poetry, and translation work has been featured in journals including Bellingham ReviewChicago ReviewFourth GenreBrevityPoets & Writers, and The Sunday Rumpus, among others. She won Best of the Net and Iron Horse Review’s Discovered Voices Award, has been nominated for two Pushcart Prizes, and is a Rona Jaffe fellow. She moved from Colombia to China to Columbus, Ohio to Richmond, Virginia, where she works as an assistant professor for Virginia Commonwealth University.

English translation copyright (c) Lina M. Ferreira C.-V., 2018.