Wednesday, July 4th, 2012
Trying to flesh out the characters slightly... here are some different, fragmentary approaches, and a picture of my backyard that I'm happy with.
So you'll be talking about mistranslation and shortcuts, in the back yard with Laura, drinking in the humidity and the bird calls -- you'll be sprawled out on the grass beside where she's sitting, effectively you are looking up at the fading glow of sunset and she down at the book she's reading -- she's already getting annoyed at the dusk and swatting at a mosquito, heading in.
Peter's in the back yard lying sprawled out on the grass and Laura's sitting by his side and reading Josner's thoughts on magic -- sitting listening with half an ear to Peter's rambling discourse, now he's stuck on mistranslation
The book of poems is Josner's writings, short melodic notes on magic, not allowed to quote them but I should quote Peter's mistranslations, also show him writing in the back yard with his insect noise cicadas larks and bumblebee and walking in the early morning down past Mountain Station and the park, he's fretting, brooding as the nighttime's dark and quiet ebb, he heads back home and goes to brew some coffee.
Here's a bit of how I'm imagining Maximiliano Josner's voice...
corta euforia ya no ciego
gustaría a mi abuelo ver
la cuerda corta que lo separa
del tuerto el juego de manos
sonrisa, rápido ofuscamiento
el robo consagrado
Thursday, July 5th, 2012
La cuerda corta: finidades, la poesía de Maximiliano Josner Ávala fue 1914 publicada en la prensa Universidad Técnica del Estado, editado y con introducción del colega y discípulo de Josner Ávala, Miguel Arroncoyo de Marcoa. Fue el único libro de Josner Ávala desde su tesis Sobre las tradiciones y instituciones de los peruanos indígenos casi 40 años antes, y fue publicada unos seis años despues de su muerte inoportuna. Su opus magnum, un tratado acerca de la divinidad del tiempo, nunca se completase.
La ambición de Miguel Arroncoyo editar y publicar ese tratado puede bien haber influido el escogimiento de poemas que componen las Finidades -- esas 229 estrofas representan las miles de páginas de los diarios que fueron donados a la biblioteca de la universidad, en armonia con el último testamento de Josner Ávala. De Marcoa las define en su introducción como «poemas breves y crípticos sobre magia» y como una «investigación en la divinidad»; pero las leyendo en el contexto de los diarios, se muy fácil entienden como notas personales, pensamientos sobre su infancia y su orfandad, la pérdida de la madre y luego de los abuelos.
Monday, July 9th, 2012
There is another variant of the Bartleby syndrome which I have not seen yet in Vila-Matas' enumeration -- one which seems to me like it must be pretty well-represented in the history of letters: writing the wrong book. Two, and possibly three characters in the story I am writing (and it goes without saying, possibly this applies to myself as well) spend their lives working hard on the wrong book.* They are not exactly emulating Bartleby -- they are after all striving to create, to produce -- but in terms of actual output it comes to very much the same thing.
Maximiliano Josner Ávala is a gifted poet, one who, however, never pursues poetry; he believes his calling is to theology and to metaphysics, and he works all his life writing a manuscript which will never be published. He leaves behind him thousands of pages, but his only publication is his thesis on the traditions and institutions of the indigenous tribes of Peru.
Ávala's young disciple Miguel Arroncoyo de Matoa is manically devoted to his teacher's philosophical work, and is too shallow of a thinker to really see the holes in it. He is also a seeker after fame, one who is bound to be disappointed; his dream is to use Ávala's manuscript as a stepping-stone to his own success in the field. He publishes some fragments of poetry from Ávala's journals with his own commentary, as a way of preparing the ground for what he considers the more important work, and then spends the remaining decades of his life attempting unsuccessfully to tame the monster manuscript. The volume of poetry does not make much of an impression, and is pretty well forgotten by the time Bolaño finds a copy of it in the university library in Santiago.
Bolaño includes some references to Ávala in the poems in La universidad desconocida, which is how Peter Conlay, a young man in upstate New York, catches wind of his existence. He finds a copy of Finidades on Abebooks and falls in love with Ávala's voice. So the question becomes, can Peter's translations succeed in introducing this forgotten and foreign poet to the world? Or is he too working on the wrong book? I see Peter as having things in common with both Ávala and de Matoa...
*And have I mentioned how it is tripping me out, that I picked up Bartleby y compañía just when I was starting to piece this story together?
Thursday, July 12th, 2012
I haven't really written much narrative (that I can recall) in the first person voice. Let's give this a try. Peter seems like a good place to start with the first person, being as he is at least roughly modeled after myself.
(The plan as it now stands is, write fragments as they come to me. Revise and post at READIN those that seem worth while. Wait and see, see if anything is coming together. And if not, well, I'm having fun with the fragments and the revisions...)
I found Fragmentos de la universidad desconocida when me and Laura were visiting Mexico City. What a poorly-planned trip! We had both just fallen in love with The Savage Detectives -- the idea came up on the spur of the moment, that we should make the trip as, well, an homage to Bolaño or something like that, something along those lines... didn't really bother to do much or any research though I guess, I guess we were both pretty busy with work around that time, felt lucky we could both take a week off and have it be the same week, and by the time we had gotten off the plane and stumbled to our hotel and stumbled out of the hotel, down the street, it was Day 1 and we were standing in the Plaza de la Constitución, rubbing our eyes, pawing at the map, trying to figure out how to get to the Calle Bucareli, and it was beginning to dawn on me that there were way better things we could be doing with our week than trying to retrace the footsteps of Leopold Bloom around Dublin.
