A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.




 

El Hacedor
Wednesday, October 02, 2013





I took several copies (CDs) of Jorge Luis Borges’s 1967-1968 Norton Lectures on Poetry which he extemporaneously (he was almost blind by then and could not write or read notes) said in Harvard.

Just about any Argentine I know (including many members of my Argentine family) will tell you that Borges spoke almost perfect English, and not only that but also Old English. When I asked these folks if they had ever heard Borges speak in English I received no affirmative answers. And strangest of all, I only found two friends who were willing to receive my present. One of them was Roberto Baschetti, who works at the Biblioteca Nacional and took the DVD’s as my donation to the library of which Borges was its director from 1955 for 18 years (he resigned when Perón returned in 1973). The other was my very Argentine first cousin Jorge Wenceslao de Irureta Goyena.

I would perhaps guess that few, except the very old (like me) have ever read Borges in any language. This is a pity. Today I re-read for the umpteenth time his 1960 El Hacedor which has short stories, none longer that two pages, and essays and poems of the same length.

In this blog, I place one of the stories, the very Gothic El Simulacro about a strange man who goes to the Chaco Province at the time of Eva Perón’s death, July 1952 and presides over a wake in which he places a little coffin, a blonde doll inside, on a table. He charges entry and makes those who willingly pay think that he just might be the famous widower.

The story is not very favourable to the Peróns and Borges had a very good reason to dislike them. When Perón rose to power in and was elected President in 1946 Borges was critical. Of them, the Peronists, Borges said something quite delectable: 

“They are neither bad nor good, they are incorrigible.” 

At the time Borges was working at the Miguel Cané Library but he resigned his post when Perón and company, taking a cue (well before the Prague Spring in 1968 when Alexander Dubček after the fall of his country to Soviet armed forces was given the job in Slovakia’s Forestry Service) was promoted to a post as inspector of poultry and rabbits at the Buenos Aires municipal market. At a dinner of the Argentine Society of Writers a speech written by Borges was read. In it was this caustic opinion on Perón and his Peronists:

"Dictatorships breed oppression, dictatorships breed servility, dictatorships breed cruelty; more loathsome still is the fact that they breed idiocy. Bellboys babbling orders, portraits of caudillos, prearranged cheers or insults, walls covered with names, unanimous ceremonies, mere discipline usurping the place of clear thinking... Fighting these sad monotonies is one of the duties of a writer. Need I remind readers of Martín Fierro or Don Segundo that individualism is an old Argentine virtue."

What is curious to me is that  the then (and even now) not-too-well-known English writer, Olaf Stapledon wrote a fantastic science fiction story in 1937, The Star Maker in which a man sits under a tree during a starry night and as he thinks and dreams his mind soars into outer space and beyond. That book was translated into Spanish in 1965 (I purchased a first edition in Buenos Aires at the time, alas lost in time) which contained a prologue written by Borges. The book’s title was El Hacedor de Estrellas. Hacedor is a beautiful word in Spanish that is rarely used.  And yet there is this book by Borges, published in 1960 with that evocative title, El Hacedor! 

I attempted to look for an English translation of Borges's prologue to Stapledon's Star Maker but only found this: 








A Dog, A Turtle & Robert E. Lee's Horse












     

Previous Posts
On Fading Friendship

Argentine Diarrhea - Lost In Translation

Alfonsina Storni

Facts & Circumstances

Hechos Y Circunstancias

Twelve Years & 11289.5 Kilometres Later

Homero Simpson Dijo Una Vez...

Mr Kwan's Fee

Post Mortem - Skulls & Skeletons

A Photographer Photographs



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8/7/16 - 8/14/16

8/14/16 - 8/21/16

8/21/16 - 8/28/16

8/28/16 - 9/4/16

9/4/16 - 9/11/16

9/11/16 - 9/18/16

9/18/16 - 9/25/16

9/25/16 - 10/2/16

10/2/16 - 10/9/16

10/9/16 - 10/16/16

10/16/16 - 10/23/16

10/23/16 - 10/30/16

10/30/16 - 11/6/16

11/6/16 - 11/13/16

11/13/16 - 11/20/16

11/20/16 - 11/27/16

11/27/16 - 12/4/16

12/4/16 - 12/11/16

12/11/16 - 12/18/16

12/18/16 - 12/25/16

12/25/16 - 1/1/17

1/1/17 - 1/8/17

1/8/17 - 1/15/17

1/15/17 - 1/22/17

1/22/17 - 1/29/17

1/29/17 - 2/5/17

2/5/17 - 2/12/17

2/12/17 - 2/19/17

2/19/17 - 2/26/17

2/26/17 - 3/5/17

3/5/17 - 3/12/17