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A Cyrano Literary Gazette selection


Jorge Luis Borges

The Writer and the Man

I AM UNEASY writing about Jorge Luis Borges (b.1899, Buenos Aires, d. 1986, Geneva). Borges wrote so much and I have read relatively little of his early works. Yet his world of myth and fantasy and magic and metaphysics has so influenced me in the past that since I am here in his city of Buenos Aires where I can feel Borges the man rather than only Borges the writer I have known from afar, I feel I have to record something about him in flesh and blood.

However I am entering dangerous territory. A veritable minefield. Being this close, in his very proximity, changes my relationship with him. I have known Borges—poet, essayist and fiction writer—as one of the most important authors of the Twentieth century. In these days I have been to his old address in Calle Maipú in central Buenos Aires, I passed through the Galleria del Este he loved downstairs under his apartment, I sat in the confiterias, the cafès, he frequented—El Tortoni, Los 36 Billares, La Biela—I visited the National Library he directed, I walked along the street named for him, Calle Jorge Luis Borges, in the barrio of Palermo where he also lived, and I have read about his life in Buenos Aires, his curiosity about the world of tango and gangsters and knife fights.

My problem in understanding Borges the man is a familiar one. I was acquainted with his work before I even considered him the person. As usual the art conditions my feelings about its creator. It happens this way especially with painters: if you see first the art it conditions your relationship with the artist you might meet in person later. For you he remains forever the artist—first the artist, then the person.

However, the reverse can also be true: if you get to know first the person, then later his art, you sometimes wonder that the person you thought you knew created the art. It seems miraculous that a childlike person, who gets drunk, gossips about his neighbors, worries about his falling hair and spouts absurd political and social ideas, creates disturbing works of art. You underrate the art because of the ordinariness of the person who created it.

In that sense Borges was not ordinary. Born into an international family that lived in Europe while he was young, Borges spoke English before Spanish. “Georgie” was precocious and everyone assumed from the start he would be a writer. Legend has it that he wrote his first story at seven and translated Oscar Wilde’s “The Happy Prince” at nine or ten, though skeptics in Buenos Aires claim that his father did the translation that was published in El Pais.

After the family’s return to Buenos Aires, Borges at twenty-five became the center of Argentine letters, writing a mass of poetry, essays and stories and sponsoring writers like Julio Cortázar. During the 1950s he headed the national library of 800,000 volumes, which must have been a kind of paradise for him since books and words were his life. For that reason the Italian writer Umberto Eco in The Name of the Rose named his librarian, Jorge de Burgos, for him.

In his opposition to Perón, Borges resigned from the national library and in 1976 lent support to the military dictatorship that overthrew Peron. I was not aware of this. His support for the regime that killed and tortured and ruined the nation in the name of order creates enormous problems for me. It would be like giving support to Bush and cohorts today.

A politically center-left lawyer in Buenos Aires I asked about this showed little surprise, claiming that people just didn’t know what was happening. Finally, in 1980, after thousands of the tortured bodies of the best of Argentine youth had been dumped into the ocean, Borges signed a petition in favor of the desaparecidos.

This “We didn’t know” always rings suspicious. The majority of the 30,000 desaparecidos were from Buenos Aires. Thousands of families and relatives and friends were oppressed as the dictatorship crushed all “subversion”. Who were the subversives anyway? They were the non-Marxist leftwing of the Peronist movement, Montoneros and the Peoples Revolutionary Army (ERP), who though they were forced to go underground were the only political opposition.

Borges knew everybody. Did no one tell him what was happening? Or was it simply too distant from his metaphysical world? But if he knew? How could Borges not know? His friend, the Chilean poet and Communist, Pablo Neruda, was quoted as saying, “He (Borges) doesn’t understand a thing about what’s happening in the modern world, and he thinks I don’t either.” The Nobel Prize Committee must have believed the same, for though Borges was a longtime candidate for the coveted prize, he never got it. His support for the dictatorship was probably the reason.