It wound up being a good week, too -- we did not actually find our way to any of García Madero's bars, but we did visit a couple of his bookshops, and the Bosque de Chapultepec, and Trotsky's house. Ate well. When we came home my suitcase was stuffed with books.
I've been a sucker for Spanish poetry ever since college -- the professor had us reading Neruda and Cardenal, and then I found an old book of Pablo Antonio Cuadra, and I was hooked. Something about the foreignness of it, the unfamiliarity of the language (well and of course the specific lilt and rhythm of Spanish) makes it touch me, ring clear in a way that only rarely happens with English language poetry. But Bolaño! I had no idea he had written any poetry. (I know -- it sounds dumb now, just a few years later on; for me he was just the author of The Savage Detectives, like how I didn't know anything about Kerouac beyond On the Road, for what seems like an inordinately long time past my tenth-grade year.) But, but there it was on the bookshelf, right in front of me in Librería Sotano: The fragments of the unknown university. What a title! Seeing it felt like a revelation. I know, I know, the structurally correct thing would have been for me to steal it... The cashier gave me a Sotano bookmark, I was meaning to hang on to it but no idea where it has gone.
That was our last day in Mexico.
Monday, July 16th, 2012
(from the journals of Maximiliano Josner Ávala: Jan. 14, 1903)
This silent house is filled with voices. I fear I've made little progress this year, indeed I am beginning to worry that the project as a whole is misconceived. An encouraging letter from Arroncoyo, his enthusiasm for the project buoys my spirit. Concerned that I am not the philosopher he has built me up to be. I'll have to go into town tomorrow and buy some paper from Calixto López.
It is clear to me that the divinity in man is his perception of the passage of time: perceiving and feeling this elapsation around him is the closest he can approach to the Godhead. I am having trouble framing this in an analytical fashion though, as anything more than just an impression...
I cannot escape the din of my grandfather's and my father's family's voices in the walls of this house. I shall take some flowers to Carolina's grave tomorrow.
Tuesday, July 17th, 2012
As I was writing the other day in the voice of Maximiliano Josner Ávala -- one who has been working on his project a good deal longer than I on mine -- and I felt again, strongly, how strange it seemed that he did not have a title for it, a proper name, or indeed a clear sense of what it was. My sense of what my project is is becoming a little clearer each day -- clear first of all that I should just describe this activity as "writing a book" and leave it at that, with the blog archives open to the curious; and herewith, a working title for the book I'm writing about Ávala and his grandfather, and the grandson's translator: It will be called "This Silent House" for the time being, after a line from the son's journals.
Saturday, July 21st, 2012
Why no flowers:
Señor Josner your sexless poems your notes cry out
They plead for love
que yo escribo
que yo intento
que yo intento escribir
que yo intento escuchar
escribiré, iré, iría
Friday, August third, 2012
(This post is a continuation of the earlier Peter's Voice thread -- I am trying among other things to make my reading of La universidad desconocida be Peter's reading, trying to get in his head and read through his eyes and hope to fully realize his character. Hope that anybody's going to be interested in reading about this guy and the books he is reading and translating; but of course this hope has always been intrinsic to the READIN project...)
Walking down Partition Street in the light summer rain and watching the lightning across the river past Rhinebeck. A really impressive storm but it's far enough off, the air's not moving here. You have to strain to make out the thunder. Nice -- I'm glad to fantasize the soundtrack and just watch the show, glad to get a little wet, glad to get home and inside and dry off.
Laura's a little spacey tonight. Dale and them had a gig down at Tierney's, we smoked some grass on the way over there and she really got into it --the intoxication goes very nicely with Megan's chops on the washboard, with Dale singing "Rag Mama Rag," it must be said... a lovely time but all too short as they only had a half-hour set. The other acts? Nothing really that interesting, so here we are back home and Laura's prowling catlike by the bookcase. I'm smiling and asking her what she's reading.
-- Eh, nothing's really grabbed my attention much since Snow.
I grin, and flash on the "Love and Happiness" scene and Al Green singing, and feel the little twinge of uncertainty that's always present around Pamuk, like I'm not really getting it or am getting the wrong thing. (And hm, I should really mention that song to Dale...) -- Want to check out some poetry I've been working on? I found these pretty intense old Chilean poems over at Calixto's blog... and don't mention, or perhaps it goes without saying in this context, these poems from Ávala seem to me like good trip material -- but I've mentioned Chile, and Laura would rather listen to Bolaño. Nice --I open The Unknown University at random and hit on "El dinero"; and it seems to me like this is the perfect poem for today, being as I am in receipt of a check from the Reality Fusion job, feeling confident about our rent for the next few months, even about a shopping trip over to Amazon...
Still not much headway on the literary translation thing. But I remain hopeful; how could I not be, with Laura snuggled against me here on the couch as I read to her.
Friday, September 7th, 2012
sus movimientos lentos
crecen como las nubes
que crezca hipnotica, paralizada
que sea la totalidad
que sea la madre de la noche
lejano la miro
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