Wednesday, August 24, 2011

Feliz Cumpleaños Borges

Today's Google Doodle doesn't look the way I think a "Borges" illustration ought to look -- somehow it's too sci-fi. Yes, Borges wrote speculative fiction, but he was steeped in erudition, enthralled by the thinkers who had come before him, and fascinated by dreams and mysticism and conspiracies... The image above is too bright, too orderly, too futuristic.

Nonetheless I am happy that Google chose to honor him on this day. "The Aleph" might just be my favorite short story of all time -- I think it is absolutely perfect. And, as a playwright, I find myself thinking about "The Secret Miracle" an awful lot, sometimes praying for a secret miracle of my own!

I read the complete short stories of Borges the summer I was 17 and keep meaning to do a lengthier post on him. But I can't afford to do so at the moment: there are no secret miracles, and time marches on apace. And besides, you'd be better served by reading the actual JLB than by reading my opinions of his work. I encourage you to check out the above two stories -- and feel free to come back and tell me your thoughts on him. Or let me know your personal favorite Borges story.

Other great writers born on August 24: Jean Rhys (someday, too, I'll write about why I think Wide Sargasso Sea is overrated and Voyage in the Dark is underrated) and A.S. Byatt (a favorite of mine; see all my Byatt posts here).


Dr.J said...

I´ve been re-reading Borges (not for his anniversary, we commemorate the 25 years of his death too) and I guess trsnslating him is tricky, only himslef could have done it or write directly in English (no, better not on second thoughts).
My spanish editon of the Aleph includes another stanza that is not on the translation you link, it comes after the paragraph about Australia and runs:

Sepan. A manderecha del poste rutinario/(viniendo, claro está, desde el Nornoroeste)/se aburre una osamenta-¿color? blanquiceleste/que da al corral de ovejas catadura de osario.
Learn. On the right hand of the rutinary pole/coming, of course, from North by northwest/a caracass bores-colour? bluewhite/confering the corral an air of graveyard.

My favourite Borges story is Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis tertius for its assumption that reality may be created by words (quite a christian idea if you think); probably the most important for spanish literature (I mean the language, not just the country) are Pierre Menard and Funes. Borges wrote somewhere that The South was his best one.
As for chronology, the list of writers born in 1899 is not without interest: Hemingway, Nabokov,...
We expect your long entry about Borges, is he well known for american readers? In Argentina he is said to be quite a "stone" to the development of new writers (the famous agony of influence i guess). Thanks for being so interestig Marissa and I hope you don´t need any secret miracle to finish your play. Why don´t you brace up and write a play in verse?

Marissa said...

Daneri's dreadful poetry is one of my favorite aspects of "The Aleph." But I could see how it would be hard to translate. The translation I linked to was done by Norman Thomas di Giovanni in collaboration with Borges, though, so I guess the great man approved it!

"Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," "Funes," "Pierre Menard" -- all terrific and very memorable. Funny, I don't recall "The South" at all. I will have to reread it.

I do think that Borges is one of the best-known Spanish-language authors in the United States -- though his legacy is not a "stone" for us the way it is for Argentinians.

If I wrote a play in verse, Shakespeare would definitely be my "stone"! Very hard for any English-language playwright to try to compete with Shakespeare; maybe that's why verse drama died out more quickly in England than it did in the rest of Europe?