That Package from La Biblioteca Nacional Mariano MorenoSaturday, August 20, 2016
|Roberto Baschetti with Lola. He is a fan of Club Atlético Boca Juniors fotball club|
Anybody who may read some of my blogs must know that I am obsessed with some stuff and in particular with Argentine writer Jorge Luís Borges.
In this 21st century the literary output of the 20th is receding into memory and what remains is that which we have not forgotten. This is something that Borges often said.
Borges had a penchant for certain rituals. One of them was to write prologues for his books. When these books were reprinted he would write a new prologue that would be followed by the old one. One of my favourite of his books is called Prólogos con un prólogo de prólogos (or Prologues with a prologue of prologues.
I smiled when yesterday in the fiction section of Indigo on Granville and Broadway I noticed Borges’s Labyrinths in an English translation (2007) with a prologue by William Gibson.
And of course amongst the obsession that Borges had for cats, tigers, mirrors there were those labyrinths and that wheel of time that is in all respects relativistic.
Einstein had a sense of humour and Borges seriously pursued humour in his own special way. He would appreciate my present situation with a smile.
When Juan Domingo Perón came into power Borges who was quite vocal in his opposition to dictators lost a job as a librarian in in a minor public library in Buenos Aires and was given the job of inspecting chickens and rabbits in markets. As soon as Perón fell in 1955 Borges was given the job of heading the Argentine National Library. Only today I found out that its official name is Biblioteca Nacional Mariano Moreno.
My friend Roberto Baschetti who works at the National Library is a neo-Peronist. He smiles a lot and has an obsession of putting into his web page the name and biographies of all the persons who were disappeared during the military regimes that followed President Arturo Illía deposition in 1965 (I was an unwilling participant in that coup as a conscript of the Argentine Navy).
For obvious reasons Baschetti would not see Borges too kindly but he does appreciate the man’s writing skills and has made it a point to send me every six weeks (or so) a yellow package with stuff about Borges.
That both Borges and Baschetti worked or work at the National Library I find most interesting. In William Gibson’s prologue, Gibson mentions sitting down to chat with writer Alberto Manguel in Barcelona (circa 2006) and mentions that Manguel is the only person Gibson ever met who had personally known Borges. Now Manguel is the new head of that National Library. One of his first actions in that position was to organize an exposition on Borges (I believe it was in July). And if you didn’t know I met Manguel in Vancouver, took his portrait and reviewed one of his books for the Vancouver Sun.
Borges would smile at all that but particularly at that dogged delivery of books and pamphlets about him from Buenos Aires to Vancouver.
The principal content of the latest package is the thickish Borges el mismo, otro (the title of the Biblioteca Nacional show about Borges). In it, for me the jewel is the reproduction of his handwritten manuscripts including one from one of my favourite of his stories Emma Zunz (particularly original in that is it only one of two stories that he ever wrote that featured female protagonists).
The arrival of the package for me is magic and delight. I can imagine Baschetti sealing the package very carefully and then with his neat handwriting (prolijo is an often used Argentine word for neat) addressing it to me.
At this present rate I will soon be a Borges scholar of sorts. And that I live in Kitsilano makes it all that much more remarkable. I am a happy stranger in a strange land.