Tuesday, June 16, 2020
This blog is a tough one as ideas have been in my head digesting themselves for months and weeks. As I attempt to meet the challenge of considering my protracted reading of Julio Cortázar’s 1963 novel Rayuela (perhaps I will tackle James Joyce’s Ulysses, next) I have been comparing and contrasting in my mind the benefits and the losses of living in either a third world republic (my native Argentina) or a first world one like my, now Canada.
There is a word/expression that I abhor that is ever present in social media, “I am blessed to…” I prefer the expression, “I fell lucky to live in Vancouver, Canada.”
But there is stuff that indeed is better in my native Argentina. Consider that their National Library, Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno, publishes books and magazines. Many of their books are in my collection as a friend of mine, Roberto Baschetti worked there until recently. He would send me packages in Manila envelopes with real stamps that included many treasures (mostly about my fave Jorge Luís Borges). On real treasure is called “Manuscritos lterarios agentinos — Escenas de escritura.
As an explanation before I continue, the titles of books, particulary in Argentina only capitalize the first Word. Nationalities like argentines, mexicanos, canadienses are never capitalized.
This lovely book is full of first page manuscripts with handwritten corrections. There is one that is not a manuscript but an explanation by Julio Cortázar about Rayuela (Hopscotch) that I will translate here:
“On the correction of what is written, I believe that with years gone by, this changes; as a young man I would write in a full swoop and then I would work on the text that was already cold, but I now take longer to write, I leave things to get ready and organize themselves in that area between a dream and a vigil where the deepest pulses beat, and that is why I correct less upon re-reading. Some critic will reproach me for a dryness that at one time I did not have; perhaps readers might prefer something that is jucier, but at the end of the path I like a haiku more than a sonnet, and a sonnet more than an ode, perhaps because such routine and enthusiasm about the Latin-American baroque has finished in convincing me in that horror that all those elaborate scrolls that I already denounced in Rayuela (where there is no lack of those elaborated scrolls, let us say that before you think it).”
(Julio Cortázar, Cortázar de la A a la Z, Buenos Aires, Alfaguara, 204)
I have a book in which the Ex Libris designed my many Argentine writers are listed. Another has a complete index on anything and everything Borges wrote or others wrote referencing him. And yet another lists all the books he bought in other languages at Mitchell’s and Pigmalion bookstores in Buenos Aires.
Consider that I have been able to get a free on-line subscription to the venerable Madrid daily, El País. My reasoning is that now I am able to read the weekly column by Peruvian novelist Mario Vargas Llosa. He has just written a lovely refutation at the US attempt to censor Gone With the Wind.
Some reading this might think how I can read the fine novelist as his politics are on the right?
In the 60s Vargas Llosa was working as a translator in a conference. The other translator was Julio Cortázar (by the way he translated most of Edgar Allan Poe into Spanish). Cortázar was more than 20 years his senior. They became friends. In later years Llosa drifted to the right and Cortázar became a darling of the radical left and a God in Cuba. And yet when Vargas Llosa learned of Cortázar’s death in 1984, Vargas Llosa wrote one of the most beautiful obituaries I have ever read. La trompeta de Deyá became the prologue to a later edition, a three volume set of all the short stories by Cortázar. That prologue is available in Spanish at El País or on the net.
La trompeta de Deyá in Spanish
What is the meaning of all this?
I am lucky (not blessed) to be the friend of two Vancouver Poet Laureates, Brad Cran and George McWhirter. And, a big and, I have long chats on the phone and in person with Canada’s first Poet Laureate, the Great Contrarian, George Bowering.
Yes I am lucky and I can still chat with the few writers that are left at the Vancouver Sun and the Georgia Straight. I feel that I am part of my Vancouver, of my Canada. But, there are no columns or essays by our magnificent Canadian writers (Susan Musgrave! and many others) anywhere in any local papers or the national ones.
Would anyone here want to get a glimpse of the first page manuscripts of Margaret Atwood?
I can truly say that I am lucky to have been born an Argentine and that I am able to read Spanish. And in this case I can also truly say, sometimes am not blessed to be a Canadian.
What does the National Library in Ottawa do?