...

sábado, 30 de septiembre de 2017

On liars - Michel de Montaigne

Rating: 
24/09/17

How much less companionable than silence is the language of falsehood.
– St Augustine, City of God, XIX, vii; Montaigne cites Pliny from J. L. Vives’ note.
An unpopular essay
We shall now proceed to discuss the nature of lying. Actually, this is a selfish act; it's a way to remind
myself that I need to read Montaigne’s works more often because his writing is extraordinary, folks. And I wanted to say it again. Besides, I haven’t written a non-review for quite some time.

This essay on liars derives from Quintilian’s notion that a liar should have a good memory. With that idea in mind, Montaigne starts pondering the opposite case – something I can relate to. He explains that his lack of memory is often perceived as ingratitude, since if he forgets about something, it must be because it is unimportant to him.
I certainly do forget things easily but I simply do not treat with indifference any charge laid on me by my friends. Let them be satisfied with my misfortune, without turning it into precisely the kind of malice which is the enemy of my natural humour.

As I mentioned on another review, Montaigne’s prose is clear and often humorous. When he starts explaining the drawbacks and benefits of having a bad memory, examples of the latter are: I remember less any insults received - a fortunate man - and Books and places which I look at again always welcome me with a fresh new smile - I’m lucky too. The author also resorts to historical events to illustrate his points of view, which is another treat for the reader since they are not only informative, but also rather amusing at times, considering the solemnity of his century. Complex philosophical meditations interspersed with anecdotes that show a witty sense of humor. That's gold, Jerry.

The concept of memory is the bridge Montaigne provides to start discussing the main theme. After giving an explanation of the distinction between "to tell an untruth" and "to lie", he focuses on the liar per se: the kind of person either makes up the whole story or else disguises and pollutes some source of truth. According to the author:
Lying is an accursed vice. It is only our words which bind us together and make us human. [...] It seems to me that the only faults which we should vigorously attack as soon as they arise and start to develop are lying and, a little below that, stubbornness. Those faults grow up with the children. Once let the tongue acquire the habit of lying and it is astonishing how impossible it is to make it give it up.

Montaigne doesn't delve deeper into the infamous art of deception so, among other things, the essay omits to mention the vast array of methods we are in possession of. A fib, a lie, disinformation, a noble lie, defamation, half-truth, a white lie. My favorite, the barefaced lie: one knows or sense the truth and - fluctuating between calm and eagerness - contemplates the other person's liking for invention.

Some people say it all depends on the context. Some lies are inevitable, since if we all say what goes through our minds, the world would be even more chaotic. In that sense, certain false statements have a diplomatic nature (I know). However, some pieces of fiction involve other feelings; those are the kinds of lies that are usually unnecessary, like expressing love or friendship when one doesn’t mean it. Montaigne doesn’t refer to those samples of wasted time.
My imagination has given me the most vivid memories that never existed. I have a tendency to long for things which never ever happened. Not trying to find a human being unable to lie might be the first attempt to break the habit.

Montaigne’s wit and wisdom are exceptional. There's one gorgeous line that I must reiterate: It is only our words which bind us together and make us human. Deconstructing that statement might offer an entire new panorama.
In any case, if falsehood is your only language, silence is ambiguous; perpetual absence will suffice.


description


domingo, 23 de julio de 2017

Poems and Prose: A Bilingual Edition - Georg Trakl

Rating: 
15/07/17


Georg Trakl was born in Austria in 1887. He started writing poetry at a very young age, however he later decided to study pharmacy. After that, he enlisted in the army but never stopped writing. During World War I, he worked as a medical official. He witnessed the harrowing consequences of the war (a battle in Grodek inspired one of his last poems). As he found himself surrounded by wounds and death, his depression – which he suffered all his life – worsened and eventually died of an overdose of cocaine at 27.
description

Many of these events and the emotions they prompted appear in his poetry, which is gracefully tinged with the colors of Expressionism.
description

Trakl’s poetry abounds with nostalgic reminiscences, the bleak colors of the evening, the reverberation of silence. But above all, with the images of death. A dark imagery which creates a sad and oppressive atmosphere.

description

His delectable language, which fluctuates between fragility and strength, brims over with allusions to death. It's definitely hard to explain, but despite the beauty of the language, the considerable amount of references to such theme started to get a little tiresome. After reading a bit about his life, I understand. Nonetheless, I felt like I was reading an obituary. A long, bluish lament that after a few pages became somewhat monotonous. It reminded me of my experience while reading Cioran and his overused concept of darkness.
In this sense, I wasn’t able to connect with Trakl’s verse – though I did enjoy his prose, and that explains the 3-star rating:

description

My levels of enthusiasm varied widely, regardless of my penchant for melancholic poetry (but this was beyond melancholic; I couldn't handle the lack of balance). After a while, the sense of expectancy was gone. I already knew that the next page was going to show me another shade of the recurring theme of this collection. Lethal predictability. 


description

sábado, 22 de julio de 2017

The Diary of a Madman - Guy de Maupassant

Rating: 
25/11/15
*Una "reseña" que me olvidé de subir/An old "review" I forgot to post.



