As has been mentioned on many other blogs, the new issue of the Quarterly Conversation is now available online.
Yet another great issue, especially the article by Dan Green on the reissuing of Donald Barthelme’s books and the reviews of Bolano’s Nazi Literature in the Americas and Antunes’s Knowledge of Hell.
What’s especially thrilling to me though is the long piece by Marcelo Ballve on Macedonio Fernandez: The Man Who Invented Borges. This a really interesting (and bold) essay and especially interesting since Open Letter will be publishing Macedonio’s Museo de la Novela de la Eterna in the Fall of 2009.
This article does a really good job of tracing the relationship between Borges and Macedonio, demonstrating in a convincing way (in my opinion at least) that of all the authors Borges is compared to, Macedonio is really the only one that seems like a just influence. (“Of course Borges claims certain influences—Edgar Allan Poe, R.L. Stevenson, H.G. Wells, etc—but these only get us so far. We read these authors’ work and Borges’s stories side by side and can’t quite fathom what might have triggered the quantum leap represented in stories like “The Aleph,” or “Funes the Memorious.”)
There are a lot of myths and stories surrounding the mysterious Macedonio—many of which are almost as interesting as his writing itself. Such as the story about how he ran for President (twice!) and his only campaigning was to write “Macedonio” on slips of paper and leave them around town. Macedonio is as unique a name in Argentine politics as Barack is in American, something he thought he could capitalize on. (He couldn’t—he lost both times.)
But the books themselves sound absolutely captivating:
His Adriana Buenos Aires was an experiment in parodying defunct novelistic forms handed down from gothic fiction and romanticism, while suggesting possibilities for literature light years beyond sentimentalism. Museo de la Novela de la Eterna, first published in 1967 and impossible to summarize, is best described as an extended experiment in writing an open novel analogous to a piece of music. The prose evokes a dizzying world of aesthetic associations and possibilities in the reader’s mind. At every moment it tests the limits between art and life, reality and fiction, as well as form and content.
(It’s worth pointing out that Adriana Buenos Aires is subtitled “the last bad novel” to contrast with Museo, which is the “first good novel.”)
As time grows nearer, we’ll get more information online about Macedonio and his strange book (more than half of which consists of a series of playful prefaces), but this article is a wonderful introduction to his metaphysical (and metafictional) ideas. And influence.
Imagine the most baroque excesses of Goethe, Shakespeare, and Poe, blended together and poured into a single book: That is The Nightwatches of Bonaventura. Ophelia and Hamlet fall in love in a madhouse, suicidal young men deliver mournful and heartfelt. . .
In 1899, Maurice Ravel wrote “Pavane pour une infante défunte” (“Pavane for a Dead Princess”) for solo piano (a decade later, he published an orchestral version). The piece wasn’t written for a particular person; Ravel simply wanted to compose a. . .
Fiston Mwanza Mujila is an award-winning author, born in the Democratic Republic of Congo, who now, at 33, lives in Austria. From what I could find, much of his work is influenced by the Congo’s battle for independence and its. . .
Twenty-One Days of a Neurasthenic is not a novel in the traditional sense. Rather, it is a collection of vignettes recorded by journalist Georges Vasseur in his diary during a month spent in the Pyrenées Mountains to treat his nervous. . .
Founded in 1960 by such creative pioneers as George Perec, Raymond Queneau and Italo Calvino, the Oulipo, shorthand for Ouvroir de littérature potentielle, came about in when a group of writers and mathematicians sought constraints to find new structures and. . .
There’s little to say about a series of prose poems that willfully refuse to identify pronoun antecedents. Or perhaps there are a million things. The poems in Morse, My Deaf Friend— the chapbook by Miloš Djurdjević published by Ugly Duckling. . .
The Crimson Thread of Abandon is the first collection of short fiction available in English by the prolific Japanese writer and all-around avant-garde trickster Terayama Shūji, who died in 1983 at the age of 47. This collection would be important. . .
Last year, NYRB Classics introduced English-language readers to Catalan writer Josep Pla with Peter Bush’s translation of The Gray Notebook. In that book, Pla wrote about life in Spain during an influenza outbreak soon after World War I, when. . .
“Your bile is stagnant, you see sorrow in everything, you are drenched in melancholy,” my friend the doctor said.
bq. “Isn’t melancholy something from previous centuries? Isn’t some vaccine against it yet, hasn’t medicine taken care of it yet?” I. . .
What to make of Vano and Niko, the English translation of Erlom Akhvlediani’s work of the same name, as well as the two other short books that comprise a sort of trilogy? Quick searches will inform the curious reader that. . .