Roberto González Echevarría makes some interesting remarks on Eshleman’s most recent, and most complete translation of Vallejo:
[…] The comprehensiveness of the collection, thanks to Eshleman’s careful and reliable scholarship, is admirable, perhaps unsurpassable, at least in English. Still, there is something unsatisfying about the book, in large part because Eshleman’s translations are not equal to his scholarship.
Eshleman is an American poet whose love for Vallejo’s poetry led him on a virtually lifelong quest to translate his work. […] There is pathos in his protracted efforts, which he recounts in an afterword: first because they tell the story of a creative vocation surrendered to the work of another poet; second because Eshleman’s pursuit of native speakers who would help him unravel Vallejo’s idiosyncratic Spanish is touchingly earnest but somewhat quixotic.
I know of this because, although Eshleman may not remember, I was one of his native informants very early in his pursuit of Vallejo. I was a graduate student at Indiana University in 1965 when Eshleman contacted me to work with him on the translation. In return he would help me read Wallace Stevens, whom I was studying in a seminar and whose English was beyond my comprehension at the time […]. I cannot remember how long our collaboration lasted, but I was struck by Eshleman’s determination, despite having so little command of Spanish, to read Vallejo, and I wondered how Eshleman had become fascinated with Vallejo’s poetry earlier, when he had even less. But even a native speaker is on very unsure ground reading Vallejo […].
Although chronologies usually contain inert information lacking a critical or meaningful narrative thread, I found the one by Stephen Hart the best part of the book, other than the poetry. The author of a solid book in Spanish on Vallejo, Hart has provided an accurate, rich and relevant chronology (criticism in English is crude; in Spanish, just a tad better). A reader should begin with it before proceeding to Mario Vargas Llosa’s skimpy foreword, Efraín Kristal’s perfunctory introduction, Eshleman’s essay and to the poetry.
Eshleman’s volume is so monumental that people only want to speak well of his translations. It is good that people are reading him closely enough to read critically, and González Echevarría’s essay is good: an introduction that avoids clichés, and a sharp piece of commentary on its own. It is really worth reading in its entirety.