25th June. To think that a being is there who lives, who walks, who runs. A being? What is a being? That animated thing, that bears in it the principle of motion and a will ruling that motion. It is attached to nothing, this thing. Its feet do not belong to the ground. It is a grain of life that moves on the earth, and this grain of life, coming I know not whence, one can destroy at one's will. Then nothing—nothing more. It perishes, it is finished.

...

10th August. Who would ever know? Who would ever suspect me, me, me, especially if I should choose a being I had no interest in doing away with?



A dangerous story for a troubled mind.



description

Bobok - Fyodor Dostoyevsky

Rating: 
03/05/14
*Una reseña que me olvidé de subir/An old review I forgot to post.


This review may have a little spoiler.

I love short stories and novellas. It's fascinating how a writer can say so much in a few pages. Bobok is another excellent example of this writer's talent to describe people's virtues and miseries. He wrote major works concerning the human condition, and they all seem to be written yesterday.
Bobok
The wisest of all, in my opinion, is he who can, if only once a month, call himself a fool — a faculty unheard of nowadays. In old days, once a year at any rate a fool would recognize that he was a fool, but nowadays not a bit of it.

Timeless! And kind of funny.

So, this book is about Ivan Ivanovitch, a frustrated writer that went to a funeral of some distant relative. He complained about the cemetery, the smell, green water, the smiles of the dead that haunt his dreams. Well, It's a cemetery... not a place you'd go to have a picnic, I'm guessing.

Then, he sat on a tombstone and started to think about random stuff. Deep reflections about little details, I love that. Suddenly, he began to hear a conversation. He was all alone and he heard a conversation. In the cemetery. ALONE. I'd drop dead and end up under some tombstone in a heartbeat. (The last heartbeat, I guess.)

These dead people were not quite dead. They were aware of everything that surrounded them. They played cards, they discussed among each other, they even shared anecdotes. An active conscience after death is a theme I already saw in The Dream of a Ridiculous Man. It's an interesting yet disturbing theme. However, we can't help to ask ourselves, during several moments of our lives, if death really is the final step or not. Personally, I wish it was. I don't like some people here; I can't imagine what it would be like to be in some cemetery, stuck with annoying people for three or four months and not being able to go away!

Back to the book. Yes, their consciousness was active for about three, even six months until they decomposed. That's why these dead-not-so-dead people decided to spend those months as agreeable as possible. In order to do so, they were determined to cast aside all shame and be brutally honest. Because lying is needed on Earth, but when you're dead, why would you care, right? Anyway, their crazy conversations were a delight to read.

What this short story is trying to tell us—in my humble opinion—is that even dead, human beings are capable of depravity. These guys were willing to waste those months that were given to them, probably to think about their existence on Earth and find some sort of redemption. Instead, they wanted to keep partying. A party of shameless degradation they started while living! The lowness of human condition appears even after death. Or not... I mean, meditation would be the right thing to do. But these people were freaking dead. Actually, they were about to be completely dead. So, it's a tough call.


description

El banquero anarquista - Fernando Pessoa

Rating: 
16/11/13?
*Una reseña que me olvidé de subir/An old review I forgot to post.



El banquero anarquistaEncontré a Pessoa por El libro del Desasosiego. Como todavía no llegó, quise empezar a conocer a este autor (sobre el cual he leído varias opiniones y me interesó mucho) y di con Un Banquero Anarquista, que trata sobre una conversación entre dos amigos; uno de ellos, como puede deducirse, es un banquero que se denomina anarquista. El otro muchacho no puede conciliar la idea de que este hombre sea anarquista; una persona que se enriquece mientras defiende un sistema libre que predica en contra de toda desigualdad. Durante varias, quizás demasiadas líneas, intenta entender cómo esta persona puede ser anarquista tanto en la teoría como en la práctica; mientras que aquel le refiere que no hay desacuerdo entre ambas, puesto que considera que “ellos, los de los sindicatos y las bombas (yo también estuve allí y salí de allí precisamente a causa de mi verdadero anarquismo), ellos son la basura del anarquismo, los hembras de la gran doctrina libertaria”. Divide su realidad entre anarquistas estúpidos y anarquistas inteligentes, algo que resulta presuntuosamente molesto. Pero eso es personal, nunca pude ocultar mi “molestia” ante personas que se creen más inteligentes que otras y lo hacen saber. Si sos inteligente, excelente, la gente lo podrá percibir sin que te pongas un cartel luminoso en la frente que lo diga. Quizás no es molestia molestia; no sé, no me dan ganas de tratarlos.


