El Sueño - El Despertar - Part IITuesday, April 19, 2011
There is a paradox of sorts involved in my feeling of nostalgia. To begin with I learned late in life what must seem obvious to most and this is that to feel nostalgia for a place you cannot be in that place at the time. Thus some 10 years ago I made friends with Nora Patrich and her husband Juan Manuel Sanchez. Both were Argentine born painters and we shared nostalgia for a Buenos Aires and an Argentina that was nostalgically rosy in colour. We worked on a show and I have marveled at the many photographs I took.
Some of these appeared in yesterday’s blog. I remember that we worked in Nora’a living room and she put several of her paintings and of Juan’s on the wall and we played with the idea of Borgesian labyrinths. It was yesterday that I caught on that Borges had written extensively on dreams and that the pictures could be used to illustrate some of his poems and essays on the subject.
Last night I got into bed and did not read Cleopatra – A Life by Stacy Schiff but read instead (once again) several of Borges’ poems. As I read them I came to understand that nostalgia is a two-edged sword.
When Nora and Juan were in Vancouver (they are divorced but living now in Buenos Aires) I felt nostalgia for Buenos Aires while knowing that I belonged here in Vancouver. Nora and Juan would often complain and contrast Vancouver (at a disadvantage) with Buenos Aires. I was Vancouver’s apologist.
With them gone and with this new feeling of nostalgia I now feel that don’t belong here. I find reading about local politics in my Vancouver Sun boring. I have no interest. I don’t care if the city builds the largest casino north of Las Vegas. I could care less if they tear down the Georgia Viaduct. I am an alien in my city.
Somehow I feel alienated in my city and almost alienated in my country (I am a Canadian citizen). I know at the same time that I could not live without the efficiency of our country, its almost unwavering 110 volts at 60 cycles. I know that I could not live without our excellent health care system. I know that I can trust (not too sure these days) most politicians and most of the police. I am not afraid of traffic cops as I would be if I were driving in Mexico City. I know that our inflation is nothing like the one of my place of birth, Argentina. And I know that Vancouver is home to one of my daughter's, her husband and my two granddaughters. I should feel concern for the city they will inherit.
But when I get into bed and read Borges, my heart aches for the patios, the veredas, the barrios and the streets of his poems. I thrill at his accounts of knife fights. I thrill at his constant preoccupation with mirrors that reflected his father’s face for the last time and are now repeating the images of many others, without fail. I long for the words el sur (the south).
This dislocation, I am a penguin in the Arctic, is one that I think might be lessened if I were to find some Argentines to share my language and my nostalgia with. Or perhaps I might visit Buenos Aires and miss the rain and the mountains and Canadian efficiency. Would I read about the Canucks (I don’t here and now)? I wonder.
Jorge Luís Borges
Si el sueño fuera (como dicen) una
Tregua, un puro reposo de la mente,
¿Por qué, si te despiertan bruscamente,
Sientes que te han robado una fortuna?
¿Por qué es tan triste madrugar? La hora
Nos despoja de un don inconcebible,
Tan íntimo que sólo es traducible
En un sopor que la vigilia dora
De sueños, que bien pueden ser reflejos
Truncos de los tesoros de la sombra,
De un orbe intemporal que no se nombra
Y que el día deforma en sus espejos.
¿Quién serás esta noche en el oscuro
Sueño, del otro lado de su muro?