(Like Borges, Neruda too made a major political error: he dedicated a poem to Stalin on his death in 1953 and it took official revisionism in the USSR for him to change his mind.) Nonetheless, Neruda redeemed himself: he went on to support the Socialism of Allende’s three-year government in Chile and to defend Cuba against the USA. Finally, in contrast to Borges, he won the Nobel in 1971.

Neruda recording his poems in the 1940s.

I hope Neruda was right. How could a man concerned with circular labyrinths and mirrors reflecting his alter ego understand what was really happening around him? Trying to resolve the riddle of time, maybe Borges was lost in an infinite series of times, parallel and divergent and convergent, in his intellectual world ranging from Gnosticism to the Cabala.

His philosophic stories in which the narrator’s exploration of their shape uncovers meaning are masterly even if they often seem contrived. On a visit to Rome near the end of his life he told my friend the writer Desmond O’Grady that he wanted to write stories like those of Kipling. And some of his earliest stories about Buenos Aires were told straightforwardly. Borges’ first steps in literature were in English, the language in which he originally read Don Quixote. His grandmother Frances Halsam was English. And poetry came to him through his father intoning, in English, Swinburne, Keats and Shelley. He considered English literature the finest. It made him aware that words convey not only messages but also music and passion.

You could classify Borges as a twice-displaced person closer to the English language than to Spanish, a self-confessed ‘international writer’ who happened to live in Buenos Aires, but this would ignore his attachment to Argentinean history and legends, to Buenos Aires for which he said he wanted to invent a mythology, and to “the ubiquitous smell of eucalyptus” at the summerhouse of his boyhood.

I read Borges’ famous book, El Aleph, a collection of seventeen of his most suggestive and mysterious stories. The story “Los Teologos” speaks of an ancient sect on the banks of the Danube known as the Monotonous who professed that history is a circle and there is nothing that has not been before and that there will never be anything new. For them, in the mountains, the Wheel and the Serpent had replaced the cross. It was heresy. The question in my mind was: What is heretical about saying that nothing was new? Surprisingly Borges’s protagonist reflected and decided that the thesis of circular time was too different to be dangerous; the most fearful heresies are those nearest orthodoxy. In fact, the poetic books of the Old Testament are filled with such a thesis. The new international edition of Ecclesiastes starts out with these disconcerting words:

“Meaningless! Meaningless!”
Says the teacher.
“Utterly meaningless!
Everything is meaningless.”

The Old Testament has a way of saying the most terrible things in poetic words, like the words of the King Solomon, the teacher, that have graced film and literature:

What has been will be again,
What has been done will be done again;
There is nothing new under the sun.

On the other hand, those are demoralizing words for the writer searching for new images and for new word combinations that in the long run means turning words and phrases in the hope something new will emerge and that above all it will not be meaningless.

Though I accepted Borges on the basis of his creative art, I am uncertain whether it is proper to judge an artist wholly by his work, separating the man from his art. However that may be, now that I know more about his role in Argentinean society my feelings toward him are colored; I look at his writings with a more critical eye, searching for the reasons he backed the 1976-1983 military dictatorship here and in Chile and Uruguay. He lent support to the terror of the military junta, which he called blithely “a confraternity of gentlemen.” As an adult with much information at his disposal, he chose the wrong side.

In the first story in El Aleph, “El Inmortal,” he repeats the refrain that no one is guilty … or innocent. When life is circular, without beginning or end, that is when man is immortal, then everything, good and evil, happens to every man. In an apparent search for a world of order Borges seems to have sentenced that it would be madness to think that God first created the cosmos and afterwards chaos. This now rings like a whitewash of evil.

