Tuesday, October 27, 2015

Borges / Limits

by Jorge Luis Borges

Borges / Límites

Of all the streets that blur in to the sunset,
There must be one (which, I am not sure)
That I by now have walked for the last time
Without guessing it, the pawn of that Someone

Who fixes in advance omnipotent laws,
Sets up a secret and unwavering scale
for all the shadows, dreams, and forms
Woven into the texture of this life.

If there is a limit to all things and a measure
And a last time and nothing more and forgetfulness,
Who will tell us to whom in this house
We without knowing it have said farewell?

Through the dawning window night withdraws
And among the stacked books which throw
Irregular shadows on the dim table,
There must be one which I will never read.

There is in the South more than one worn gate,
With its cement urns and planted cactus,
Which is already forbidden to my entry,
Inaccessible, as in a lithograph.

There is a door you have closed forever
And some mirror is expecting you in vain;
To you the crossroads seem wide open,
Yet watching you, four-faced, is a Janus.

There is among all your memories one
Which has now been lost beyond recall.
You will not be seen going down to that fountain
Neither by white sun nor by yellow moon.

You will never recapture what the Persian
Said in his language woven with birds and roses,
When, in the sunset, before the light disperses,
You wish to give words to unforgettable things.

And the steadily flowing Rhone and the lake,
All that vast yesterday over which today I bend?
They will be as lost as Carthage,
Scourged by the Romans with fire and salt.

At dawn I seem to hear the turbulent
Murmur of crowds milling and fading away;
They are all I have been loved by, forgotten by;
Space, time, and Borges now are leaving me.

Wednesday, October 21, 2015

Borges / Simplicity

by Jorge Luis Borges

It opens, the gate to the garden
with the docility of a page
that frequent devotion questions
and inside, my gaze
has no need to fix on objects
that already exist, exact, in memory.
I know the customs and souls
and that dialect of allusions
that every human gathering goes weaving.
I've no need to speak
nor claim false privilege;
they know me well who surround me here,
know well my afflictions and weakness.
This is to reach the highest thing,
that Heaven perhaps will grant us:
not admiration or victory
but simply to be accepted
as part of an undeniable Reality,
like stones and trees. 

Sunday, October 18, 2015

Borges / A Patio


By Jorge Luis Borges

At evening
they grow weary, the patio's two or three colours.
Tonight, the moon, bright circle,
fails to dominate space.
Patio, channel of sky.
The patio is the slope
down which sky flows into the house.
eternity waits at the crossroad of stars.
It's pleasant to live in the friendly dark
of entrance-way, arbour, and cistern.

Thursday, October 15, 2015

Jorge Luis Borges's lost translations

Jorge Luis Borges's lost translations

A dispute with Borges's estate has left works he produced with the translator Norman Thomas di Giovanni in publishing limbo

Huw Nesbitt
Friday 19 February 2010 14.35 GMT

The work of the translator is painstakingly thankless, resulting in an end product with a short shelf life that is of scant interest to any individual, bar academics, once the next edition is inevitably commissioned. But what happens when translations made by authors of their own works find their way to the pulper's bellows because of dubious decisions by their estate? This is part of the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges's unfortunate legacy.
In Buenos Aires in 1967 Borges began an unusual working relationship with a young Italian-American translator, Norman Thomas di Giovanni, whom he had met at Harvard. Di Giovanni had recently translated a collection of verse by Spanish poets, and asked Borges for a contribution. He got more than he bargained for: the privilege of translating several books of poetry and prose and an intercontinental job relocation scheme. The collaboration was all the stranger given the pair's differing political ideas: di Giovanni was once an anarchist; Borges would go on to support Generals Videla and Pinochet.

