“It appears to me,” said Don Quixote, “that translating from one language into another . . . is like gazing at a Flemish tapestry with the wrong side out: even though the figures are visible, they are full of threads that obscure the view and are not bright and smooth as when seen from the other side.”
Ricardo Piglia once pointed out that the apocryphal quotation at the beginning of Domingo Sarmiento’s Facundo (1845) — the French sentence “on ne tue point les idées,” written by Sarmiento on a wall after being attacked by a federalist gang — can be taken as an emblem of Argentine literature in its foundational moment. Not simply in its banal content, but primarily in its form and in the discursive economy that presides over its historical inscription. By relating how Rosas’s dictatorship, “after sending a committee in charge of deciphering the hieroglyph,” (Sarmiento 5) must have wondered what in the world it could mean, Sarmiento draws the line between civilization and barbarism with a mere epigraph: barbarians are, of course, those unable to read the sentence. More than in the utopian vision it voices, “the sentence’s political content resides in the use of the French language” (Piglia 15). A voracious student of foreign languages, Sarmiento located in the transculturation of European sources a sine qua non condition for the construction of a modern civilized Argentine nation. Transculturation is, however, always already torn apart by aporias, not the least of which plagues the authorship of Sarmiento’s epigraph. Sarmiento attributes it to Fortoul, but Groussac later argued that it was in fact taken from Volney, only to be contradicted by Verdevoye, who noted that it does not appear either in Fortoul or Volney, but in Diderot. The exercise in tracking down sources naturally does not matter in itself, but as an emblem of the predicament of an entire national literature. Designed to found a nation by alienating, domesticating, and eventually transculturating that nation’s originary barbarism, the letrado’s civilizing gesture is from the beginning contaminated by a savage, barbaric relationship with its sources, emblematized in recurrent erroneous and second-hand attributions. (– I. A.)
Here are some of his 2013 thoughts. Watch the video and tell me what you think. What is the value of the humanities education, the Ph.D., and the life of the mind generally?
I have so many books to read but I always want others. If there were bookstores I would walk to them and browse, and if the libraries had budgets I could peruse new acquisitions.
The desired books of the day are Hugh Thomas, World without end: Spain, Philip II, and the first global empire and Spain: the centre of the world, 1519-1682, to begin with; also, a fascinating book on William Pitt’s suppression of English intellectual life in the 1790s — a vigorous activity whose effects are felt clearly today.
What I am actually trying to read is a book by Agamben and I am bored. I should need the ideas in it as it is about slavery and ontology, but I do not like philosophy. I like theory and poetics, but not philosophy. I lack patience for philosophy, am I alone?
Other reviews I have read today (while avoiding Agamben and other, more pressing things) include a fascinating essay on biographies of Charlie Parker. Is he another of these innovative modernists, like Vallejo and Lorca, that died young in a disorderly way and got mythologized?
I learned that Perry Anderson is Benedict Anderson’s brother, in a beautiful review of Benedict Anderson’s memoir. “Shine always!” I thought of Michael Ratner, with whom I had hoped to work one day, and who is dead too.
To read on El tungsteno, one of Vallejo’s underrated works.
L’imaginaire néolibéral se révèle comme un dispositif de production de peur et de généralisation de l’impuissance, voué à corseter les imaginaires au prétexte de l’absence d’alternative. On y observe une métamorphose de la violence du régime d’accumulation, présentée comme inévitable, absolue, et dépolitisée. Il s’appuie sur une spacialisation et une culturalisation des rapports sociaux. Qu’il s’agisse de la domination sociale, des affects ordinaires, des modes de gestion du salarié et de la personne ou des subjectivités littéraires, il s’agit de tenter d’identifier, à chaque fois, les logiques à l’oeuvre dans l’entreprise contemporaine de reconfiguration néolibérale et les façons dont elles affectent les sujets et la représentation qu’ils se font d’eux-mêmes et du monde. Les contributions sont regroupées en quatre grandes sections qui explorent cet imaginaire sous l’angle, successivement, du rapport de pouvoir, du lien social, de la nouvelle raison managériale, et, pour finir, de ce que peuvent encore y être l’écriture et la littérature.