Rafael Alberti's erotic poem: Diálogo entre Venus y Priapo

On 28 May 1963, Rafael Alberti (El Puerto de Santa Maria, 1902 - 1999) arrived in Rome from Argentina, where he had lived in exile since 1940. The Spanish poet and playwright, active in the Partido Comunista de España (PCE), with his partner Maria Teresa Leòn, had left Spain in 1939, after the Republican defeat. After a brief stay in Paris at Pablo Neruda's house, he had sailed from Marseille for Argentina in February 1940.

This is how the poet recalls his arrival in Argentina: 'When I landed in Buenos Aires, the publisher Gonzalo Losada was waiting for me at the port. He convinced me to stay in Argentina, since I was going to Chile, offering me his help... I managed to convince some good Argentinean friends to let me have their house in the ravines of the Paraná de las Palmas, where I wrote that dialogue [Diálogo entre Venus y Priapo], which I added shortly afterwards to the second edition of Between the Carnation and the Sword. I wrote it in the midst of the river floods, horses and cows grazing, bearded blacks perched on the backs of already sick cattle, ready to devour them as soon as they collapsed to the ground. As I was composing the dialogue, I saw the smug iguanas walk past my balcony, looking at me strangely. I have never written a more erotic poem, distracted by so many beautiful and natural things around me. I wrote the dialogue by letting the vision of the big river in the background carry me to the sea."

The publication of Diálogo entre Venus y Priapo, one of the rarest books of the 20th century, took place in 1962 in Buenos Aires when Rafael Alberti celebrated his 60th birthday. At Ediciones La Arboleda Perdida, only 29 copies of the work were printed, marked with the letters A-Z and signed by the poet. Each of the 29 copies bears a different original ink drawing by Rafael Alberti on the cover - painting was his first artistic vocation - so each copy can be considered a unique work. In Rome, Alberti took with him the few copies of the book, perhaps four, that still remained in his possession, after most had been donated to his Argentinean friends.

In the 1960s, one of the privileged meeting places for artists and literati in Rome was the Al ferro di cavallo bookshop, at 67 Via Ripetta, run by Agnese De Donato. In the years from 1957 to 1966, the small and extravagant Roman bookshop hosted the most important Italian and international poets, writers and artists for art exhibitions and literary meetings: Ezra Pound, Giuseppe Ungaretti, Leonardo Sinisgalli, Tristan Tzara, Joege Guillen, Libero de Libero, Pier Paolo Pasolini, Alberto Burri, Emilio Villa, Afro, Giuseppe Capogrossi, Attilio Bertolucci and many others. Rafael Alberti was a frequent visitor to the bookshop and deposited copies of his book here. Since then, there has been no further news of these few copies, which have become a bibliophile rarity.

The book has never appeared in auction catalogues or antiquarian bookshops.

Three copies of this very rare volume are available at Studio Bibliografico Marini

Read more below:

  1. Diálogo de Venus y Priapo in Spanish, with Italian translation

  2. The Rafel Alberti Foundation

For the book CLICK HERE