Borges’s many books are on prominent display in the magnificent bookstores of Buenos Aires and his anniversaries are marked with new editions of his works and round tables. Like Joycean tours in Dublin, Buenos Aires offers Borgean tours—the streets Borges walked, his cafés, his bookstores, his Buenos Aires of Recoleta and Palermo and Plaza San Martin about which he wrote extensively. Borges is widely acclaimed as one of the greatest voices of world literature, winning international prizes and recognition. Yet he chose to support the dictatorship, even during and after the terror, while continuing to write his esoteric stories so far removed from harsh realities. Is retirement to an ivory tower permissible? Seen in this light he seems to be the creator of art for art’s sake. The belief in art for art’s sake, according to the Russian Communist theorist Georgy Plekhanov, “arises when artists and also people keenly interested in art are hopelessly out of harmony with their social environment.” It has been said that art for art’s sake is the attempt to instill ideal life in one who has no real life and is an admission that the human race has outgrown the artist. That was the case of Argentina and Chile in the Seventies of last century.

Commitment on the other hand involves the writer’s trying to reflect through his work a picture of the human condition—which is social—without losing sight of the individual. Art is not a thing apart. Despite the obstacles politics raises, art, I believe, is part and parcel of the social. Writing is a social act insofar as it derives not only from the will to communicate with others but also from a resolve to change things. To remake the world. And the artist’s passion is freedom. The military dictatorship was certainly not a goal … nor a means.

Late in life Borges denied he ever wrote for either an elite or the masses; he wrote for a circle of friends, he said. This familiar claim is also suspect. Can one accept his thesis that “there is a kind of lazy pleasure in useless and out-of-the-way erudition” underlying his tales of fantasy and remote historical points of departure?

Borges was both universal and at the same time an Argentinean nationalist, who wrote of tango and gauchos and detectives and the streets of Buenos Aires. Since he was too universal to accept Peronist populism, it is a mystery how he could fall for the “club of gentlemen” of the military assassins.

The Argentine Junta declared war in 1976 (with complete US support) on a practically unarmed population for seven long years. From (L) Comandantes Massera, Videla (head) and Agosti. When the Argentine military was defeated in the Falklands War, many Latin Americans, despite their feelings of nationalism, cheered the humiliation of an army widely regarded as comprised of cowards, sadists, and bullies. The War was the main factor bringing about the collapse of the Junta.

The Argentine military dictatorship, we now know, was like something so horrible per se that its very existence contaminates past, present and future life. By the very definition of the word describing the 30,000 victims, the desaparecidos continue to lie outside time and memory. Afterwards, Borges, again the great artist, forgiven and reestablished, wrote that, “As long as it exists no one in the world can be courageous or happy.”

It must have been his great regret that he never won the Nobel, the price he paid for misreading the role of political power. Paul Bowles and Anton Chekhov were right: the artist should take a wide berth around politics; yet he should understand enough of it in order to protect himself. For over a half decade Borges failed to do that.

Accusatory fichero (foto-billboard) of Junta victims, “desaparecidos” (disappeared), set up by the Madres de la Plaza de Mayo in 2005, in an effort to secure justice on behalf of tens of thousands of murdered civilians, all of whom were also systematically tortured by the military.

His story in El Aleph , “Deutsches Requiem”, concerns a Nazi torturer and killer, the Deputy Director of the concentration camp of Tarnowitz, who has been sentenced to death and is to be executed the next morning. Otto Dietrich zur Linde credits Brahms, Schopenhauer, Shakespeare, Nietszche and Spengler as his benefactors who helped him “confront with courage and happiness the bad years and to become one of the new men.” He acquired the new faith of Nazism and waited impatiently for the war to test his faith. His was to be the total experience, of victory and defeat, of life and death.

Otto thought: I am satisfied by defeat because secretly I know I am guilty and only punishment can redeem me. He thought: Defeat satisfies me because it is the end and I am tired. He thought: Defeat satisfies me because it happened, because it is linked to all the events that are, that have been, that will be, because to censure or deplore one single real event is to blaspheme the universe.

