Saturday, April 15, 2006

Borges and I

I am a big fan of Borges' speculative and experimental fiction. Stories like "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius," "The Garden of Forking Paths," "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," "The Library of Babel" are what I cut my teeth on, back in college days Comp Lit courses. And his essay-parable about writing: "Borges and I" is just the tops. But I often forget that Borges was also a wonderful poet. For this reason I am thankful for the fantastic translation of one of his poems in the recent issue of Poetry:

That One

O days consecrated to the useless
office of forgetting the biography
of a lesser poet from the hemisphere
below, to whom the shades or the stars
bequeathed a body that leaves behind no son
and blindness, penumbra and prison,
and old age, aurora of death,
and fame, which nobody deserves,
and the habit of devising hendecasyllabics
and an old love of encylopedias
and of fine calligraphic maps
and of fragile ivory and the incurable
nostalgia for Latin and fragmentary
memories of Edinburgh and Geneva
and the oblivion of dates and of names
and the cult of the Orient, which the peoples
of the miscellaneous Orient do not share,
and vigils glimmering with expectation,
and the abuse of etymology
and the iron of Saxon syllables
and the moon, which always surprises us,
and that bad habit, Buenos Aires,
and the flavor of grapes and of water
and of cocoa, confection of Mexico,
and a few coins and a clock made of sand
and who, one afternoon, like so many others,
resigns himself to these verses.

translated from the Spanish by Srikanth Reddy



Sam of the ten thousand things said...

Borges is a favorite of mine as well. Dreamtigers is one of the three or four best poetry collections I've ever read. It has such a great blend of the lyric and prose poem.

Diana Marie Delgado said...

Srikanth Reddy's first book "Facts for Visitors" is a must-have. It's published by the University of California Press. I'm not surprised he did such a lovely translation.

Robert said...

I love Borges too, but I hate this time of month every month where I have to listen to people talk for a couple weeks about items of interest in the latest Poetry while I wait to get my copy in the mail. What's Poetry's problem? Don't they have enough money? Why are subscribers the last to get a copy? Shouldn't we be the first?

Peter said...

Robert: that's weird (and not fun); but I am a subscriber, and my issue came a couple weeks ago. Maybe they have a bad address for you? I'd call 'em on it.

Diane K. Martin said...

No, mine comes late as well. Maybe it's the local SF post office.

As for Borges, I too think of him as a fiction writer. But my son just gave me a lovely new bilingual edition of his poetry, put out by Penguin Classics.