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.
Following The Infatuations, Javier Marías’s latest novel seems, like those that have preceded it, an experiment to test fiction’s capacity to mesmerize with sombre-sexy atmospheres and ruminative elongated sentences stretched across windowless walls of paragraphs. Thus Bad Begins offers his. . .
Death by Water, Kenzaburo Oe’s latest novel to be translated into English, practically begs you to read it as autobiography. Like The Changeling, as well as many other works not yet released in English, Death by Water is narrated in. . .
Jocelyne Saucier’s Twenty-One Cardinals is about the type of unique, indestructible, and often tragic loyalty only found in families. For a brief but stunningly mesmerizing 169 pages, Twenty-One Cardinals invited me in to the haunting and intimate world of the. . .
We know so very little; so little that what we think to be knowledge is hardly worth reckoning with at all; instead we ought to settle for being pleasantly surprised if, on the edge of things, against all expectations, our. . .
Many of Virginie Despentes’s books revolve around the same central idea: “To be born a woman [is] the worst fate in practically every society.” But this message is nearly always packaged in easy-to-read books that fill you with the pleasure. . .
Ilja Leonard Pfeijffer’s La Superba is appropriately titled after the Italian city of Genoa, where, after escaping the pressures of fame in his own country, the semi-autobiographical narrator finds himself cataloguing the experiences of its mesmerizing inhabitants with the intention. . .
It took reading 44 pages of Intervenir/Intervene before I began to get a sense of what Dolores Dorantes and Rodrigo Flores Sánchez were up to. Recurring throughout these 44 pages—throughout the entire book—are shovels, shovel smacks to the face, lobelias—aha!. . .
As presaged by its title, contradiction is the theme of Peter Stamm’s novel, All Days Are Night. Gillian, a well-known television personality, remains unknowable to herself. And Hubert, a frustrated artist and Gillian’s lover, creates art through the process of. . .
It’s a rare and wonderful book that begins and ends with violence and humor. At the start of Etgar Keret’s The Seven Good Years, Keret is in a hospital waiting for the birth of his first child while nurses, in. . .
Last year, Han Kang’s The Vegetarian was an unexpected critical hit. Now, it’s just been published in the U.S. and has already received a great deal of positive critical attention. The Vegetarian was a bold book to attempt as an. . .