Two French nuns, Leonie Duquet and Alice Domon, photographed while in secret custody. Charged with leftists sympathies due to their work among the poor, they were tortured and eventually thrown into the ocean alive from a helicopter. Tossing people alive (sometimes drugged or beaten senseless) into rivers and the ocean was a favorite method used by the US-coached militaries of Chile and Argentina to “disappear people” during their campaign against “subversion”.

In other words, everything is linked in Borges’ great circular universe. Everything happens again and again. Everything is part of one whole. The story written shortly after World War II closes with these disturbing words: Hitler believed he fought for his country; but he fought for all, even for those he attacked and hated…. Many things have to be destroyed in order to build the new order, now we know that Germany was one of those things…. I look at my face in the mirror to know who I am, to know how I will act in a few hours, when the end stands before me. My flesh will be afraid, but not I.

I don’t quite know what to think of this story. It upsets me. Hopefully, I keep reading over and over the following quote from Borges which helps: “One concept corrupts and confuses the others.”
I hope he was saying that the thoughts of Otto Dietrich zur Linde were pure speculation and merely part of the abstract universal metaphysical whole.

So, I continue reading El Aleph, alternately exalted by Borges the writer and at times disillusioned by him the man.

Gaither Stewart, a contributing editor to Cyrano’s Journal, left journalism four years ago in order to write fiction full-time. Originally from Asheville, North Carolina, he has lived most of his life in Europe, chiefly in Germany and Italy. For many years he was the Italian correspondent of the Rotterdam daily newspaper, ALGEMEEN DAGBLAD. His has been a varied life: from university studies in Slavistics and political science in the United States and Germany, to intelligence officer in Europe, to correspondent for European and American radios, to public relations for Italian corporations, to full correspondent for a major European newspaper. His journalistic stories have appeared in the press of West and East Europe. During the last two years his fiction has appeared in a number of English language literary publications.
Today he lives in the hills of north Rome with his wife, Milena.
  1. I underwent a similar path as I learned more about Borges, which eventually led me to dispel my idealization of artists. We seem to always want our writers to be people of insight and compassion. Unfortunately, that’s not always the case.

    Borges the man was certainly a product of the upper class culture of Buenos Aires and had little regard for the struggles of the working man. Of course, in Argentine literature of the early to mid 20th century, most writers – except for Roberto Arlt – were elitist.

    Borges lack of knowledge about the disappeared is difficult to understand from hindsight but from my own conversations with people in Buenos Aires it’s apparent that many were not aware of the horrors in the early years of the dictatorship, when most of the disappearances occurred. Indeed, many seemed to have saw the military rule initially as a stabilizing factor after a very turbulent time in the 1960s and early ’70s. Fortunately, most people eventually realized what was happening and even Borges recanted his earlier support of the military.

    Through Borges we learn the difficult lesson that those we admire, our heroes, while brilliant, are not always the men we want them to be. Our heroes will always disappoint us because they are human and flawed.

  2. Gaither Stewart has written a disturbing, complex piece that, like its subject, Borges, explores the ins and outs and winding paths of labyrinths; here, especially, labyrinths of personality, politics and the arts.

    Some time back, a “definitive” bio of Picasso appeared, laying the heavy charge of “womanizing” against the little genius-Spaniard. Suddenly, “Guernica” was suspect. I met a young woman who told me she hated Picasso. “Which works?” I wondered; “from his blue period, his pink, or his cubist?” She stared blankly. She didn’t care about any of that, she exclaimed. She hated the man!

    Long before that, I’d heard that Wagner (influenced, perhaps, by his wife, Cosima)was anti-Semitic. (This was before the age of political correctness.) How was I to take this? How to digest it? Should the stirring magnificense of “Tannhauser” and “Lohengrin” now ring hollow?

    There are many such cases in the arts–and in the “real world,” too. More than most, artists construct their worlds–then have to live in them. Their magic invitess us into their living rooms, we get comfortable, and then we notice–Franz Liszt has warts!