Nonetheless, what they produced during this period were not simple translations. Some of their time was given to the collaborative composition of original versions of Borges's stories in English. Borges's grandmother was from the Midlands, and he was consequently fluent in English, albeit in a reportedly antiquated turn-of-the-century style. So di Giovanni earned equal writing credit for versions of stories including Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, The Library of Babel and The Lottery in Babylon.
This was an important time for Borges. While the English-speaking academic world was warming to him, his wider popularity had yet to be confirmed. With di Giovanni in tow, this process picked up speed, starting with lucrative contracts with agents and publishing heavyweights such as the New Yorker and Penguin.
But there it ends. When Borges died in 1986, his second wife María Kodamaarranged with his publishers and agents to rescind all publishing rights and agreements on works that di Giovanni had either collaborated on or translated, including a 50-50 royalties deal. This prose hasn't been reprinted since. This might not sound like a big deal, given the availability of Andrew Hurley's excellent translations of Borges for Penguin. So what's the fuss?
First, di Giovanni has had a rough ride. Last year I met him at his modest home in the New Forest, UK. Given the sums of money generated by the Borges industry, he might expect a little more ease. Speaking shortly before Christmas, di Giovanni expressed indifference on the topic of cash. Earlier in 2009 he'd attempted to publish some of the short stories on his website, which met with a swift response.
"I never thought in terms of market," he said. "The money never meant anything. When Viking-Penguin recently saw my website with some of these short stories, they wrote to me complaining, and eventually these items were removed without even asking me. All of the stuff that Borges and I wrote together in English I put up there because it doesn't exist in print anywhere anymore, and they claimed that it belonged to them."
I do not know the strict legal position, but it's easy to see why di Giovanni is baffled. "It's copyrighted in Borges's and my name because they're not just translations – it's stuff we wrote together in English," he said. And while Hurley's translations are competent, the fact remains that some of Borges's original works are effectively hidden from the reading public.

Monday, October 12, 2015

Borges / I am not sure that I exist

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges

"I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities that I have visited, all my ancestors."


Buenos Aires, Argentina


Taught at home, by his parents; attended school in Geneva.

Other jobs

Librarian (fittingly enough), academic

Did you know?

He honed his literary skills writing yoghurt adverts.

Critical verdict

Borges became a myth in his own lifetime for his mythic riddlings, but never, to the fury of his followers, received the ultimate prize - "Not granting me the Nobel Prize has become a Scandinavian tradition; since I was born they have not been granting it to me."

Recommended works

Labyrinths, a collection of some of his most dazzling stories, is an excellent starting point; a new Collected Works appeared in 1999.


His great loves included Verlaine, Rimbaud, Mallarm¿Schopenhauer and Walt Whitman.

Now read on

Italo Calvino, Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Umberto Eco, Salman Rushdie


Several of his short stories have been filmed; the most recent, and well-received, is Death and the Compass (1996), dir. Alex (Repo Man) Cox.

Recommended biography

James Woodall's Borges: A Life is a well-researched guide to the man and his work, and provides political background.

Saturday, October 10, 2015

Pablo Neruda / The Unearthed

The Unearthed
by Pablo Neruda

Pablo Neruda / El desenterrado

Homenaje al Conde de Villamediana 
Homage to the Count of Villamediana

Cuando la tierra llena de párpados mojados
When the earth is full of wet eyelids
se haga ceniza y duro aire cernido,
becoming ash and tough air sifting
y los terrones secos y las aguas,
and the clods dry and the waters,
los pozos, los metales,
the wells, the metals,
por fin devuelvan sus gastados muertos,
finally return their worn out dead,
quiero una oreja, un ojo,
I want an ear, an eye,
un corazón herido dando tumbos,
a wounded heart giving tumbles,
un hueco de puñal hace ya tiempo hundido
a hollow of dagger already time sunk
en un cuerpo hace tiempo exterminado y solo,
in a body some time ago exterminated and alone,
quiero unas manos, una ciencia de uñas,
I want a few hands, a science of fingernails,
una boca de espanto y amapolas muriendo,
a mouth of fright and poppies dying,
quiero ver levantarse del polvo inútil
I want to see rising of the useless dust
un ronco árbol de venas sacudidas,
a hoarse tree of shaken veins,
yo quiero de la tierra más amarga,
I want of the earth so bitter,
entre azufre y turquesa y olas rojas
between sulfur and turquoise and red waves
y torbellinos de carbón callado,
and maelstroms of silent coal,
quiero una carne despertar sus huesos
I want to a meat to revive their bones
aullando llamas,
howling flames,
y un especial olfato correr en busca de algo,
and a special smell running in search of something,
y una vista cegada por la tierra
and a view blinded by the earth
correr detrás de los ojos oscuros,
running behind the dark eyes,
y un oído, de pronto, como una ostra furiosa,
and an ear, suddenly, like a furious oyster,
rabiosa, desmedida,
mad, excessive
levantarse hacia el trueno,
rising up towards the thunder
y un tacto puro, entre sales perdido,
and a pure touch, between lost salts,
salir tocando pechos y azucenas, de pronto.
escape touching breasts and lilies, suddenly.

