The text as performance

16 09 2010

Jorge Luis Borges, in his short essay, Del culto de los libros , writes that a watershed moment in the history of human thought occured when St. Augustine found that St. Ambrose could read a text without moving his lips or reading aloud. Being a man of the world, one could only assume that St. Augustine found this to be an unusual skill. But to be mentioned in St. Augustine’s Confessions, it has to be more significant than just a cheap parlor trick. Borges explains:

Aquel hombre pasaba directamente del signo de escritura a la intuición, omitiendo el signo sonoro; el extraño arte que iniciaba, el arte de leer en voz baja, conduciría a consecuencias maravillosas. Conduciría, cumplidos muchos años, al concepto del libro como fin, no como instrumento de un fin.

(That man passed directly from the written sign to the intuition, omitting the audible sign; the strange art that it initiated, the art of reading to oneself, would lead to marvelous consequences. It would lead, after many years, to the concept of the book as an end, and not a means to an end.)
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On infinity

16 03 2010

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I just wrote “infinite”. I have not interpolated this adjective out of mere rhetorical habit; I say that it is not illogical to think that the world is infinite. Those who judge it as limited, postulate that in remote places the hallways and the ladders and the hexagons can inconceivably end – which is absurd. Those who imagine them without limits, forget that they have the possible number of books. I dare to insinuate this solution to the ancient problem: The library is unlimited and periodic. If an eternal traveler were to cross it in any direction, he would prove after many centuries that the volumes repeat themselves in the same disorder (that, repeated, would be order: Order itself). My solitude rejoices in that elegant hope.

-Jorge Luis Borges, “La biblioteca de Babel”, my translation





Himno

18 11 2009

klimt001

Esta mañana
Hay en el aire la increíble fragancia de las rosas del paraíso.
En la margen del Éufrates
Adán descubre la frescura del agua.
Una lluvia de oro cae del cielo;
Es el amor de Zeus.
Salta del mar un pez
Y un hombre de Agrigento recordará
Haber sido ese pez.
En la caverna cuyo nombre será Altamira
Una mano sin cara traza la curva
De un lomo de bisonte.
La lenta mano de Virgilio acaricia
la seda que trajeron
del reino del Emperador Amarillo
las caravanas y las naves.
El primer ruiseñor canta en Hungría.
Jesús ve en la moneda el perfil de Cesar.
Pitágoras revela a sus griegos
Que la forma del tiempo es la del círculo.
En una isla del Océano
Los lebreles de plata persiguen a los ciervos de oro.
En un yunque forjan la espada
Que será fiel a Sigurd.
Whitman canta en Manhattan.
Homero nace en siete ciudades.
Una doncella acaba de apresar
Al unicornio blanco
Todo el pasado vuelve como una ola
Y esas antiguas cosas recurren
Porque una mujer te ha besado.

-Jorge Luis Borges, del libro La Cifra
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The history of night

9 09 2009

Obelisco_Argentina2006

Historia de la noche

A lo largo de sus generaciones
los hombres erigieron la noche.
En el principio era ceguera y sueño
y espinas que laceran el pie desnudo
y temor de los lobos.
Nunca sabremos quién forjó la palabra
para el intervalo de sombra
que divide los dos crepúsculos;
nunca sabremos en qué siglo fue cifra
del espacio de estrellas.
Otros engendraron el mito.
La hicieron madre de las Parcas tranquilas
que tejen el destino
y le sacrificaban ovejas negras
y el gallo que presagia su fin.
Doce casas le dieron los caldeos;
infinitos mundos, el Pórtico.
Hexámetros latinos la modelaron
y el terror de Pascal.
Luis de León vio en ella la patria
de su alma estremecida.
Ahora la sentimos inagotable
como un antiguo vino
y nadie puede contemplarla sin vértigo
y el tiempo la ha cargado de eternidad.

Y pensar que no existiría
sin esos tenues instrumentos, los ojos.

-Jorge Luis Borges, found on this site

Throughout the course of the generations
men constructed the night.
At first she was blindness;
thorns raking bare feet,
fear of wolves.
We shall never know who forged the word
for the interval of shadow
dividing the two twilights;
we shall never know in what age it came to mean
the starry hours.
Others created the myth.
They made her the mother of the unruffled Fates
that spin our destiny,
they sacrificed black ewes to her, and the cock
who crows his own death.
The Chaldeans assigned to her twelve houses;
to Zeno, infinite words.
She took shape from Latin hexameters
and the terror of Pascal.
Luis de Leon saw in her the homeland
of his stricken soul.
Now we feel her to be inexhuastible
like an ancient wine
and no one can gaze on her without vertigo
and time has charged her with eternity.

And to think that she wouldn’t exist
except for those fragile instruments, the eyes.