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Borges' birthday

After writing "There are more things", JLB himself wrote a short game called El rastro del rastro. The game is played by two correspondents, each of which is a seeker after a different terrible truth. Each must name this truth with some kind of nonsense word (typically something backwards such as Egnaro or Drawoh) but never describe it. The players exchange letters in which they reveal a piece of the puzzle at each stage, not in a linear fashion but in revealing that what the other person last wrote was somehow ncomplete, wrong, untrustworthy or falsehood. For example, the story of a Dutch cartographer can be shown to be the invention of Russian nationalists seeking to discredit the Dutch position in India. It is important that each letter contain many references, most of which should be true but some of which should be invented. JLB wrote one such letter to HPL but the latter, having been dead for 38 years, he received no answer.

My only personal experience of the game was ten years ago when I was engaged in an exchange of letters with the local Inland Revenue office regarding my tax code. Over the series of letters it became apparent to me that there was a particular turn of phrase which I should have to use for the IR to give me the appropriate code. In return the IR made vague allegations about my activities in France and later as a short order cook in the UK but it was not clear to me the nature of the response they expected and I didn't want to show my hand too soon. Unfortunately I no longer have the correspondence, it having fallen from an attic window, however I do retain a not too unpleasant memory of this



( 5 comments — Leave a comment )
Aug. 24th, 2011 04:10 pm (UTC)
Like. +1. Etc.
Aug. 25th, 2011 08:30 am (UTC)
plus another one!
Aug. 24th, 2011 05:42 pm (UTC)
Aug. 24th, 2011 08:31 pm (UTC)
Actually, that's not entirely correct. Borges didn't invent the game out of whole cloth; he says in the introduction to Metaficciones that he "borrowed the conceit from a chapter in a Buenos Aires edition of Potocki's novel The Saragossa Manuscript that I have not seen in any other edition since." He goes on kind of a Borgesian tear about the origin of an unoriginal story, but the bottom line is there were a lot of weird pirated editions of Potocki in the 19th century, and not all the editors were shy about adding extra stuff, although it was usually anti-clerical porn instead of weird meta-game stuff.

Also, in his biography of Borges, Bioy Cesares claims it was he and not Borges who wrote the letter to HPL (although he used Borges' stationery to do it), but he also claims that he got a letter back from "Providence, U.S.A." that he threw into the fire unread, so you pays your money and you takes your chances.
Aug. 24th, 2011 09:53 pm (UTC)
Adolfo Bioy Casares, I think you mean. His biography of Borges of course was only published posthumously and never in English. So I think you must have misread some of the nuances (although you did well to get that far). Bioy Casares was not recounting fact in this section but rather it was an allegory of Borges' contribution to Bioy's own fictional works, and as such as response to Williamson's reading of Borges oeuvre as constituting his autobiography (in his Borges: a life authorised by Borges' widow Kodama).

You may have a point with Potocki. My own copy of the manuscript, which I picked up in Paris the day you got shin splints, is from the 1804 edition but has a whole other scene set in a Parisian black mass, seemingly cribbed from Huysmans. Indeed, I think its purpose may just have been to hide this scurrilous section from the eyes of the Préfet de Police.

But returning to Borges, if we discount Potocki and Bioy Casares, what about Ballard? They met in the early Seventies at a party in London. Borges was blind by then and Ballard teased him by putting on different voices and introducing himself to Borges in several different ways. Eventually the Argentinian could take it no longer and kicked Ballard in the knee, an injury that haunted him in later life. But despite this, the two got on famously, even if Ballard was slightly in awe of Borges. In their discussion of the new fiction, as mentioned by Ballard in a TV interview on Parkinson on BBC1 in 2007(Ballard's daughter produced the show), they talked about cut-ups, Burroughs, Jerry Cornelius and Zeno. Borges said that he wanted to find a way to take the infinite regress beyond, even behind, the page and out into the world. Ballard was more wary of priviliging the reader over the author but Borges teased him and said he couldn't have much luck with women.
( 5 comments — Leave a comment )