I really like overnight flights within the same hemisphere. So much more civilized to eat dinner, fall asleep, and wake up in another country, without suffering from jet lag at all. (Buenos Aires is one hour ahead of New York . . .)
Buenos Aires is a pretty amazing city. Reminds me a bit of Barcelona—although not nearly as gentrified. And Palermo Viejo is sort of like Brooklyn—although not nearly as crowded. The wine is very good, the beef even better, and it’s one of the only places left on earth where the dollar is still worth something. (Which is very unfortunate for portenos, but good for tourists. Especially for me, since I’m planning on buying a new suit while I’m here . . . If anyone out there knows of any shops I should visit, please e-mail me. It’s all a bit overwhelming.)
The Fundacion TyPa (which stands for “Teoria y Practica de Las Artes”) people are rather amazing. We had our first “get to know each other” meeting and dinner tonight, which was very interesting and very pleasant. This is, by far, the most international editors’ trip I’ve ever been on. I went to Poland a few years ago with a few other Americans (Lorin Stein, Jill Schoolman, Laurie Callahan) and a few Brits. I’m the only American on this trip, and translator Nick Caistor the only Brit. The other eight people hail from Germany (2 of the participants), Brazil, China, France, Israel, and Italy (2).
And, as I was warned in advance, everything is conducted in Spanish. Which is a bit of a struggle. I can understand about 70% of what’s going on, but I’m terrified to try and speak. This may well turn into the quietest week of my life . . .
Our schedule is packed—starting tomorrow morning at 9:30, we have meetings from 10am till 7pm (or later) every day of the week. And no scheduled tango dancing—all literary meetings. I can already tell that in addition to the great experience of learning about Argentine literature, this trip will result in publishing contacts that will last for years.
Since I got in at 8am, I had plenty of time to wander the city taking pictures and hanging out in the 80 degree weather, rereading Cortazar’s Hopscotch. (It’s been probably 12 years since I first read this, and there’s no better place that the Plazoleta Cortazar—which is at the end of Jorge Luis Borges street, but, to be honest, is a bit disappointing for a Plazoleta—to reread one of the greatest novels ever written.) I have lots of pictures to post, but no USB cord . . .
One of the best places I stumbled upon was the Jardin Botanico Carlos Thays, which was an extremely pleasant botanical garden, where people could hang out and read (seems like everyone here is always reading) and pet the tons of essentially domesticated cats that hang out there. The cat thing was really sort of amazing to see. They just wander around, chilling in the sun, not at all afraid of people stooping down to pet them. Very calming and natural . . .
Of course the first place I went was Ateneo Grand Splendid, which is every bit as awesome as the picture we uncovered a few months back. It is grand, almost overblown with its four floors, balconies, and restaurant on the old stage. The Argentine literature section was pretty fantastic—complete works of a number of authors who have yet to find an English audience, such as Roberto Arlt and Silvina Ocampo.
I’m really looking forward to gleaning as much as I can from tomorrow’s lectures on literary Buenos Aires, the history of Argentine literature, and contemporary Argentine lit.
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If you’ve been following any of the recent Antoine Volodine talk going around Three Percent—both on the blog or on the podcasts—and have heard his fans wax obsessive over all his alter author-egos, you’re probably starting to feel some Volodine. . .
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“The small stone plaza was floating in the midday heat. The Christ of Elqui, kneeling on the ground, his gaze thrown back on high, the part in his hair dark under the Atacaman sun—he felt himself falling into an ecstasy.. . .
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To have watched from one of your patios
the ancient stars
from the bank of shadow to have watched
the scattered lights
my ignorance has learned no names for
nor their places in constellations
to have heard the ring of. . .