    There’s a way out of this. Maybe it’s a bit schizophrenic, but it works for me. I consider the art the best part of the man or woman producing it. Was Mozart the silly ninny depicted in the play and movie, “Amadeus”? Possibly so. Did he also have a broadband connection to the Music of the Spheres? Indubitably!

    This is not to gainsay our human responsibility “to seek justice, love mercy, and walk humbly with God.” It is rather, to comprehend–even stand in awe of–the complexity of our characters. We can condemn the man or woman while praising the work because the work is as much “through” the individual as it is “of” them.

    This is, perhaps, a demarcation more easily applied in science. If da Vinci designs war engines whose development will tear the limbs off thousands, we’re apt to note the fineness of the drawing not the ultimate consequences. If Gauss concocts a formula to calculate the electric field of a given charge distribution, writes it on the roof of a hansom cab, exits, pays the driver, then realizes he has forgotten to copy his equations into his notebook, and proceeds to chase the cab through the streets of Paris, we may think Gauss a curious fellow, but his law is no less elegant.

    It is always difficult to find that our heroes have feet of clay. The wonder is how “ordinary” people may have feet of brass or gold. (Where does a Cindy Sheehan come from? From whence, the Beggar of Assisi? What is “ordinariness” raised to a level of perfection?)

    Stewart’s article touches on many questions about judgment. They are the essential, human questions. Also, subtle and manifold.

  3. Jeff and Gary have already expressed with great sensitivity my own views, so what I say here may be only of peripheral interest.

    The confusion between the public and private personas has always been something of a quandary for those—I suspect the majority—who would prefer their idols in one piece and without any fractures, especially huge crevasses running all the way down the middle of the moral spine. In touching on this subject Gaither has, therefore, reopened a topic that deserves (but does not receive) constant monitoring.

    His disappointment with Borges, I completely share. His deep admiration for Borges, I also share. As most of us do on this thread. That leaves us, I suppose, in something akin to a precarious “isotopic” position, enjoying only short term stability in our affections, and a perennial tendency to reject the totality of the man. Unless we are ourselves some kind of reactionary, in which case there will be no such sense of disquiet.

    Maybe it is in the nature of great artists to be oblivious to great contradictions. Egotism and fame soon give many the sense that they’re above it all, that they have a safe conduct to exhibit outrageous inconsistency between the quality of their art and the esthetics of their private lives.

    Still, this contradiction is one that we superimpose, given our expectation of some perfectibility of character in those possessed of great insight and Olympian talent to capture beauty, but it is not one always acknowledged or even valued by the artist himself, because this “congruency” between the art’s esthetics and the personal esthetics is something that we dearly desire but is clearly not a requisite for magnificent output.

    Can we hope to reconcile this dilemma? Gary suggests that we simply accept this division, this separation between man and artist, so clearly manifested in his example of Mozart: the “man”, his dignity and gravitas and “his” art seeming only accidental and occasional companions in the journey of life, all of which could never refute the fact that, incomprehensibly, Mozart did have a “broadband channel” to the Music of the Cosmos. (Note: the “eclipse” of Bob Dylan’s musical gift seems to confirm how arbitrary this kiss of the gods is…)

    Writer’s quandary not different from the rest?

    The above suggests something else, perhaps heretical: that all art, including the most apparently self-conscious work of the mind, literature, is nothing more than a capricious gift like mathematical genius. Magnificent, often sublime, but always no more than a caprice of fate.

    In any case, the “fractured Borges” has plenty of company. Nabokov, whose books I love, was an aristo-monarchist; and Anthony Burgess an unrepentant reactionary, and admirer of Thatcher. His Clockwork Orange, as most will agree, was his acerbic sendup of the “socialist paradise,” the “intromissing state” he despised.

