sábado, 29 de mayo de 2010

The Baader Meinhof Complex

The Baader Meinhof Complex [Der Baader Meinhof Komplex] (MPI DVD, 2010)
Directed by Uli Edel
Germany, 2008

Whilst my Orbis Terrarum Film Mini-Challenge has been a spectacular bust up to this point, Uli Edel's high-energy, frenetic, and unmistakably adult The Baader Meinhof Complex (a 2009 Academy Award nominee for Best Foreign Language Film) was just what I needed to turn the page on yesterday's young adult-induced entertainment woes.  Covering 10 years in the life of the German urban guerrilla terrorist organization variously known as the Baader Meinhof Complex or the Red Army Faction, Edel's politically-charged drama is at its most daring following the kidnappers, car bombers, and political assassins from their radical anarchist points of view.  Early on in the film, for example, it's all too easy to identify with the frustrated idealism of the youth who are so torn up over the American war in Vietnam and the return of Nazis to state office that they feel a moral obligation to fight the power structures in place.  As the film progresses, though, this humanization of the killers pays unexpected dividends when it becomes clear that some of them are aware that they've become just as evil as the forces of oppression that inspired their armed resistance in the first place.  In watching the scenes where the group leaders turn on each other like rats and squabble for power inside and outside of prison, I began to wonder whether the real-life "success" of the group owed itself more to Andreas Baader, the mercurial thug with an apparent cult of personality over his followers, or Ulrike Meinhof, the one-time theoretician of the group who was a well-regarded journalist before turning terrorist.  The film, based on Stefan Aust's well-regarded nonfiction piece, Baader-Meinhof: The Inside Story of the R.A.F., and including at least two shots attesting to the group members' reading of Moby-Dick as a call to arms against the state, wisely never says, a tribute to its questioning as opposed to didactic style of filmmaking.  Not the greatest movie ever and maybe a little too slick for its own good with the editing in spots but basically a fine piece of work overall with a hyper "journalism" sensibility that reminded me of David Fincher's 2007 Zodiac.  Well worth watching.  (http://www.mpihomevideo.com/)

German film poster spotlighting Martina Gedeck, one of my favorite actresses, as Ulrike Meinhof.

viernes, 28 de mayo de 2010

Tender Morsels

Tender Morsels (Allen & Unwin, 2008)
by Margo Lanagan
Australia, 2008

Crap fairy tale/fantasy snoozefest with an "edgy" exploitation movie vibe that must seem really intense to 15-year old girls with bedroom walls full of unicorn posters.  A favorite of bloggers everywhere, natch! (http://www.allenandunwin.com/)

Sigrid Undset, I mean, Margo Lanagan

viernes, 21 de mayo de 2010

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale

Moby-Dick; or, The Whale (Penguin, 2003)
by Herman Melville
USA, 1851

For every loser who's ever complained that Moby-Dick is boring or "too long," let me make it clear that I wish Melville had added another 625 pages to his much-beloved and maybe equally-derided classic.  Deal with it.  Whether you consider Moby-Dick a grandiose adventure yarn, an epic tale of obsession and revenge, a political or spiritual allegory, or even what some have anointed as "the American bible," count me in among the legions of fans who can attest that's it all of that and more.  So what makes the tale of the death ship the Pequod so fascinating?  For me, it all begins and ends with Melville's prose.  While it's hard to explain how he manages to pull this off in a whaling chronicle that must have passed for state of the art realism in the year of its publication, suffice it to say that it's easy to see why the King James Bible and Shakespeare are the usual frames of reference when talking about the elevated intensity of Melville's language.  Truly remarkable stuff.  On a related note, I should add that I probably marked more passages per square page to return to here than in almost any other book I've read in recent memory.  Wonderful images and similes in abundance!  And despite the way in which Ahab's monomaniacal quest for the white whale has taken on somewhat caricaturish proportions in popular culture, rest assured that Melville's language arts are put into the service of some truly powerful storytelling.  While there are humorous moments aplenty to be sure, I think what I'll most remember from the two and a half weeks I spent sailing with the Pequod's crew is the rare pleasure of getting to see Melville as heavyweight prize fighter taking on death and mortality, civilization vs. nature, and the meaning of it all for 15 rounds of unflinching, toe to toe action.  Maybe not the best book to recommend to some of your lightweight, meme-obsessed blogger friends but an enormously satisfying read nonetheless.  (http://www.penguinclassics.com/)

