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Me and Sylvia on the canal in Qibao (April 2011)

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A willingness to let things wash over you can be the difference between sublimity and seasickness.

Garth Risk Hallberg


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Saturday, June 27th, 2015

El Aleph de Katchadjian

Not totally sure what to make of this yet... It is at the very least a fascinating idea for a project...

posted morning of June 27th, 2015: Respond
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Monday, May 26th, 2014

variations

Over time, working at the Branch Library, I came to think of all books as just misprinted editions of Moby-Dick. Carol told me she felt the same way.
Shaenon K. Garrity has written the only (non-graphic*) "Library of Babel" fanfic that will ever need to be written.

* There is certainly still room for a "Library of Babel" graphic novel. Make with the infinite libraries, cartoonists!

posted afternoon of May 26th, 2014: Respond
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Thursday, February 27th, 2014

Poem in progress

Here is a poem I have been working on this week. The genesis is as follows: I was thinking about my poem Analogies for Time, and also about the Persistence of Memory. I thought, well, the Persistence of Memory is a suspension of time, time does not progress in a painting, the time on the melting watch will always be 6:55 and the watch will never melt away -- from all this came the line "No hay río para correr a través de este paisaje soñado" -- it's a landscape without a river.

Well: a promising line. I spent a while tossing it around and it is seeming not to be so much a poem about that painting, but about a landscape that is outside of time. (Possibly this landscape could be the setting for the eternal city in "El inmortal".) Here is what I've got so far:

No river flows through this immortal landscape, dry and still.
No hunter seeks the spoor of his hallucinated prey.
The jagged cliffs look down on desert -- cliffs of granite, dreary desert --
static sands untouched by wind or moisture, waiting still
for time eternal, the imagined camera pans and zooms
but finds no hint of motion, no decay,
no sign of change for good or ill.

posted evening of February 27th, 2014: Respond
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Tuesday, June 5th, 2012

Inscribed

In the array of inexplicable matters which is the universe, which is time, a book's dedication is surely not the least arcane. It is presented as a gift, a boon. But excluding the case of the indifferent coin which Christian charity lets drop into the indigent's palm, every gift is in truth reciprocal. He who gives does not deprive himself of what is given. To give and to receive are identical.

Like every act in the universe, dedicating a book is a magic act. It could be considered as the most pleasant, the most fitting manner of giving voice to a name. And now I give voice to your name, María Kodama. So many mornings, so many oceans, so many gardens of the East and of the West, so many lines of Virgil.

Jorge Luís Borges
inscription to La cifra:
May 17, 1981

Juan Gabriel Vásquez' column from last week is fun: "About a Magic Act" is about dedications, spinning off from his dedication of The Secret History of Costaguana to his daughters, and the difficulty his various translators have had in rendering “que llegaron con su libro bajo el brazo” in their target languages -- apparently, so he learned, it is not the case in every language, that a baby can arrive with a loaf of bread under its arm (it looks at first glance like nacer con el pan debajo del brazo means roughly, "be born with a silver spoon in one's mouth") -- Anne McLean rendered it, "For Martina and Carlota, who brought their own book with them when they arrived." He looks at dedications from García Márquez, Juan Carlos Onetti, Camilo José Cela, Joyce, Hervé Guibert, Shakespeare, Borges... My own very rough translation of the Borges dedication Vásquez refers to is above.

posted evening of June 5th, 2012: 2 responses
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Tuesday, January 10th, 2012

Menardesque dream blogging

I was translating (just starting to translate, I was on the first page) into English a translation into Croatian of Stephen Crane's Red Badge of Courage. It seemed like it was going to be a magnum opus...

posted morning of January 10th, 2012: Respond
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Monday, November 28th, 2011

General Quiroga's Death

Brandon Holmquest's analysis of the practice of translating poetry is well worth reading. Holmquest translates Borges' poem "El general Quiroga va en coche al muere" and examines closely the decisions he is making at each juncture.

posted morning of November 28th, 2011: Respond
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Friday, September 9th, 2011

Collage

Es que la tarea, la tarea del arte es esa, es transformar, digamos, lo que nos ocurre continuamente, transformar todo eso en símbolos, transformarlo en música, transformarlo en algo que pueda perdurar en la memoria de los hombres. Es nuestro deber ese, tenemos que cumplir con él, si no nos sentimos muy desdichados.