    And the fracture, this crevasse we observe in great talents also exists and becomes a colossal canyon in what we might call the lower (but no less influential) performing arts, especially among movie actors and directors. While “consistency” abounds on both the “Left” and the “Right”, there are also surprising, even shocking dissonances. True, the Great Chaplin, the Fondas, Brando, Bogart, Welles, Sterling Hayden (despite his appearance before the HUAC), Susan Sarandon, Sean Penn, Tim Robbins and many others, lived private lives and acted politically in uniformly progressive ways, frequently choosing scripts that reflected their beliefs. On the Right, of course, you had Wayne, Menjou, Ward Bond, Clint Eastwood, Glenn Ford, John Ford, D.W. Griffith, and a bunch of other conservative stalwarts (not to mention the almost entire roster of movie moguls, to a man fierce self-made men who never tired to blow kisses to a country that made them filthy rich). The surprises come in people like Robert Ryan, a combative left-liberal all his life, outspoken critic of the McCarthy paranoia, in Hollywood the antithesis of Wayne, who went on to make in 1949 perhaps one of the most pathetic anti-communist propaganda artifacts in memory, I Married a Communist (aka The Woman on Pier 13), and for none other than Howard Hughes.

    More recently, the dissonance encompasses Gary Sinise and John Malkovich, who spent years in popular theater in Chicago and made a most commendable version of OF MICE AND MEN (a work once hailed in the USSR as a credit to the American stage) but who in their personal lives have come forth “to support the troops,” the Bush “war on terror”, Iraq, and so on.

    But maybe the most puzzling of the lot are Jon Voigt and Tom Cruise. These people present us with an advanced case of either functional stupidity or simple career opportunism. Both men appeared in memorable antiwar, anti-establishment Vietnam-era pictures: Coming Home (Voigt, with Jane Fonda), and Born on the Fourth of July (Cruise and Willem Dafoe), a biopic based on vietvet Ron Kovic’s experiences. Today, however, Voigt cannot find enough venues to wave the flag high and loud, and Tom Cruise…well, just watch what a joke he’s become. The actor’s craft, by definition, is about deceit, but how can such people impersonate so convincingly these characters and learn absolutely nothing from them? If nothing else, Voigt and Cruise lend credibility to Hitchcock’s famous dictum that “all actors should be treated like cattle.” (No offense to the real cattle.)

    So the doubt remains: where does the “man” end and the “artist” begins? The messy truth may well be that even great writers, whom we expect “to know”, are “supposed to know”, may not know at all, or may just cynically betray their knowledge. And sleep soundly every night.

  4. This may sound a bit reductionist (especially since I totally agree with the comments filed on this post before me), but I think Borges’ pretended innocence about the Junta’s murderous trajectory has a great deal to do with the willful blindness that most members of the upper classes exhibit toward the horrendous pain and suffering their system inflicts on the ordinary citizen. This myopia was to be expected, as Jeff and Gaither mention, in a man long acculturated to the comforts of the Argentinean oligarchy. In fact, this characteristic blindness to the suffering they cause is only matched by their obstinate refusal to “see” anything good in the work of revolutionary governments. Class blinders is a socially-acquired mental defect.

  5. An absorbing read. Where were you when I flunked English lit out of sheer boredom? Great literature is about the great experiences and findings of humanity—both rational and emotional—but I missed that entirely in college. It took me almost 20 years to repair the void, to recognize the wasted opportunity, and it was an accidental exposure to something like this. Please keep publishing these enriching essays.—Julian Mendeerbaum, Adelaide, Au.

  6. By 1980 it was literally impossible to find someone even badly informed in Buenos Aires who didn’t know about the army kidnappings of civilians, the torture, and so on. It’s therefore impossible for me to believe that Borges didn’t know. All intellectuals knew.

