"Borges and I"
by Jorge Luis Borges
(as published in "Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings" in 1964)
The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson; he shares these preferences, but in a vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instant of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things.
Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is true that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.
I do not know which of us has written this page.
Tuesday, August 19, 2014
Thursday, April 03, 2014
...an excerpt from...
by David Markson
There are no painting materials in this house.
Actually there was one canvas on a wall, when I came. Directly above and to the side of where this typewriter is, in fact.
A painting of this very house, although it took me some days to recognize that.
Not because it was not a satisfactory representation, but because I had not happened to look at the house from that perspective, as yet.
I had already removed the painting into another room by the time I did so.
Still, I believed it was a painting of this house.
After I had concluded that it was, or that it appeared to be, I did not go back into the room to verify my conclusion
There are no paintings in the closed rooms. Or at least not in the three closed rooms that are downstairs.
Though I have just replaced the painting of the house.
Which I now cannot be positive is a painting of this house, or of a house that is simply very much like this house.
Now the painting does appear to be of this house.
As a matter of fact there also appears to be somebody at the very window, upstairs, from which I watch the sunset.
I had not noticed her at all, before this.
If it is a she. The brushwork is fairly abstract, at that point, so that there is little more than a hint of anybody, really.
Still, it is interesting to speculate suddenly about just who might be lurking at my bedroom window while I am typing down here right below.
Well, and on the wall just above and to the side of me, at the same time.
All of this being merely in a manner of speaking, of course.
Although I have just also closed my eyes, and so could additionally say that for the moment the person was not only both upstairs and on the wall, but in my head, as well.
Were I to walk outside to where I can see the window, and do the same thing all over again, the arrangement could become much more complicated than that.
For that matter I have only now noticed something else in the painting.
The door that I generally use, coming and going from the front deck, is open.
Not two minutes ago, I happen to have closed that same door.
Obviously no action of my own, such as that, changes anything in the painting.
Nonetheless I have again just closed my eyes, trying to see if I could imagine the painting with the door to the deck closed.
I was not able to close the door to the deck in the version of the painting in my head.
Had I any pigments, I could paint it closed on the painting itself, should this begin to trouble me seriously.
There are no painting materials in this house.
Unquestionably there would have had to be all sorts of such materials here at one time, however.
Well, with the exception of those that she carried to the dunes, where else would the painter have deposited them?
Now I have made the painter a she, also. Doubtless because of my continued sense of it being a she at the window.
But in either case one may still assume that there must be additional painting materials inside the house in the painting, even if one cannot see any of them in the painting itself.
As a matter of fact it is no less possible that there are additional people inside the house as well, above and beyond the woman at my window.
Then again, very likely the others could be at the beach, since it is late on a summer afternoon in the canvas, although no later than four o'clock.
So that next one is forced to wonder why the woman at the window did not go to the beach herself, for that matter.
Although on second thought I have decided that the woman may well be a child.
So that perhaps she had been made to remain at home as a punishment, after having misbehaved.
Or perhaps she was even ill.
Possibly there is nobody at the window in the canvas.
Although I have now made a categorical decision that the painting is not a painting of this house.
Assuredly, it is a painting of the other house, farther down the beach, which burned.
To tell the truth I cannot call that other house to mind at all, any longer.
Although perhaps that house and this house were identical. Or quite similar, at any rate.
Houses along the beach are often that way, being constructed by people with basically similar tastes.
Though as a matter of fact I cannot be absolutely certain that the painting is on the wall beside me any longer itself, since I am no longer looking at it.
Quite possibly I put it back into the room with the atlas and the life of Brahms. I have a distinct suspicion that it had entered my mind to do that.
The painting is on the wall.
And at least we have verified that it was not the life of Brahms that I set fire to the pages from also, out on the beach.
Unless as I have suggested somebody in this house had owned two lives of Brahms, both printed on cheap paper and both ruined by dampness.
Or two people had owned them, which is perhaps more likely.
Perhaps two people who were not particularly friendly with each other, in fact. Though both of whom were interested in Brahms.
Perhaps one of those was the painter. Well, and the other the person in the window, why not?
Perhaps the painter, being a landscape painter, did not wish to paint the other person at all, actually. But perhaps the other person insisted upon looking out of the window while the painter was at work.
Very possibly this could have been what made them angry with each other to begin with.
If the painter had closed her eyes, or had simply refused to look, would the other person have still been at the window?
One might as well ask if the house itself would have been there.
And why have I troubled to close my own eyes again?
I am still feeling the typewriter, naturally. And hearing the keys.
Also I can feel the seat of this chair, through my undergarments.
Doing this out at the dunes, the painter would have felt the breeze. And a sense of the sunshine.
Well, and she would have heard the surf.
Yesterday, when I was hearing Kirsten Flagstad singing The Alto Rhapsody, what exactly was I hearing?
Winters, when the snow covers everything, leaving only that strange calligraphy of the spines of the trees, it is a little like closing one's eyes.
Certainly reality is altered.
One morning you awaken, and all color has ceased to exist.
Everything that one is able to see, then, is like that nine-foot canvas of mine, with its opaque four white coats of plaster and glue.
I have said that.
Still, it is almost as if one might paint the entire world, and in any manner one wished.
Letting one's brushing become abstract at a window, or not.
There is nobody at the window in the painting of the house, by the way.
I have now concluded that what I believed to be a person is a shadow.
If it is not a shadow, it is perhaps a curtain.
As a matter of fact it could actually be nothing more than an attempt to imply depths, within the room.
Although in a manner of speaking all that is really in the window is burnt sienna pigment. And some yellow ochre.
In fact there is now window either, in that same manner of speaking, but only shape.
So that any few speculations I have made about the person at the window would therefore now appear to be rendered meaningless, obviously.
Unless of course I subsequently become convinced that there is somebody at the window all over again.
I have put that badly.
What I intended to say was that I may possibly become newly convinced that there is somebody at the window, hardly that somebody who had been at the window has gone away but might come back.
In either case it remains a fact that no altered perception of my own, such as this one, changes anything in the painting.
So that perhaps my earlier speculations remain valid after all.
I have very little idea what I mean by that.
One can scarcely speculate about a person when there is no person to speculate about.
Yet there is no way of denying that one did make such speculations.
Two days ago, when I was hearing Kathleen Ferrier, what exactly was I hearing?
Yesterday, when I was speculating about a person at the window in the painting, what exactly was I speculating about?
I have just put the painting back into the room with the atlas and the life of Brahms.
As a matter of fact I have now also had another night's sleep.
I mention that, this time, only because in a manner of speaking one could now say that it has this quickly become the day after tomorrow.
Certain questions would still continue to appear unanswerable, however.
Such as, for instance, if I have concluded that there is nothing in the painting except for shapes, am I also concluding that there is nothing on these pages except letters of the alphabet?
If one understood only the Greek alphabet, what would be on these pages?