Page 1. Page 2. Page 3. Page 4. Jorge Luis Borges (–) Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote (El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (; Ficciones, ). A Silvina Ocampo. La obra. But that Pierre Menard’s Don Quixote—a contemporary of La trahison des clercs . published in Spanish (original title: “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote”) in Sur.
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Borges reinvented Don Quixote as a playful novel, full of surprises and unexpected anticipations of the way we read today. Across genres and over decades, his varied meditations opened new paths for readers. In literary circles, though, to unleash its full potential his book had to escape association with European realism.
Juan Montalvo tried; his prologue to Chapters That Cervantes Forgot is a declaration of cultural independence from Spain. But his satire is too tied to local circumstances in 19 th -century Ecuador. It was Borges who opened the way to a truly autonomous Latin American reading. There are several poems he wrote about it.
Inventing a writer who contributes nothing to the text except putting his own name to it, as Menard does, makes a mockery of the concept of authorship. Stripped of that belt, he is nothing but a second-rate copyist. What if I took a parable by say Kafka, one of the least known, and published it under my name?
Yet Pierre Menard Borges could have chosen any work to repeat. The answer is simple: El Quijote is at the heart—of better, what William H. Latin America, the choice implies, was made of a series of European colonies. Culture high culture, at least was an import from the Old World. That import, the story suggests, has been not only appropriated but also recycled through a new prism.
Or better, that the center no longer holds; it has been replaced by a plethora of other decentralized centers. This is, in my view, what the ideology of Menardismoas described in Quixote: The Novel and the Worldis about: Originality, in the New World, is based on turning European aesthetics upside down, refreshing them, making clones based on it that are more original than the original.
Call it the revenge of the natives! But what of the Argentinian background to this appropriation?
What antecedents are there to Menardismo? He was a merciless critic. Borges read Cervantes all his life, and his reflections cut across genres: I believe I have found the answer: I find it exquisite that Borges, in his essay, used El Quijote as well as Hamlet to make his case.
There is much in common between them, the metafictional device being only one aspect. In my view, The Bard, Cervantes, and Montaigne invited us to see introspection—individualism as a life strategy, the reach of our dreams, the clash between thought and emotion—as the defining factor of modernity.
What Borges Learned from Cervantes
Borges, the inveterate reader, also sees Borgds and El Quijote as evidence that we, humans, are mere characters in a larger, inscrutable cosmic narrative. Speech is not produced by an autonomous, freely self-determining intention that magically inserts itself into language. Language and the mythic structures that undergird it give rise to subjectivity. One of the most delicious facets of Borges not often explored are his interviews. As he became increasingly blind it was a congenital conditionhe depended on others for help.
That included using conversations to get his ideas out. As Ted Lyon noted, Borges gave hundreds of interviews, converting the practice into a performative literary genre full of irony and humor Latin American Literary Review 22 : He frequently returns to Quixoteusually repeating three points: I love the format of the conversation. I have learned from Borges. He conversed with friends and strangers alike, in public and private.
Some of his most insightful arguments are developed in this tete-a-tetes fe, reminding me of tangos.
The same might be said about Shakespeare, by the way. There used to be a time when The Bard was seen as a genius, almost a freak of nature, whose talent was supernatural, that is, beyond this world. Our opinion has changed. His plays react to specific political, social, economic, and military events of the time. He also collaborated with an assortment of others. And the First Folio menqrd a collective endeavor.
In some way, his oeuvre shares mebard element, in terms of originality, with the King James Bible. All this to say that some Shakespearean plays are superb Hamletfor instance, although heaven knows it has its detractors and others Two Noble KinsmenCymbelineetc. Inferior in him might be superior when compared even to Ben Jonson. Don Quixote was their nationalist bulwark against the reversal of four centuries of cultural imperialism.
Ina few years before the Spanish-American War, he wrote a diatribe about Christopher Columbus. Borges kept in view the frail human person—Alonso Quijano, Miguel de Cervantes—underlying the mythic figure of the knight.
This contrast is most evident in his poetry, where he uses it to meditate on the banality of life and the power of imagination.
What I like most menarr it is its broken e. One of the qualities seldom acknowledged is his passion for manuals and how-to volumes. He wrote introductions to Buddhism, to Germanic, British, and American literature, to mysticism, and so on. Instead, he returned to it in search of inspiration whenever he needed.
He was wildly popular.
They gave him a tremendous ovation. He had received along with Samuel Beckett the Formentor Prize in It came along with a commitment by publishers worldwide to translate his oeuvre.
His ascent to global stardom thus takes place from the sixties onward. His primary theme on this occasion was our friendship with Don Quixote. He ends the lecture with a moving gesture of his own, paralleling the one attributed to Cervantes: I always think that one of the quite happy things that have occurred to me in my life, is having become acquainted with Don Quixote.
This, as you know, is a leitmotif in the critique of El Quijote. Miguel de Unamuno, for instance, also believed Cervantes to be unworthy of his achievement. He is constantly paying tribute to an ancestor, and, along the way, reconfiguring traditions. The last segment of that sentence is a kind of mantra for me: It is a rather peculiar concept: A byproduct of the Enlightenment, copyright is a rather recent term.
I see Borges as a Renaissance man: In an ideal world, anyone should be able to quote him without even requesting permission. I feel the same way about my own work: Created by Grove Atlantic and Electric Literature. Article continues after advertisement. Ilan Stavans and William P. The Novel and the World is out now from Norton. The University of Toronto Press will publish his first book, Transnational Cervantes, later this year.
Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote – Wikipedia
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