Double Borges (Books Acquired, 9.13.2013)



I was lucky enough this past Friday the 13th to pick up two Borges volumes, lovely twins with tactile covers, running over 500 pages each—they swallow a lot of Borges books I already own (although curiously leave out entire collections). I found a heartfelt note from mother to son in one the nonfiction collection, where she explains the difficulty she had with the book. I have my own Borges anxieties. Two from the collections: first, from the fiction and then the start of a list from the nonfiction.



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Personal response: Ghosts of Spain by Giles Tremlett

Ghosts of Spain

A few weeks ago, after reading the first three chapters of Giles Tremlett’s exploration of the effects of the Civil War on modern Spain, I was compelled to write down the following in response:

the pact

in this city sirens blare
streets fill with people
voices loud
footsteps boisterous
on unmarked concrete pavements
this is silence
where wounds fester
just as pencilled out notes
cause paper to fall apart
i see within countless pages
countless gaps
and buried beneath textbooks
endless decay
skeleton remains
our glorious inheritance

I don’t know why, but this book struck a chord with me… and perhaps my recent trip to Barcelona has given me a new perspective post-reading. With so little knowledge of Spain and its various cultures, I am not able to make criticisms. Though the book must have its flaws, I’m in no position to identify them. It’s such a wonderfully accessible, absorbing and insightful journey through Spain’s past, present and, in some ways, the country’s future. I’m so glad I bought it.

Currently reading: Platero y yo by Juan Ramón Jiménez

Platero y yo

I bought Platero y yo on a whim after picking it up whilst browsing the Spanish literature section in a bookshop in Costa Rica – this thin paperback with its unassuming book cover.

Perhaps my impulsive purchase did have something to do with the fact that I had previously been told by our librarian that this slim volume of lyric prose would be too challenging, too difficult a read, especially in Spanish. I was resentful. And pretty damn arrogant I’ll admit, because it is too difficult.

La noche cae, brumosa ya y morada. Vagas claridades malvas y verdes perduran tras la torre de la iglesia. El camino sube, lleno de sombras, de campanillas, de fragancia, de yerba, de canciones, de cansancio y de anhelo. De pronto, un hombre oscuro, con una gorra y un pincho, roja un instante la cara fea por la luz del cigarro, baja a nosotros de una casucha miserable, perdida entre sacas de carbón. Platero se amedrenta.

Extract from Chapter IV

Yet, at the same time, it’s gorgeous and lyrical and surreal. Each chapter almost reads like a separate poem. You drift from one little snapshot in their life to the next and the loose, vivid, fragmented images make it all the more intense . The rhythm of the lines is hypnotic, heightening contrast where it exists, producing subtle, lingering moments when the pace slows.  

I’m making imperceptible progress. Sometimes I find myself reading simply for the sound, forgetting to process the words themselves. I get so caught up in the idea of the Spanish that I lose my understanding of the language. Or maybe the understanding was never there to begin with.

But the dictionary’s out, and once I’ve started something, I don’t like to stop. Besides, this must be doing wonders for my vocabulary. I’ve never read lyric prose before and I think I’m on my way to enjoying it, if not a little overwhelmed.