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.
Though far from the most convincing reason to read literature in translation, one common side effect is learning of another culture, of its history. Within that, and a stronger motivation to read, is the discovery of stories not possible within. . .
Despite cries that literature is dead, dying, and self-replicating in the worst way, once in a while a book comes along to remind readers that there’s still a lot of surprise to be found on the printed page. To be. . .
“I was small. And my village was small, I came to know that in time. But when I was small it was big for me, so big that when I had to cross it from one end to the other,. . .
A few weeks after moving into a farm house in the Welsh countryside, Emilie, an expatriate from the Netherlands, starts to think about her uncle. This uncle tried to drown himself in a pond in front of the hotel where. . .
Think back to the last adventure- or action-type book you read. Wasn’t it cool? Didn’t it make you want to do things, like learn to shoot a crossbow, hack complicated information systems, travel to strange worlds, take on knife-wielding thugs,. . .
In Aira’s Shantytown, while we’re inside the characters’ heads for a good portion of the story, the voice we read on the page is really that of Aira himself, as he works out the plot of the book he’s writing.. . .
Noir is not an easy genre to define—or if it once was, that was a long time ago, in a galaxy far, far away; as a quick guess, maybe Silver Lake, Los Angeles, 1935. When two books as different as. . .
Some time ago I read this phrase: “The page is the only place in the universe God left blank for me.”
Pedro Mairal’s short novel The Missing Year of Juan Salvatierra is more about these blank spaces than the usual full. . .
“What if even in the afterlife you have to know foreign languages? Since I have already suffered so much trying to speak Danish, make sure to assign me to the Polish zone . . .”
So reads a typical aphoristic “poem”. . .
If you somehow managed to overlook the 2012 translation of Andrés Neuman’s breathtaking Traveler of the Century (and woe betide all whom continue to do so), you now have two exceptional works of fiction from the young Argentine virtuoso demanding. . .