Oh día de los muertos! oh distancia hacia donde
Oh day of the dead! Oh distance toward where
la espiga muerta yace con su olor a relámpago,
dead spike of grain lies with its smell of lightning,
oh galerías entregando un nido
oh game cock farm delivering a nest
y un pez y una mejilla y una espada,
and a fish and a cheek and a sword,
todo molido entre las confusiones,
all ground between the confusion,
todo sin esperanzas decaído,
all without hope decayed,
todo en la sima seca alimentado
all in the dry pit fed
entre los dientes de la tierra dura.
between the teeth of the hard earth.

Y la pluma a su pájaro suave,
And the feather to its soft bird,
y la luna a su cinta, y el perfume a su forma,
and the moon to its ribbon, and the perfume to its form,
y, entre las rosas, el desenterrado,
and, among the roses, the unearthed,
el hombre lleno de algas minerales,
the man full of mineral algae,
y a sus dos agujeros sus ojos retornando.
and to their two holes, his eyes returning.
Está desnudo,
He is naked,
sus ropas no se encuentran en el polvo,
his clothes are not found in the dust,
y su armadura rota se ha deslizado al fondo del infierno,
and his broken armor has slipped to the bottom of hell,
y su barba ha crecido como el aire en otoño,
and his beard has grown as the air in autumn,
y hasta su corazón quiere morder manzanas.
and even his heart wants to bite apples.

Cuelgan de sus rodillas y sus hombros
They hang by his knees and his shoulders
adherencias de olvido, hebras del suelo,
adhesions of oblivion, strands of the soil,
zonas de vidrio roto y aluminio,
areas of broken glass and aluminum,
cáscaras de cadáveres amargos,
husks of bitter corpses,
bolsillos de agua convertida en hierro:
pockets of water turned into iron:
y reuniones de terribles bocas
and meetings of terrible mouths
derramadas y azules,
wastefulness and blues,
y ramas de coral acongojado
the branches of coral heart broken
hacen corona a su cabeza verde,
makes a crown for his green head,
y tristes vegetales fallecidos
and sad deceased plants
y maderas nocturnas le rodean,
and night woods surrounds him,
y en él aún duermen palomas entreabiertas
and in it even sleep doves ajar
con ojos de cemento subterráneo.
with eyes of underground cement.

Conde dulce, en la niebla,
Sweet Count, in the fog,
oh recién despertado de las minas,
oh newly awakened of the mines,
oh recién seco del agua sin río,
oh newly dry of the water without river,
oh recién sin arañas!
oh newly without spiders!

Crujen minutos en tus pies naciendo,
Minutes crackle in your feet being born,
tu sexo asesinado se incorpora,
your gender assassinated is incorporated,
y levantas la mano en donde vive
and you raise your hand where you live
todavía el secreto de la espuma.
still the secret of the foam.