--Entrevista a Borges

Ian Ruschel composes a tribute, Buenos Aires: Las Calles de Borges -- via Open Culture, which has a number of intriguing-looking Borges links. (Thanks for the link, Lep!)

posted evening of September 9th, 2011: Respond
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Saturday, February 5th, 2011

Scripture

Rereading "La escritura del dios" last week, I was inspired to do some searching for background material, to find out who is Qaholom, the god who has written his sacred scripture in the markings of the jaguar for Tzinacán to read. I found out about the Popol Vuh, a transcription of the K'iche' creation story -- written down in the 1500's by a Jesuit missionary in Quiché, Guatemala based on the reading of a (no longer extant) hieroglyphic document, translated into Spanish and annotated by Adrián Recinos.

According to Recinos, Qaholom is "the paternal god, the god who sires children, from qahol, 'a father's son', qaholoj, 'engender'." Recinos also notes that Gucumatz (one third of the trinity which is called Heart of the Heavens, and I think possibly another name for Qaholom? -- I haven't quite got the pantheon straight yet) is a "serpent covered with green feathers, from from guc, in Maya, kuk, 'green feathers', Quetzal via antonomasia, and cumatz, 'serpent'; he is the K'iche' version of Kukulkán, the Mayan name for Quetzalcoatl, the Toltec king, conqueror, bringer of civilization, god in Yucatán during the epoch of the Post-classical Mayan Empire."

posted morning of February 5th, 2011: Respond
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Tuesday, December 7th, 2010

Milton's studious lamps

Many thanks to commenter Mariano on last year's Hypallage post for his valuable information about the image from Milton that Borges references in his dedication of El hacedor to Lugones. Mariano points out that beyond the fact that "las lámparas estudiosas" is clearly not quoting the "bright officious lamps" of Paradise Lost, book Ⅸ, there is not even any reference to this passage; rather, we have a quote from Milton's Areopagitica, a tract he wrote for Parliament in opposition to censorship.

Behold now this vast City: a City of refuge, the mansion house of liberty, encompast and surrounded with his protection; the shop of warre hath not there more anvils and hammers waking, to fashion out the plates and instruments of armed Justice in defence of beleaguer'd Truth, then there be pens and heads there, sitting by their studious lamps, musing, searching, revolving new notions and idea's wherewith to present, as with their homage and their fealty the approaching Reformation: others as fast reading, trying all things, assenting to the force of reason and convincement.
So, well, this means that both Boyer's translation and Hurley's have problems. Boyer is correct in calling the phrase "the hypallage of Milton" (though I would like "Milton's hypallage" better) -- Hurley's "a Miltonian displacement of adjectives" is clumsy and does not communicate Borges' intent. And Hurley has "scholarly lamps", which undoes the quotation. But Boyer quotes the wrong passage of Milton! That spoils the image. The image from Areopagitica makes complete sense as a part Borges' dedication, while the image from Paradise Lost seemed pretty out of keeping with the context.

...Reinventing the wheel dept. -- I see Michael Gilleland of Laudator Temporis Acti wrote about this last November, saying "as others have noted" -- guess it's not a new piece of knowledge. Nice to have on hand though.

posted evening of December 7th, 2010: Respond
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Sunday, November 28th, 2010

Story idea

This is sort of an updated take on Borges' "Los teólogos" I think -- a man is reading and blogging about a book which he's reading in a language not his own (one not available in translation); he manages to create a controversy or at least a bit of publicity around blasphemy in the text which is, however, not actually present in the source material -- it is the product of a fundamental misreading on his part, but nevertheless the controversy necessarily involves the original author of the piece, a contemporary of the blogger's who is not seeking the spotlight. This publicity becomes the author's route to fame or celebrity -- a different fame than he would have had in mind, while the (mis-)translator is of course pretty much ignored in the press and ultimately forgotten by history.

posted afternoon of November 28th, 2010: 1 response
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