Herman Melville, 1861

Melville 101
Not having read any Melville since my undergrad days and possibly even since my high school days, this month's long-delayed Moby-Dick encounter has made me positively giddy at the thought of acquainting myself with his other writing, his critical reception, etc.  Already have his Complete Shorter Fiction (Everyman's Library, 1997) and a recent biography, Andrew Delbanco's Melville: His World and Works (Alfred A. Knopf, 2005), out on loan from the library.  In the meantime, here are three style samples from the beginning, the middle, and near the end of Moby-Dick to give you an idea of the kind of things that make me want to undertake a reread of it down the road.

Call me Ishmael.  Some years ago--never mind how long precisely--having little or no money in my purse, and nothing particular to interest me on shore, I thought I would sail about a little and see the watery part of the world.  It is a way I have of driving off the spleen, and regulating the circulation.  Whenever I find myself growing grim about the mouth; whenever it is a damp, drizzly November in my soul; whenever I find myself involuntarily pausing before coffin warehouses, and bringing up the rear of every funeral I meet; and especially whenever my hypos get such an upper hand of me, that it requires a strong moral principle to prevent me from deliberately stepping into the street, and methodically knocking people's hats off--then, I account it high time to get to sea as soon as I can.  This is my substitute for pistol and ball.  With a philosophical flourish Cato throws himself upon his sword; I quietly take to the ship.  There is nothing surprising in this.  If they but knew it, almost all men in their degree, some time or another, cherish very nearly the same feelings toward the ocean with me.

Again: as the profound calm which only apparently precedes and prophesies of the storm, is perhaps more awful than the storm itself; for, indeed, the calm is but the wrapper and envelope of the storm; and contains it in itself, as the seemingly harmless rifle holds, the fatal power, and the ball, and the explosion; so the graceful repose of the line, as it silently serpentines about the oarsmen before being brought into actual play--this is a thing which carries more of true terror than any other aspect of this dangerous affair.  But why say more?  All men live enveloped in whale-lines.  All are born with halters round their necks; but it is only when caught in the swift, sudden turn of death, that mortals realize the silent, subtle, ever-present perils of life.  And if you be a philosopher, though seated in the whale-boat, you would not at heart feel one whit more of terror, than though seated before your evening fire with a poker, and not a harpoon, by your side.

"Starbuck, of late I've felt strongly moved to thee; ever since that hour we both saw--thou know'st what, in one another's eyes.  But in this matter of the whale, be the front of thy face to me as the palm of this hand--a lipless, unfeatured blank.  Ahab is for ever Ahab, man.  This whole act's immutably decreed.  'Twas rehearsed by thee and me a billion years before this ocean rolled.  Fool!  I am the Fates' lieutenant; I act under orders.  Look thou, underling!  that thou obeyst mine.  --Stand round me, men.  Ye see an old man cut down to the stump; leaning on a shivered lance; propped up on a lonely foot.  'Tis Ahab--his body's part; but Ahab's soul's a centipede, that moves upon a hundred legs.  I feel strained, half stranded, as ropes that tow dismasted frigates in a gale; and I may look so.  But ere I break, ye'll hear me crack; and till ye hear that, know that Ahab's hawser tows his purpose yet.  Believe ye, men, in the things called omens?  Then laugh aloud, and cry encore!  For ere they drown, drowning things will twice rise to the surface; then rise again, to sink for evermore.  So with Moby Dick--two days he's floated--to-morrow will be the third.  Aye, men, he'll rise once more,--but only to spout his last!  D'ye feel brave, men, brave?"

