Category Archives: borges

Macedonio Fernandez Intro Serialized at Three Percent

This week Three Percent is serializing Margaret Schwartz’s introduction to The Museum of Eterna’s Novel. I think this is well worth checking out, as Museum has to be one of the most interesting, most difficult new books I’ve seen in a while.

“Difficult” gets thrown around way too often by critics (for instance, all those books Franzen called difficult: not really so hard), but in the case of this book I think it’s justified, as Fernandez was really trying to create a form that hadn’t existed before. The result isn’t really approachable from the traditional angles that most readers are used to. Or, as Schwartz says:

He would labor over the book for the next twenty-seven years, producing five full manuscripts in total, the first of which was written out in longhand by his lover, muse, and companion, Consuelo Bosch. Although The Museum of Eterna’s Novel eludes categorization, its many prologues and self-conscious use of authorial persona often lead to its characterization as an example of proto-postmodernism.

I’m not entirely sure that Museum works throughout as a read, although it’s brilliant for stretches. It is, however, the kind of object that should be seen and read, just to see what a book can aspire to and to try and wrap your head around it. It’s tough going, but I do think there are rewards in there.

Seven of Borges' Lectures

Our latest review at The Quarterly Conversation is Daniel Pritchard’s take on Seven Nights by none other than Jorge Luis Borges. They are, as Dan puts it, “lectures-turned-essays originally given in Buenos Aires in 1977.” he goes on to explain that

The topics covered in Seven Nights will no doubt reverberate for any reader who has spent time in the company of Borges’s writing, because they are his most intimate themes, his personal obsessions: the Divine Comedy, the Kabbalah, the fear of mirrors, dreams, and nightmares, the Thousand and One Nights, the hidden machinations of existence, his own blindness. They are home notes in the keys we recognize as Borges, the one Alastair Reid describes in his Introduction as “the figure of the other Borges, the writer, to whom the living Borges is chained.” These themes appear and reappear in the essays collected here nested inside each other, like the infinite series of reflections in a room of mirrors.

You can see it all right here.

BookForum No Longer Giving It Away

BookForum has now posted its February/March issue online, and as you can see their experiment in free content appears to be over. (Unless they’re planning some bit-by-bit delayed rollout.) Aleksandr Hemon’s review of DeLillo’s Point Omega is among the free offerings. Also note Eric Banks on A Time for Everything by Karl Knausgaard, published by the wonderful Archipelago Press.

Sadly, one of the pieces not available online is Matthew Ladd’s review of The Museum of Eterna’s Novel by Borges-mentor Macedonio Fernandez, certainly one of my most anticipated releases of the year. I’ll definitely be checking out this review in my print copy.

Curious readers can read the excerpt we published from the book back last summer, as well as Marcelo Ballvé’s excellent essay Macedonio Fernández: The Man Who Invented Borges, since anthologized in the Best of the Web 2009.

When You’re Belated, Make Lemonade

I've been reading Harold Bloom's classic work The Anxiety of Influence, and I've come upon an odd quote. It's the kind of thing that sounds so right that I really want to like it, but I'm not entirely sure I understand what it means.

So, I'm throwing it out to the crowd. Anyone want to take a shot at unpacking this?

Cultural belatedness is never acceptable to a major writer, though Borges made a career out of exploiting his secondariness.

CR Readers’ Picks

Based on Amazon purchases made through links on this website, the following are the "picks" of Conversational Reading’s readers for 2008:

#1

By a large margin, The Invention of Morel was the most popular purchase among readers of this blog. Obviously, my sincere praise of this book helped move it along, but I’m convinced that not nearly as many copies would have been purchased if this wasn’t a great book, and if Borges wasn’t Bioy’s literary collaborator. A great read, and if you haven’t had a chance to yet, definitely pick it up.

#2

Not really a surprise, but something of an unusual pick is experimental British writer B.S. Johnson’s novel-in-a-box, The Unfortunates. Clearly, readers were drawn to this one for the atypical presentation (loose signatures collected in a box), although Johnson’s status as one of Britain’s most notable experimental authors of the late 20th century certainly didn’t hurt. For all you Johnson fans looking for more, be sure to check out Jonathan Coe’s excellent biography, Like a Fiery Elephant.

#3

2666. For quite obvious reasons.

#4

There’s a bit of a tie for fourth place with Senselessness, Television, and The Siege of Krishnapur, all excellent books. It’s a little interesting to see Television so high up, as it was published a couple years back and I’ve been talking more about two of Toussaint’s other books this year: Monsieur (re-issued this year) and Camera (published in English this year). But I won’t argue with your choice: I like them all, but I would put Television on top.

#5

A number of books tied for fifth place:

#6

And here are the rest that made a notable impression, saleswise:

The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges’ Library of Babel

The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges’ Library of Babel, reviewed at The Complete Review.

Sounds rather interesting:

The first point is the amusingly obvious one: that no matter how small the books in the Library, there isn’t nearly enough room in the actual universe to contain the library Borges envisioned (and that’s just taking into account the books, not the structure that houses them …). From the very large, Bloch moves to the infinitely small (well, thin), addressing the footnote that suggests a single volume could contain all that the Library holds — if it had "an infinite number of infinitely thin pages") — and demonstrating the somewhat surprising (mathematical) dimensions of such a volume.

And from the same review, sounds like the prof needs a blog:

Bloch seems to mean it when tries to get the reader involved, going so far as to provide not only an ‘Annotated Suggested Readings’-list, but inviting readers to e-mail him for "more personalized recommendations" (include: "your math background and the things you’d like to learn").

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