En fin, el banquero cuenta por qué se volvió anarquista, relatando algunos hechos con los que no es difícil estar de acuerdo. Creo que en algún momento, todos hemos sentido esa rebelión interna de la que se habla acá. No sé si como para llegar al punto de rebelarse contra toda convención y fórmula social (ficciones, como las llama este señor) hasta su abolición, pero bueno. Algunas de sus ideas son razonables, otras, son ridículamente contradictorias, por más argumento que le intente dar. Intencionales, por supuesto, ya que determinadas ironías son las que hacen que este cuento tenga mayor impacto y se pueda comparar con lo que realmente se vive. Un banquero, alguien en el sistema, en búsqueda y contacto permanente con el dinero, es anarquista. O sea... Sos un ban-que-ro.
1. “Para el anarquista, es claro, quien está en el lugar de enemigo es cualquier representante de las ficciones sociales y de su tiranía”.
2. “Soy banquero”.

Es muy gracioso. El tipo te envuelve con lo que parecen sólidos argumentos (igual, eso es un plus: no anda diciendo frases hechas de por ahí, intenta respaldarlas con el uso de su razón, aunque no sean más que sofismas, ¡pero al menos se toma el tiempo!). Sin embargo, todo vuelve a lo mismo de siempre, la libertad, el individualismo, que se logra relacionar íntimamente con el concepto de riqueza, alejándose de los ideales del anarquismo. Se plantea subyugar una feroz ficción social: el dinero. Solo se puede dejar de ser esclavo del dinero... teniendo mucho dinero. Fantástico.

Esta conversación se vuelve interesante a medida que avanza, y densa, difícil de imaginar con café y torta de por medio, llegando a verse más como un monólogo. Hasta que aparece algún “sí”, “entiendo” por parte de la otra persona, que quisiera saber si realmente está entendiendo. Ya en esa instancia, me imagino su cara... Y yo, en esa instancia, ya estaba medio saturada de tantos conceptos repetidos. Terminaron de cenar, pero ¿qué bebió para sentir la necesidad de decir y repetir lo mismo en cada comienzo de oración? Indudablemente, quien lea este libro, entenderá qué es el anarquismo. Lo entenderá varias veces. Lo entenderá una vez por página. Lo entenderá como yo entendí varios aspectos de Derechos Reales, donde cada vez que me la nombran recuerdo “anualidad purga el vicio”, “anualidad purga el vicio”, tras leerlo 23.456 veces.

Fuera de eso, me gustó mucho. Podría ser realmente tedioso, pero Pessoa tiene una particularidad en su escritura que evita llegar al aburrimiento, teniendo en cuenta que el tópico que trata no es particularmente Disneylandesco. De todos modos, el tema te tiene que interesar, sino esto lo largás en la segunda página.


description


sábado, 15 de julio de 2017

Luna de Enfrente: Cuaderno San Martín - Jorge Luis Borges

Rating: 
13/16/16

description

Luna de Enfrente: Cuaderno San Martin
Moon Across the Way (1925) and San Martín Copybook (1929) are the last two books that complete the poetic trilogy Borges had started with Fervor of Buenos Aires (1923).

There is a particular, tangible atmosphere that acts as a bond among those three collections, one that goes beyond the lyrical tone and elegance one may instantly perceive even after the first quick glance. Through the art of poetry (that Borges later on would keep cultivating, letting it become another part of his being, unfortunately not as renowned as his short stories), he combined everyday things with existential matters. Streets, the countryside, well-lighted patios, a city that is heard as if it were a verse; all elements that were used to deconstruct existence, allowing philosophical dilemmas to come to surface, thus merging a world of facts with a metaphysical realm.

description
description

description

After I read the last poem, my mind was plagued with certainties, half-truths and obstinate doubts. A timid hand closed the book as a sense of joy mixed with nostalgia welled up inside me.
Night has fallen and I await, with a wistful smile, I hope; I yearn for that melody to last until dawn.


description



Collected Poems - Dylan Thomas

Rating: 
08/11/16

A process in the weather of the heart

A process in the weather of the heart
Turns damp to dry; the golden shot
Storms in the freezing tomb.
A weather in the quarter of the veins
Collected Poems
Turns night to day; blood in their suns
Lights up the living worm.

A process in the eye forwarns
The bones of blindness; and the womb
Drives in a death as life leaks out.

A darkness in the weather of the eye
Is half its light; the fathomed sea
Breaks on unangled land.
The seed that makes a forest of the loin
Forks half its fruit; and half drops down,
Slow in a sleeping wind.

A weather in the flesh and bone
Is damp and dry; the quick and dead
Move like two ghosts before the eye.

A process in the weather of the world
Turns ghost to ghost; each mothered child
Sits in their double shade.
A process blows the moon into the sun,
Pulls down the shabby curtains of the skin;
And the heart gives up its dead.


description