The famous first paragraph (3), a snippet of Ishmael's philosophy (306), and a rousing speech from Captain Ahab that gives me the chills whenever I think of the line, "but Ahab's soul's a centipede" (611).  Note that while Ishmael's a wonderful narrator, simultaneously down to earth and of an engagingly philosophical bent, he's a little more slippery than he appears to be at first.  At the very least, it takes him a while to admit that the same sea that he professes to love will soon turn into a watery graveyard for man and beasts alike.  As for the captain's speech, I think it was Andrew Delbanco who pointed out that Ahab gets the same treatment from Melville that Satan got from Milton in Paradise Lost: some of the best lines, the most memorable close-ups, an at times sympathethic portrayal despite his manifest flaws.  These types of complexities, in combination with the Calvinistic touches suggesting we're all doomed from the start, leave me with a parting question for anybody who's bothered to read this far down in the post: Hast ye seen the white whale?

El Sur

"El Sur"
por Jorge Luis Borges
Argentina, 1944

Uno de mis cuentos preferidos de Borges debido a su exquisita manipulación del tiempo y de la "realidad".  En este relato, Juan Dahlmann, el nieto patriótico de inmigrantes recientes, sufre un accidente en su depto bonaerense después de conseguir un ejemplar descabalado de Las mil y una noches más temprano en la tarde.  Luego de una visita prolongada en un sanitario, donde casi se muere de septicemia, el personaje viaja al Sur para visitar la estancia de sus abuelos como parte de su convalecencia.  En un viaje tratado como un regreso a su pasado familiar, la historia acaba con Dahlmann preparando a morirse en una acuchillada que parece tener lugar en un Sur mítico poblado de gauchos y rufianes decimonónicos.  ¿Ciencia ficción a la argentina?  Probablemente no.  Aunque nunca se habla de la muerte de Dahlmann con precisión, la genilidad del cuento de Borges es que se ha escrito de manera que el viaje del trén también probablemente se debe leer como un sueño-viaje soñado por el personaje.  Como la historia avanza, las pistas vienen a todo pitoto.  "Mañana me despertaré en la estancia, pensaba, y era como si a un tiempo fuera dos hombres: el que avanzaba por el día otoñal y por la geografía de la patria, y el otro, encarcelado en un sanatorio y sujeto a metodicos servidumbres" (564).  En la frase final, la realidad oneirica del viaje de Dahlmann y la realidad "de verdad" de la muerte del personaje se une como el "pretérito" del pasado se convierte en el "presente".  Un cuento estructuralmente perfecto que también juega con la historia argentina mitificada con respecto a las alusiones al épico gaucho Martín Fierro, los pensamientos de Sarmiento sobre la civilización o barbarie, y las guerras contra los indios.  Copado.
"The South"
by Jorge Luis Borges [translated from the Spanish by Anthony Kerrigan]
Argentina, 1944

One of my favorite shorts by Borges owing to its exquisite manipulation of time and "reality."  In this tale, Juan Dahlmann, the patriotic grandson of recent immigrants to Argentina, suffers an accident in his Buenos Aires apartment not too long after obtaining an incomplete copy of The 1,001 Nights earlier in the afternoon.  After a prolonged stay at a sanitarium where he almost dies from a blood infection, the character travels to the South to visit his grandparents' estancia as part of his convalescence.  In a trip portrayed as a return to his family roots, the story concludes with Dahlmann preparing to meet his end in a knife-fight that seems to take place in a mythical South peopled by 19th-century gauchos and thugs.  Argentinean science fiction?  Probably not.  Although Dahlmann's death is never specifically mentioned, the genius of Borges' story is that it's been written in such a way that the train trip probably ought to be read as a dream voyage that's only imagined by the dying character.  As the story progresses, the hints about Dahlmann's fate come fast and furious.  "Tomorrow I'll wake up at the ranch, he thought, and it was as if he were two men at a time: the man who traveled through the autumn day and across his native geography, and the other one, locked up in a sanitarium and subject to methodical servitude" (254-255).  In the final sentence, the dream reality of Dahlmann's trip and the actual reality of Dahlmann's death merge seamlessly as the past tense narration of the past shifts to the present tense of eternity.  A structurally perfect story that also riffs on Argentinean history and myth in its deployment of allusions to the gaucho epic Martín Fierro, Sarmiento-spawned notions of civilization and barbarism, and the Indian wars of the past.  Cool.
  • Borges, Jorge Luis.  Obras completas I, 1923-1949.  Buenos Aires: Emecé Editores, 2005, 562-567.
  • Borges, Jorge Luis [translated by Anthony Kerrigan].  Borges: A Reader.  New York: E.P. Dutton, 1981, 252-257.
E.L. Fay

viernes, 14 de mayo de 2010

La biblioteca de Babel

"The Library of Babel" ["La biblioteca de Babel"]
by Jorge Luis Borges [translated from the Spanish by James E. Irby]
Argentina, 1942

