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.
César Aira dishes up an imaginative parable on how identity shapes our sense of belonging with Dinner, his latest release in English. Aira’s narrator (who, appropriately, remains nameless) is a self-pitying, bitter man—in his late fifties, living again with. . .
Originally published in French in 2007, We’re Not Here to Disappear (On n’est pas là pour disparaître) won the Prix Wepler-Fondation La Poste and the Prix Pierre Simon Ethique et Réflexion. The work has been recently translated by Béatrice Mousli. . .
Even though the latest from Jean Echenoz is only a thin volume containing seven of what he calls “little literary objects,” it is packed with surprises. In these pieces, things happen below the surface, sometimes both literally and figuratively. As. . .
Who is this woman? This is the question that opens Xiao Bai’s French Concession, a novel of colonial-era Shanghai’s spies and revolutionaries, police and smugglers, who scoot between doorways, walk nonchalantly down avenues, smoke cigars in police bureaus, and lounge. . .
For the past 140 years, Anna Karenina has been loved by millions of readers all over the world. It’s easy to see why: the novel’s two main plots revolve around characters who are just trying to find happiness through love.. . .
Linn Ullmann’s The Cold Song, her fifth novel, is built much like the house about which its story orbits: Mailund, a stately white mansion set in the Norwegian countryside a few hours drive from Oslo. The house, nestled into the. . .
Karel Schoeman’s Afrikaans novel, This Life, translated by Else Silke, falls into a genre maybe only noticed by the type of reader who tends toward Wittgenstein-type family resemblances. The essential resemblance is an elderly narrator, usually alone—or with one other. . .
In Joris-Karl Hyusmans’s most popular novel, À rebours (Against Nature or Against the Grain, depending on the which translated edition you’re reading), there is a famous scene where the protagonist, the decadent Jean des Esseintes, starts setting gemstones on the. . .
There are books that can only wisely be recommended to specific types of readers, where it is easy to know who the respective book won’t appeal to, and Kristiina Ehin’s Walker on Water is one these. What makes this neither. . .
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. . .