Nicaragua’s Cardenal proclaims ‘beautiful revolution’

“It was a beautiful revolution,” the man in the beret says one night over dinner. “A beautiful revolution.”

On other lips, those words might ring campy and downright spoof-goofy a la Woody Allen in “Bananas.” But the man in the beret pulls it off, as he has for decades.

At 86, Ernesto Cardenal can still muster passion for revolutions past and future. It’s the present that confounds Nicaragua’s cosmic poetic stylist, a towering figure in Latin American literature absorbed in the winter of his life with a kind of eco-poetics swirling with the earthly evils of greed, corruption and exploitation.

Cardenal the poet and Cardenal the religious iconoclast and Cardenal the political figure cannot be delinked. He was and is all three. In a life seldom free from controversy, “El Padre,” as friends call him, became a Catholic priest, championed Marxism and the Sandinistas and evolved into a pillar of the liberation theology movement, which centered on wresting the poor from unjust social conditions. He defied a pope, conjured an artist’s utopia on a picturesque island in Lake Nicaragua and produced an astonishingly vast cascade of words in the form of poems and books so numerous that he says he’s lost count.

– Manuel Roig-Franzia

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Ernesto Cardenal, poet and Catholic priest, still causes controversy at age 86 (Washington Post)

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Roman Bonnefoy (Wikipedia)