"If you look at theology or philosophy as fantastic literature, you'll see that they are much more ambitious than poetry."  --Borges in an interview from 1984

I guess I should start by admitting that I tend to prefer humorous Borges to cosmological Borges.  I'm also not that big a fan of "The Library of Babel" from an entertainment standpoint.  For me, the payoff is much more on the conceptual side of things if that makes any sense.  To help explain all this, I should note that this story (for me, one of the most enigmatic and challenging of all Borges' signature pieces) is striking for the amount of cosmic angst and striving for the infinite contained within its slender confines.  An unnamed narrator begins by telling us that the universe is a Library "composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries" filled with every type of book imaginable (51).  While describing his vaguely otherworldly surroundings with an almost mathematical precision, the narrator also owns up to the difficulties faced by "man, the imperfect librarian" (52) in his attempts to impose order on this chaos of bookly and geometrical riches.  We learn, for example, that the Library houses both magical texts that can predict the future and explain the past and any number of false texts written to counter such prophetic revelations.  Not surprisingly given the title of the work, there are kabbalistic digressions on the value of letters and numbers and the spaces between characters in written languages.  To avoid leaving you with a banal summary of what's a very abstruse tale, I'll get ready to close by saying that the narrator's allusions to seekers and suicides hints at a Tarkovsky-like sense of metaphysical disquiet that hovers over the search for truth and meaning within the Library's archives.  To add to the sense that something just isn't quite right, it also becomes apparent that the "editor" responsible for the footnotes isn't the same person as the one who's been narrating the tale.  What kind of a text are we reading anyway?  And how old is it?  While "The Library of Babel" is way less than a fave for me as a diversion, I think I appreciate its speculative side more the more I think of Borges approaching mathematics, philosophy, and theology as so many branches of the fantastic literature family tree.  Now there's a concept I can wrap my mind around!
  • Borges, Jorge Luis.  "La biblioteca de Babel".  Narraciones.  Madrid: Cátedra, 2002, 105-114.
  • Borges, Jorge Luis [translated by James E. Irby].  "The Library of Babel."  Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings.  New York: New Directions, 2007, 51-58.
Alberto Manguel has a fine piece on "The Library of Babel" hereHe's also way less conflicted about the story than I am.

miércoles, 12 de mayo de 2010

The Divine Comedy Readalong

"Nel mezzo del cammin di nostra vita
mi ritrovai per una selva oscura,
che la diritta via era smarrita."
(Dante, Canto I of Inferno)

One of my biggest regrets from my college days is never having signed up for one of those semester- or year-long surveys on Dante that would have taken me all the way through The Divine Comedy with a Trecento specialist as my guide.  Another thing I could look back and complain about is not yet having pursued Italian beyond the one (marvelous) year I studied it in a night class not so very long ago.  To help make up for these two, how shall I say, distinctly nerdy tragedies, I've decided to host a Dante group read/readalong July through September this year.  If any of you are interested in joining me for any or all of the "program," please get in touch as it would be great to have a lot of minds/opinions weighing in on this medieval poetry classic.  The target dates for discussion posts of The Divine Comedy (all timed to coincide with the first weekend of each month) are as follows:

July 2-4: Inferno
August 6-8: Purgatorio
September 3-5: Paradiso

I'll leave a list of projected participants below, but please don't hesitate to forward me any questions if you have any.  Also,  any recommendations on a translation that you're particularly keen on would be very welcome (I'll prob. be using Pinsky's Inferno and W.S. Merwin's Purgatorio since I already have them at home, but I'm not sure what the consensus top translation choice is these days).  Finally, feel free to join in on any of the discussions whether you have time to read along with us or not...and post whenever it's convenient for you should you choose to read along with us.  Should be fun!

