Sunday, May 5, 2013

on Borges, the Editor

First published as "on Borges" on L(a/e)nguage / L(e/a)nguage on 2.28.2008

When Borges revised his poetry in 1963,* he rid it of most Christian references. Perhaps he did it because he lost faith in salvation; he did, after all, live through two world wars, and kept his eyes open just long enough to see the mushroom spore rob the bodies of the shadows. I ask, however, whether his hope for humanity instead transcended to seeking a religiosity in the laberynthic puzzle between words and man? Didn't Borges himself teach us that there could be another Quixote just like the first one? For what reason could he have the urge to change his poetic work, if not to commit sin, or in the very least to be perverse?

I say nay to those who believe that Borges was in search of poetic perfection. Perhaps other poets have been guilty of that narcissism, but not Borges.

Borges came to understand that the Word was more than a cultish movement and he repented and renounced his former prayers. With time, he understood that in literature much like in dream and in life there was a delicate balance of three elements: word, reader, writer. He casted the writer as an historian who likes to remember and the reader as a magician who likes to play detective, the word as the pivot. Yet, at the same time, Borges writes there is no difference between his former self and the one who makes the revisions. He merely says, We are the same person; failure and success are unknown to both of us, as well as the literary schools and their dogmas; we are both avid fans of Schopenhauer, of Stevenson, and of Whitman. And, taking an air of Pierre Menard, he adds, I have not rewritten the book. Well, of course not!

What intrigues me about Borges is that he chose to pervert the body of his poetry; he didn't for example, rewrite Ficciones. Borges choses the poem garden where he wrote about roses of all things, the (dead)metaphor of poetry, to be the ground where he would begin his excavation. And when Borges was done, he found that essentially nothing changed—whatever 'essentially' might mean. The question then becomes: was the surgical removal of God from the body of his poetry a staged act? Perhaps, Borges meant for the readers to understand that there was something else missing, something to which in his very poems to and about "the rose" was being alluded, mainly that he didn't sing the rose, that the body which he originally presented to us as poetry was indeed a dummy, a fake, a simulacrum, a ghost, or however you want to read it. That his revision in 1963 couldn't have been a cloning, because the body itself didn't exist.

Perhaps, I can lose myself in questions and badly play the part of the detective that Borges saw in all of us to prematurely conclude that Borges' main perversion—essentially— consisted in fucking with our heads. In removing not only God, but body from the highest aesthetic representation of the Word, and letting us have the ephemeral sensation that we could see.

* Since it's first publication, a wise young poet pointed out to the author of this essay that the date was incorrect. That Borges actually made the corrections a little earlier. The author of the essay didn't care to change the date, however, because he had found a receipt book from the publishers of a first printing of the corrections made by Borges dating to 1963. A receipt book that also included a tab for an issue of volume XXVI of The Anglo-American Cyclopedia which according to the checkbook was exactly 921 pages long.

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