    Baires is a very cosmopolitan, very big city that really has no secrets; Argentineans are like Italians: locuacious. They talk, they exaggerate, they gesticulate, they drink coffee, and they talk some more. I lived in New York a while and hated it. For all its reputation as a wonderful friendly city I found it cold and indifferent. Give me my Buenos Aires any day! Marvelous article, and congratulations to these other writers. I learned a lot from them too.
    —F. Marini, Villa Crespo, BsAs, Argentina

  7. Neruda and many otehr people felt an allegiance to Stalin because they saw what Russia had accomplished against great odds. And they also understood that Stalin was not a monster as the Western media and historiaders have preseted his. New findings in Russian historical journals cast the entiore period of Soviet history from 1917 to 1954 in a different light. Much of this is not yet known in the West where the prevailing mythologies and errors continue to be disseminated. The sooner the western public learns these facts the sooner we will all have a productive dialog base on a balanced more authnetic version of events. I apologise for english since it is acquired language.

  8. My introduction to Borges took place by accident. Although Argentinean by birth (Entre Ríos)I was sent to stay with relatives in Spain in my teens and promptly decided that Argentina was way too small (claustrofobica) for me to return. In my late 20s I had already moved to England, and it was there that I began reading about events in the nation I had accidentally escaped—I say escape because by then I was very much involved with a committed leftist who introduced me to the world as it really is, and am sure that if I had lived in Argentina at the time, with the kind of mentality I had acquired, I would have soon slammed into serious trouble.

    Whilst it’s impossible for me to remember now the paper I read the item in, I spotted one day a small dispatch about Argentina saying that Borges and a number of other distinguished intellectuals resented the way their country was being presented to the world by “communist propaganda” as a slaughterhouse in which all civility had been abandoned for the expediency of tyranny. Determined to write a letter to the local paper denouncing Borges as a collaborator of the worst type I thought it only fair to do some research on the man, and that’s how I came to actually read Borges for the first time. I cannot say it transformed me on the spot, nor that it convinced me that he was right and I wrong, but—I confess—it stilled my pen.

    With the passage of the years the monstrosity represented by the Argentinean junta (and the Chilean junta, and the Uruguayan military, etc., all enabled by Washington) is clear and irrefutable. Borges, as Gaither Stewart properly says, was on the wrong side of morality; he blindly sided with the enemies of true civilization, he a maximum exponent of civilised man!

    But the confusion in our hearts will remain because this is also the man who, upon literally losing his sight, wrote that celebrated stanza focusing so well on the irony of fate:

    Nadie rebaje a lágrima o reproche
    esta declaración de la maestría
    de Dios, que con magnífica ironía
    me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.

    Gracias por el foro!

  9. Kafka; Borges; Kleist;Hoffman; the Anglo-Irish writer William
    Trevor; Salinger and Malamud on the “American” side — these are among
    my favorite “less-than-novel-length” writers. How many times have I
    referred to a situation as Borgesisan, or Kafkaesque or
    Salingeresque. Bourgeois one and all. Perhaps it takes just such
    subjectivity of the bourgeois writer to actually see this “imposed
    fiction” for what it is.

    PS — it’s not the “fictions” of these men — really just individual perceptions of the Greater Fiction (i.e. “reality”), a form of “dream journalism” — that we have contention with. Rather their “objective reactions” to the Greater Fiction — Kafka was planning to move to Palestine before he died rather than become a communist and fight what he surely knew was coming (as Nietzsche saw it 30 years before him); same with Borges, a fascist and Zionist; and Salinger, a reclusive Republican.

    As Gary pointed out, it is not their actions as petty little men within the Greater Fiction that affects us, rather, their unconscious contributions to the Greater Consciousness.

    Excuse the mis-spelling of bourgeois; I could never get that down. Hope that’s not some kind of Freudian slip…


    [Not to worry Adam; all spellings and errata corrected by the editor.]

    Adam Engel is a contributing editor to Cyrano’s Journal.

  10. Maybe the determinists were right all along and the Church was wrong: in the larger sense we are not responsible for our actions, and that includes crimes and good deeds. If so, the “artist” does not deserve admiration or criticism per se, but we can only (and always) criticize only the art itself.

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