Other Readers

sábado, 8 de mayo de 2010

Francisco de Quevedo, autor del Buscón


DEAR Reader or Listener (for the blind cannot read) I can just imagine how much you want to read about my delightful Don Pablos, Prince of the Roving Life.

Here you will find all the tricks of the low life or those which I think most people enjoy reading about: craftiness, deceit, subterfuge and swindles, born of laziness to enable you to live on lies; and if you attend to the lesson you will get quite a lot of benefit from it.  And even if you don't, study the sermons, for I doubt if anyone buys a book as coarse as this in order to avoid the inclinations of his own depraved nature.  Let it serve you as you like; praise it, for it certainly deserves applause, and praise the genius of its author who has enough common sense to know it is a lot more amusing to read about low life when the story is written with spirit, than about other more serious topics.

You already know who the author is.

You are well aware of the price of the book, as you already have it, unless you are looking through it in the bookshop, a practice which is very tiresome for the bookseller and ought to be suppressed with the utmost rigour of the law.  You see, there are people who steal a free read as sparrows pick at a meal, and some who read books here and there and then piece the story together; and this is a great pity because they criticize the book even though it hasn't cost them anything; which is a mean swindle, as foul as anything I described in my Knights of the Princess.  Dear Reader, may God protect you from bad books, police, and nagging, moon-faced, fair-haired women.
(Francisco de Quevedo, The Swindler [translated from the Spanish by Michael Alpert], 83)

Although Borges mentions Francisco de Quevedo two or three times in "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," that's not my main reason for "introducing" him here now (the timing, I'll agree, was fortuitous).  In fact, I have two or three essentially disconnected reasons for mentioning Quevedo at all.  The first is that I've finally started reading Quevedo's 1626 El Buscón [usually translated in English as The Swindler] and am heartily enjoying its post-Lazarillo de Tormes approach to the picaresque novel format.  Gotta love those early explorations in first-person storytelling that build up laughs at the expense of the series of misfortunes that befall their poor, beleagued narrators!  The second reason has to do with the excerpt above.  I'm an extreme sucker for the captatio benevolentiae and other forms of writing where the writer directly addresses the reader, and this one's insult-laden tone ("I doubt if anyone buys a book as coarse as this in order to avoid the inclinations of his own depraved nature") and acknowledgement that readers can be swindlers, too, displays more genius to me than all the Man Booker prize winners combined.  The only catch is that the excerpt above doesn't appear in my Spanish-language version of the text.  In fact, it's kind of bogus.  Which brings us to the third thing I wanted to talk about, translations.  Although the extra "Quevedo" introduction that appears in the English version of The Swindler likely has to do with an editorial decision rather than a translation decision (see note below* if interested), I'm still bothered by at least two choices that translator Michael Alpert has made.  In chapter four, for example, the narrator Pablos arrives at an inn of ill repute on the road to the university town of Alcalá de Henares.  In Spanish, the text reads: "Metióme adentro, y estaban dos rufianes con unas mujercillas, un cura rezando al olor" (33).  In English, Alpert's translation reads: "I went inside where there were a couple of roughs with some whores, a priest saying his prayers to protect himself from their stink..." (101).  While the casual reader could read the English translation without finding anything much amiss, there's a small but not inconsequential joke missing in Alpert's reproduction.  My lovingly-annotated Spanish version of the text explains that the priest's act of praying "al olor" or "to the smell or scent" of the prostitutes actually means to say that the priest was "atraído por la presencia de las mujeres" ("attracted by the presence of the women") rather than praying to protect himself from their stink (33).  In other words, the priest is a target of Quevedo's barbs and not just an innocent bystander at the scene.  While I'd like to think that this was just an innocent mistake that could happen to anyone, Alpert's introduction to the work leaves me concerned that so-called good taste might have competed with accurate translating on his list of priorities: "Oaths and obscenities are a problem as Spanish uses them in profusion," he writes in the 1969 edition.  "I have tried to produce the same effect without being either crude or mealy-mouthed.  I have certainly not been afraid to use four-letter words when I thought they were what the author intended" (16).  Am I reading too much into Alpert's thoughts about translation strategies?  Perhaps.  But it bothers me that a professional translator would be worried about being "crude" when he or she should really be more concerned with being faithful (a slippery concept, I know) to the source text.  Thanks to Quevedo and/or "Quevedo" for the timely reminder.

