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




 

Hypertext Borges & Hopscotching Down the Banister
Sunday, July 10, 2016




Around Christmas 1938 Jorge Luís Borges had an accident while climbing the stairs of a house with a broken elevator. By 1938 Borges’s sight was fading. He did not note a ventilation window that was open and he hit his head. For weeks he suffered a high fever. He was delirious and had horrible visions which he later (according to Alicia Jurado’s biography Genio y Figura de Jorge Luís Borges) included in his story El sur (The South). He convalesced after an operation and he began to write his first stories of fantasy. Jurado does not dare (but still mentions) that there might have been a nexus between the banging of his head and his venture into literature of fantasy. His first story (one of my favourites) once he was well was Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.

From beginning to end, from the middle to the beginning and vice versa Borges has always been a wonderfully problematic labyrinth, an Orson Wellesian hall of mirrors.

Tonight it hit me (a minor but not actual bump of my head) as I navigated from the little Alicia Jurado biography to all the mentions of quotes, stories, poems, etc from a huge pile of Borges books on my bed table.

Jurado cites his El jardin de los senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Bifurcating Paths) and there I am re-reading the story from my Ficciones which I bought in 1969. I remember that I had a small group of male Palmolive executives whom I was teaching English to. They were intelligent and awfully demanding. In the last 15 minutes of our hour classes they would attempt to translate into English my ficciones in Spanish.

In this site you will find a pretty short and easy to understand definition of hypertext. In the 80s the idea of hypertext novel was a novelty, the latest, at the time new sliced bread. Few at the time were aware that in 1963 Julio Cortázar had published Rayuela (Hopscotch) which was a very early hypertext novel that could be read in many ways and that depending on how you read it (whatever order you chose) the ending and the beginning would be in question.

It was around 1950 that Cortázar would visit my father in our Coghlan home. I remember in particular the winter visits as both would sit in our kitchen. The oven of the large black iron gas stove would be on and the kitchen was the only warm room in our very cold house. Enilse (our housekeeper’s sister) would add little drops of water to a Nescafe grounds and she would beat it for long minutes until it became a smooth paste. I think she also added sugar to the mixture. When she slowly added hot water the coffee would have a thick foam on top. It was then that my father and Cortázar would light up. But often Cortázar was out of cigarettes and he would not abide in even puffing one of my father’s Players. So I would be sent to the corner store to buy Arizonas.

It was one of those evenings when I was sliding down the banister that Cortázar came up to me and whispered in my ear that one day, on any day, one that I could not predict, the bannister would become a Gillette blade.

When I read Hopscotch in 1966 in Buenos Aires my memory of Cortázar’s voice haunted every page. I must admit that in that youth of mine I was conservative and I did not venture in reading the novel in any way but the conventional one of reading all the chapters as written.

But now I see myself jumping back from one poem to a story, to a quote, to an idea, back to figuring out where the idea was. The more biographical tidbits I read like the ones that not only did Borges fear mirrors but as a very small boy he was afraid of seeing his reflection in the polished dark mahogany furniture of his parent’s house, the more I jump back to a particular poem (there are many particular) about mirrors.

Borges is obsessed with circular time, with infinite series, with libraries that have all the books ever written and yet to be written but already written as time for Borges is an eternal present in which we all remember only that which we forget.

Perhaps my sanity is not in question as I have nobody with whom to share my present obsession with Borges. Will I ever stop jumping back and forth? Would the sudden change of the bannister that my house does not have but could have in a future present put a finish to my curious version of hypertext?

Or I could again explain my largish Mario Vargas Llosa collection. When I visited him in Lima and interviewed him for Books In Canada I asked him why so many of his novels were difficult to read. In particular I cited Conversación en la catedral where the protagonists have different names or nickname depending who is talking to them. He told me that he had been influenced by Faulkner and particularly by the story The Bear.  He told me that in this way the reader was part of the creation of the novel. The reader had to participate and an effort was shared with the author.

I may add here, if I may be allowed to diverge that my copy of Faulkner's Go Down Moses (which contains The Bear) was given to me by one of my students with whom I read Ficciones back then at Colgate Palmolive.










Wolberg y la guitarra



     

Previous Posts
Lauren Graduates - Lauren Gardens

Femme Avec Livre

That Davenport

El Otro - Un mate de plata con pie de serpientes

Inez Barber O'Reilly de Kuker - First Cousin - God...

Frente al mar - Alfonsina Storni

La Guitarra

The Hands that Talk

Brodie, brodi, brodo

La señora mayor - The Elderly Lady - Borges



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2/7/16 - 2/14/16

2/14/16 - 2/21/16

2/21/16 - 2/28/16

2/28/16 - 3/6/16

3/6/16 - 3/13/16

3/13/16 - 3/20/16

3/20/16 - 3/27/16

3/27/16 - 4/3/16

4/3/16 - 4/10/16

4/10/16 - 4/17/16

4/17/16 - 4/24/16

4/24/16 - 5/1/16

5/1/16 - 5/8/16

5/8/16 - 5/15/16

5/15/16 - 5/22/16

5/22/16 - 5/29/16

5/29/16 - 6/5/16

6/5/16 - 6/12/16

6/12/16 - 6/19/16

6/19/16 - 6/26/16

6/26/16 - 7/3/16

7/3/16 - 7/10/16

7/10/16 - 7/17/16

7/17/16 - 7/24/16

7/24/16 - 7/31/16

7/31/16 - 8/7/16

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