Saturday, February 7, 2009

Aimless Reading: The B's, Part 31.4 (Jorge Luis Borges)

Siete Noches
Originally uploaded by Michael_Kelleher
Borges, Jorge Luis
Siete noches

Purchased at Border's in Sarasota, FL last summer. I spent about 5 weeks in Florida in June and early July, mostly reading and writing and relaxing. The aforementioned "Summer of Reading In Spanish" that has become the "Year of Reading in Spanish" began there. The first book I read was Isabel Allende's Casa de los espíritus, in preparation for her visit to Buffalo in April. It was a good book to begin the SRS, because the language is fairly uncomplicated and the narrative fairly straightforward and plot-driven. I followed that with Carlos Fuentes La muerte de Artemio Cruz, which took up a lot of time b/c I had to look up nearly every word in the book. On the heels of that, I was waiting for Los detectives salvajes to arrive and needed something else to read in the meantime, so I bought this collection of lectures by Borges.

The title refers to seven lectures given by Borges at the Teatro Coliseo in Buenos Aires in 1977. They cover a wide range of literary topics: The Divine Comedy; Nightmares; The Thousand and One Nights; Buddhism; Poetry; The Kabbalah; and Blndness. After reading Fuentes, it was a relief to read Spanish that was this clear(at least to me). I suppose that is because they are transcriptions and so are not striving for the kind of density of thought that written work strives for. Apparently these lectures, each of which span 25-35 pages in the book, were delivered from memory.

From "Blindness":

I want to end with a line from Goethe, "Alles Nahe werde fern," everything near becomes far. Goethe was referring to the evening twilight. Everything near becomes far. It is true. At nightfall, the things closest to us see to move away from our eyes. So the visible world has moved away from my eyes, perhaps forever.

Goethe could be referring not only to twilight but to life. All things go off, leaving us. Old age is probably the supreme solitude--except that the supreme solitude is death. And "everything near becomes far" also refers to the slow process of blindness, of which I hoped to show, speaking tonight, that it is not a complete misfortune. It is one more instrument among the many--all of them strange--that fate or chance provide.

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