*There are three source manuscripts for Quevedo's text.  In his edition of the Buscón, Fernando Cabo Aseguinolaza writes that "La 'Carta dedicatoria' que figura en los manuscritos S y C y el prologuillo 'Al lector', incluido en la primera edición, tampoco parecen deberse a Quevedo" ("Neither the 'Dedicatory Letter' appearing in manuscripts S and C nor the little prologue 'To the Reader' included in the first edition appear to owe themselves to Quevedo") [8].

**To add to the "Pierre Menard"-like atmosphere surrounding the apocryphal note to the reader above, I should note that Quevedo, considered one of Spain's greatest Siglo de Oro poets, wouldn't own up to authoring The Swindler even though it was commonly attributed to him by both his contemporaries and most modern scholars.

  • Francisco de Quevedo (edición de Fernando Cabo Aseguinolaza). La vida del Buscón.  Barcelona: Crítica, n.d.
  • Michael Alpert, ed.  Two Spanish Picaresque Novels: Lazarillo de Tormes and The Swindler (El Buscón).  London: Penguin, 1975.

viernes, 7 de mayo de 2010

Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote

"Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote"
por Jorge Luis Borges
Argentina, 1942

No sé si diría que "Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote" es mi cuento preferido de Borges, pero sí diría que es uno de sus más "borgesianos".  Según el narrador del relato, un excéntrico que se presenta como un buen académico a pesar de su debilidad por los salones literarios de menos confianza, Pierre Menard fue un novelista y poeta francés cuyo proyecto estético tenía que ver con la re-escritura de dos capítulos y un fragmento de otro de la primera parte de Don Quijote.  "No quería componer otro Quijote --lo cual es fácil-- sino el Quijote.  Inútil agregar que no encaró nunca una transcripción mecánica del original; no se proponía copiarlo.  Su admirable ambición era producir unas páginas que coincidieran  --palabra por palabra y línea por línea-- con las de Miguel de Cervantes" (90).  Que esto sea una tarea asombrosa o sea una especie de locura queda una pregunta abierta, por supuesto, pero el narrador genialmente llama la atención a la manera en cual el Quijote de Menard es más digno de atención al Quijote de Cervantes en cuanto al mensaje y al estilo.  Aunque no quiero decir mucho más sobre esta enorme tomadura de pelo por parte de Borges, es difícil ignorar su posición como un obvio y valioso precursor a novelas como La Vida instrucciones de uso, de Perec, y La literatura nazi en América, de Bolaño, en cuanto a su construcción de una "vida imaginaria" con bibliografías falsas, notas a pie de página ficticias, etc.  Al mismo tiempo, este cuento es un homenaje a la lectura como un acto creativo con guiños literarios exquisitos (el capítulo noveno del Quijote de Cervantes, por ejemplo, tiene que ver con la confesión del supuesto autor de la obra que un tal Cide Hamete Benengeli, "historiador arábigo", era el auténtico autor de la Historia de don Quijote de la Mancha) e irónicos (el narrador de "Pierre Menard", tan absorto en su trabajo ensayístico "factual", no duda en cantar las alabanzas de una obra invisible como la obra maestra de nuestros tiempos).  En resumen, una muy buena diversion llena de encantos metaficcionalizados.
"Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote"
by Jorge Luis Borges [translated by James E. Irby]
Argentina, 1942