Pablo Neruda en Residencia en la tierra
Libro 2 (1931-1935): Parte V

Wednesday, October 7, 2015

Pablo Neruda / Poems from the world´s end

Pablo Neruda

Poems from the world's end

Nobel laureate Pablo Neruda was inspired by the scenery of a country that still elicits verse from unexpected corners, as Toby Green discovered
Toby Green
The Observer
Sunday 10 December 2000 19.04 GMT

I can still remember my first visit to Isla Negra, the house of Chilean poet Pablo Neruda. It is such an extraordinary place that it is hard to be unimpressed. Set on a cliff overlooki ng the Pacific Ocean, the house's character is defined by the objects that Neruda amassed from Asia, Africa and Europe.
The place was overflowing with mementoes: figureheads from ships, Hindu carvings, masks from West Africa, sea shells and butterflies. In the raised gallery where Neruda worked and watched the ocean, it was easy to imagine this wanderer, romantic and lover of the sea becoming inspired.
Isla Negra has an almost mythic status for some Chileans, but this is only in keeping with the reverence with which poetry is viewed in the country. Chileans have a saying that they have a poet hidden under every stone, and certainly this is a place where the landscape inspires creativity, for the deserts, mountains, glaciers, forests and cliffs provide some of the world's most dramatic geography.
If any surroundings could be expected to elicit verse from people, these are they. And, as I spent six months travelling through the more remote areas of the country, I did come across poets in the most unlikely places.
One policeman in a lonely rural outpost, whiling away the hours as the winter rains poured down, showed me the certificates he had received from his Province's cultural centre praising the style and technique of his poems. Another man, an art teacher in a backwoods town, showed me the reams of paper on which his poems were kept. And on Navarin Island, the southernmost place in the world with a permanent settlement, I came across a farmhand who lived alone in a shanty 30 miles from the island's only town, brewing tea, frying pancakes and writing poems.
Some of the recurrent themes of Chilean poetry are solitude, the fragile and beautiful landscape, and the brutal wars waged by the Spanish against the Mapuche Amerindians. Isolated by the Atacama desert to the north, the Andes to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west, Chileans developed a mentality of being at the end of the world - this was a place which left you with nowhere else to go.
On a more recent visit to Chile, I went to Valparaíso - Chile's second city, and home to the country's Congress - to get another flavour of Neruda's inspiration. Built on seven hills, with winding cobbled streets housing ornate Italian mansions and rundown tenements in equal measure, this is one of the most extraordinary cities in Latin America. The hills are so steep that there are numerous funicular lifts rising from the commercial heart into the warren of the upper town, where you will find rusting 2CVs and hear tangos and Mexican ranchero music echoing through the narrow streets. The houses tend to be tall and brightly painted, and the streets create such a maze that even locals get hopelessly lost. On a clear day, you can see Aconcagua, the highest mountain in the Americas.
Such a romantic and contradictory place as Valparaíso was bound to appeal to Neruda and, in the last decade of his life, he bought a house here. Brightly painted and filled with almost as many artefacts as Isla Negra, La Sebastiana echoed the organised chaos of Valparaíso itself. It is a building where you can feel the poet struggling to make sense of his bohemian past.
Almost inevitably, given his emotional fluctuations, Neruda's life ended with both great success and great tragedy. Awarded the Nobel Prize for Literature in 1971, he was diagnosed with cancer shortly afterwards. As a lifelong communist and friend of President Allende, Pinochet's coup and Allende's death in September 1973 was more than he could bear, and Neruda died in Santiago two weeks later. In the extremes and the poetry of both his life and his death, he embodied much of the essence of Chile: a place with some of the world's highest mountains, its driest desert and its largest ice-field.

Sunday, October 4, 2015

Pablo Neruda / Knigh Alone

Knigh Alone
by Pablo Neruda
English translation by Thayne Tuason

Los jóvenes homosexuales y las muchachas amorosas,
The homosexual young people and the loving girls,
y las largas viudas que sufren el delirante insomnio,
and the long widows that suffer the delirious insomnia,
y las jóvenes señoras preñadas hace treinta horas,
and young pregnant women do thirty hours,
y los roncos gatos que cruzan mi jardín en tinieblas,
and the hoarse cats that cross my garden in darkness,
como un collar de palpitantes ostras sexuales
like a necklace of pulsating sexual oysters
rodean mi residencia solitaria,
they surround my solitary residence,
como enemigos establecidos contra mi alma,
like established enemies against my soul,
como conspiradores en traje de dormitorio
as conspirators in costume of bedroom
que cambiaran largos besos espesos por consigna.
that exchanged long kisses thick of devotion.

