2 March 10 | Chad W. Post

While I’m tanning doing journalism at the Abu Dhabi International Book Fair, I thought it would be interesting to totally overload everyone on Macedonio Fernandez. Museum of Eterna’s Novel ranks right up there as one of the books that I’m most proud to be associated with. It’s unique, strange, “difficult,” endlessly playful, important, influential, conceptual, frustrating, enjoyable, and one of the most devoted love stories ever written. To build up to the March 11th event for Macedonio (“The Greatest Event Since It and the World Began”), which will take place at the Americas Society and feature Edith Grossman, Margaret Schwartz, and Todd Garth, all this week we’re going to be serializing Margaret’s translator’s introduction. And on Monday we’ll run a special interview one of our interns did with her about the translation. Here’s a link to Part I of the intro. Enjoy!

The Museum of Eterna’s Novel is written for what the author calls the “skip-around reader.” In an often hilarious but equally maddening series of between fifty-seven and sixty prologues—depending on whether you count the dedications, the post-prologue, and the blank page dedicated to the reader’s indecision—the novel postpones itself, thwarting both the reader who tries to skip ahead (where to?) and the dull “orderly” reader’s desire for linearity. There are prologues of salutation, prologues introducing the author and the characters, prologue-letters to the critics, prologues about characters who were rejected, a prologue of authorial despair and, of course, prologues about prologuing.

The Museum of Eterna’s Novel is also dedicated to its main character, the lovely Eterna, who has the power to change the past. She is at once transparently allegorical, as the idea of eternal love against the threat of death, and wonderfully real. Museum enshrines her laugh, her changing expressions, black eyes and hair, her grace. She is also real biographically: in the manuscript dedication, the word “Consuelo” has been crossed out and replaced with “Eterna.” Consuelo Bosch was Macedonio’s longtime companion, patroness, and muse after the death of his wife; The Museum of Eterna’s Novel is in a real sense the most earnest, complex, and heartwrenching of love poems. “I write this unnecessary book,” he writes in “Introduction to Eterna,” “because she wants to smile at her lover from outside this love, from the space of Art.”

The novel takes place on an estancia, or country home, outside of Buenos Aires. The estancia is named “La Novela,” and in it the characters share a domestic intimacy reflected in its prose. Much time is devoted to the small comings and goings of life at “La Novela,” and the eventual abandonment of this placid domesticity in favor of the action of the novel—the conquest of Buenos Aires in the name of beauty. Thus The Museum of Eterna’s Novel is also an ardent structure, dedicated to the suspension of time, its enclosure both still and fluid. The eternity it captures is intimate, domestic: kitchen conversations and stovetop kettles, the sound of eucalyptus leaves blowing against the eaves on wet afternoons.

The Museum of Eterna’s Novel asks a simple question: how can we give ourselves fully to love in the face of the certainty of death? And it proposes itself as an answer, however awkwardly and provisionally, by creating a space where neither life nor death exist, only non-being and oblivion. Where there is love, there is no death, only forgetfulness.

As difficult and visionary and ambitious as the structure is, this concern is very simple, human, and understandable. Love opens all of us up to the possibility of loss. What makes Macedonio’s story remarkable is how earnestly he wrestles with tigers that we all face. It isn’t the felicity of his prose, or the prescience of his ideas—though his prose is often felicitous and his ideas often prescient. Rather, it’s the open heart with which he takes up his pen and seeks, through its wanderings, to find a way to love the sound of the kettle on the stove, the crumbled mate leaves on the tablecloth, the arrangement of the furniture in the room—all the dull, pedestrian details of everyday life that clearly offer more irritation than fascination. And somewhere in these details, the tiny tinkerings that he inexhaustibly and minutely calibrates in every corner of his life, is the beloved. And in the beloved, in the other, there is passion, and death, and art, and eternity.


Comments are disabled for this article.
....
The Odyssey
The Odyssey by Homer
Reviewed by Peter Constantine

Now goddess, child of Zeus,
tell the old story for our modern times.

–(The Odyssey, Book I, line 10. Emily Wilson)

In literary translation of works from other eras, there are always two basic tasks that a translator needs. . .

Read More >

I Remember Nightfall
I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio
Reviewed by Talia Franks

I Remember Nightfall by Marosa di Giorgio (trans. From the Spanish by Jeannine Marie Pitas) is a bilingual poetry volume in four parts, consisting of the poems “The History of Violets,” “Magnolia,” “The War of the Orchards,” and “The Native. . .

Read More >

Joyce y las gallinas
Joyce y las gallinas by Anna Ballbona
Reviewed by Brendan Riley

This review was originally published as a report on the book at New Spanish Books, and has been reprinted here with permission of the reviewer. The book was originally published in the Catalan by Anagrama as Joyce i les. . .

Read More >

Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World
Lost in Translation: An Illustrated Compendium of Untranslatable Words from Around the World by Ella Frances Sanders
Reviewed by Kaija Straumanis

Hello and greetings in the 2017 holiday season!

For those of you still looking for something to gift a friend or family member this winter season, or if you’re on the lookout for something to gift in the. . .

Read More >

The Size of the World
The Size of the World by Branko Anđić
Reviewed by Jaimie Lau

Three generations of men—a storyteller, his father and his son—encompass this book’s world. . . . it is a world of historical confusion, illusion, and hope of three generations of Belgraders.

The first and last sentences of the first. . .

Read More >

Island of Point Nemo
Island of Point Nemo by Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès
Reviewed by Katherine Rucker

The Island of Point Nemo is a novel tour by plane, train, automobile, blimp, horse, and submarine through a world that I can only hope is what Jean-Marie Blas de Roblès’s psyche looks like, giant squids and all.

What. . .

Read More >

The Truce
The Truce by Mario Benedetti
Reviewed by Adrianne Aron

Mario Benedetti (1920-2009), Uruguay’s most beloved writer, was a man who loved to bend the rules. He gave his haikus as many syllables as fit his mood, and wrote a play divided into sections instead of acts. In his country,. . .

Read More >

I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World
I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World by Kim Kyung Ju
Reviewed by Jacob Rogers

Kim Kyung Ju’s I Am a Season That Does Not Exist in the World, translated from the Korean by Jake Levine, is a wonderful absurdist poetry collection. It’s a mix of verse and prose poems, or even poems in the. . .

Read More >

Kingdom Cons
Kingdom Cons by Yuri Herrera
Reviewed by Sarah Booker

Yuri Herrera is overwhelming in the way that he sucks readers into his worlds, transporting them to a borderland that is at once mythical in its construction and powerfully recognizable as a reflection of its modern-day counterpart. Kingdom Cons, originally. . .

Read More >

The Invented Part
The Invented Part by Rodrigo Fresán
Reviewed by Tiffany Nichols

Imagine reading a work that suddenly and very accurately calls out you, the reader, for not providing your full attention to the act of reading. Imagine how embarrassing it is when you, the reader, believe that you are engrossed in. . .

Read More >

The next few events from our Translation Events Calendar: See More Events >