While I'm not sure I'd say that "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" is my favorite short story by Borges, it's definitely one of the ones I think of as among his most "Borgesian."  According to the narrator of the piece, an eccentric who tries to hide his taste for crackpot literary salons behind a suspect academic veneer, Pierre Menard was a French novelist and poet whose grand project had to do with the never quite completed rewriting of two chapters and fragments of a third from Book One of Don Quixote.  "He did not want to compose another Quixote--which is easy--but the Quixote itself.  Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it.  His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide--word for word and line for line--with those of Miguel de Cervantes" (39).  Although it's of course open to interpretation whether such a plan would really constitute a signal challenge or just a simple act of lunacy, the narrator rather ingeniously calls attention to the ways in which Menard's Quixote is qualitatively superior to Cervantes' Quixote in terms of its message and its style!  While I don't want to divulge too many more details about Borges' enormous prank here, it's clear that "Pierre Menard" offered up a marvelous blueprint of sorts for novels like Perec's Life A User's Manual and Bolaño's Nazi Literature in the Americas in terms of its "imaginary life" replete with fake bibliographies, fake footnotes, etc.  At the same time, the story positions itself as an homage to reading as a creative act with all sorts of exquisite literary in-jokes (note, for example, that the ninth chapter of Cervantes' Quixote that Menard wishes to rewrite itself has to do with the supposed "original" author's confession that one Cide Hamete Benengeli, an Arab historian, was the true author of Don Quixote of La Mancha) and ironies (the narrator of "Pierre Menard," seemingly so absorbed in presenting a "factual" work of essay-writing, doesn't hesitate to sing the praises of an invisible work as the masterpiece of our day and age) attached.  In short, a very entertaining story stocked full of all sorts of nifty, metafictional delights.
  • Borges, Jorge Luis.  "Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote".  Narraciones.  Madrid: Cátedra, 2002, 85-96.
  • Borges, Jorge Luis [translated by James E. Irby].  "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote."  Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings.  New York: New Directions, 2007, 36-44.
E.L. Fay

sábado, 1 de mayo de 2010

Borges, Anyone?

Just a quick note to let you know that my non-structured reading group partners in crime  and I have recently decided to add some Jorge Luis Borges appetizers to the menu for our shared reads in May.  If you're interested in reading and discussing some Borges short stories with us this month, please join us on participating blogs on the following dates: Friday, 5/7: "Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote" ["Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote"]; Friday, 5/14: "La biblioteca de Babel" ["The Library of Babel"]; Friday, 5/21: "El Sur" ["The South"].  Although at least two of us will be reading these short short stories (only about 10 pages each) in their original Spanish as available in Borges' Ficciones and elsewhere, most of the group will be reading them in English from Penguin's Collected Fictions Borges compilation.  So no worries if your Spanish isn't up to snuff as the discussions will take place in English!  P.S. Those curious about our main (longer, non-Borgesian) shared read for the month are also encouraged to think about joining us on Friday, 5/28, when we'll be discussing Sarah's pick, Margo Lanagan's Tender Morsels.

Orbis Terrarum Film Mini-Challenge

Calling all movie buffs!  As I mentioned not too long ago, I'll be hosting an international film challenge off and on this year as a spinoff from Bethany's Orbis Terrarum 2010 Reading Challenge.  While the tentative plan is to do this every other month throughout the length of the challenge (i.e. May, July, September, and November), here's all you need to know for May if you want to join in.

If you review any foreign films on your blog this month (be they new favorites or ones you just enjoyed trashing), send me a link to your post with the name of the film and the name of the director included somewhere.  Please note that a movie's "foreign" status will be determined both by where you live (no American movies for U.S. bloggers) and the director's place of birth (and not the setting): Krzysztof Kieslowski's great Three Colors trilogy, for example, while mostly set in and associated with France, counts as a Polish film for the challenge, while Rob Marshall's virtually unwatchable Memoirs of a Geisha, although set in Japan, rather embarrassingly counts as an American film!

I'll add the links to the bottom of this post as the month progresses, and then hopefully people will feel free to hop around from blog to blog reading about and/or discussing the films in question.  In the meantime, please be aware that you don't need to be a participant in the main Orbis Terrarum 2010 Challenge to hang out at this film festival.  In fact, we can start talking movies now if you want to share your memories of some of your all-time favorites.  At Bethany's suggestion, I'll list a handful of my many foreign film favorites here to get the ball rolling.  1) Jean-Pierre Jeunet's Amélie (France, 2001).  2) Wong Kar-wai's In the Mood for Love (Hong Kong, 2000).  3) Akira Kurosawa's High and Low (Japan, 1963).  4)  Francesco Rosi's Salvatore Giuliano (Italy, 1961).  5) Carlos Saura's Cría cuervos (Spain, 1976).  Any questions?  Let me know!

Richard, The Baader Meinhof Complex (Germany, 2008)