El radiante verano conduce a los enamorados
The radiant summer leads to the lovers
en uniformes regimientos melancólicos,
in melancholy uniform regiments,
hechos de gordas y flacas y alegres y tristes parejas:
made of fat and thin and happy and sad couples:
bajo los elegantes cocoteros, junto al océano y la luna,
under the elegant coconut palms, next to the ocean and the moon,
hay una continua vida de pantalones y polleras,
there is one continuous life of pants and skirts,
un rumor de medias de seda acariciadas,
a rumor of silk stockings caressed,
y senos femeninos que brillan como ojos.
and female breasts that sparkle like eyes.

El pequeño empleado, después de mucho,
The small employee, after a lot,
después del tedio semanal, y las novelas leídas de noche en cama
after the weekly tedium, and the novels read at night in bed
ha definitivamente seducido a su vecina,
has definitively seduced his neighbor,
y la lleva a los miserables cinematógrafos
and it leads to the miserable cinematographers
donde los héroes son potros o príncipes apasionados,
where the heroes are foals or passionate princes,
y acaricia sus piernas llenas de dulce vello
and he caresses her legs full of sweet hair
con sus ardientes y húmedas manos que huelen a cigarrillo.
with his hot and wet hands that smell of cigarette.

Los atardeceres del seductor y las noches de los esposos
The sunsets of the seducer and the nights of the spouses
se unen como dos sábanas sepultándome,
join together as two sheets burying me,
y las horas después del almuerzo en que los jóvenes estudiantes
and the hours after the lunch in which the young students
y las jóvenes estudiantes, y los sacerdotes se masturban,
and the young students, and the priests masturbate,
y los animales fornican directamente,
and the animals directly fornicate,
y las abejas huelen a sangre, y las moscas zumban coléricas,
and bees smell to blood, and flies buzz angry,
y los primos juegan extrañamente con sus primas,
and the boy cousins play strangely with their girl cousins,
y los médicos miran con furia al marido de la joven paciente,
and the doctors look furiously at the husband of the young woman patient,
y las horas de la mañana en que el profesor, como descuido,
and the hours of the morning in which the professor, like carelessness,
cumple con su deber conyugal y desayuña,
complies with his conjugal duty and eats breakfast,
y más aún, los adúlteros, que se aman con verdadero amor
and even more, the adulterers, who love each other with true love
sobre lechos altos y largos como embarcaciones:
on beds high and long like boats:
seguramente, eternamente me rodea
surely, it surrounds me eternally
este gran bosque respiratorio y enredado
this great forest breathing and tangled
con grandes flores como bocas y dentaduras
with great flowers like mouths and teeth
y negras raíces en forma de uñas y zapatos.
and black roots in the form of nails and shoes.

Pablo Neruda
Residencia on Earth (1925-1931) 
Residence I, Parte III,

Thursday, October 1, 2015

Pablo Neruda / Taste

Solitudine by Vicenso Giannattasio
by Pablo Neruda
Translated from Spanish by Tayne Tuason

Of false astrology, of somewhat mournful customs, 
discharged into the endless and always carried to the side,
I have preserved a tendency, a lonely taste.
Of conversations spent as used wood,
with humility of chairs, with words occupied
in serving like slaves of secondary will,
having that consistency of the milk, of the dead weeks,
of the air chained around the cities.
Who can boast of more solid patience?
The sanity wraps me of compact skin
of a color reunited as a snake
my creatures are born of a long rejection:
ay, with a single alcohol I can dismiss this day
that I have chosen, equal among the terrestrial days.
I live filling of a substance of mutual color, silent
as an old mother, a fixed patience
as a shadow of church or repose of bones.
I go filling of those waters arranged profoundly,
prepared, falling asleep in a sad thoughtfulness.
Inside of my guitar there a old air,
dry and resonant, staying, motionless,
as a faithful nutrition, as smoke:
an element at rest, a oil living:
a bird of severity lives in my head:
a constant angel lives in my sword.

Pablo Neruda
Residencia on Earth (1925-1931) 
Residence I, Parte I