In any breaks in necessity – between semesters, breaks at work, children otherwise occupied, no “required” readings or commissioned work, etc… – with each passing season, I gradually discover what matters most to me (literarily speaking, which, for me, involves much of my lived life) – perhaps I might refer to it as my meaning-making-factory-resources (Blanchot says of Borges that he is “an essentially literary man – which means that he is always ready to understand according to the manner of comprehension that literature authorizes).” At this point in my living, over four decades along, and a large percentage of the pie devoted to reading, those voices I turn to, their messages and efforts, have become quite consistent. Each year there are new ones, new threads and concepts, theories and expressions that very significantly impact my living – but they tend to find their place as commentaries, extensions, additives and queries to what (I suppose) now forms my central “canon” of sorts.
This struck me, following my return to Bakhtin and Blanchot, and as we prepare for vacation how I immediately reached for Soulstorms by Clarice Lispector and The Museum of Eterna’s Novel (The First Good Novel) by Macedonio Fernandez. In searching for this image of Fernandez:
a host of Google’s “related images” arose – including Borges, Lispector, David Foster Wallace – and I got that vision of how pantheons develop and connect and gradually form a kind of woven semiotic pattern – a “worldview” or “Innenwelt” I guess – it begins to make sense what’s connected to what and whom to whom throughout time and space of world-being. Beckett, Blanchot, Dostoevsky, Pessoa, Rilke, Cixous, Kafka, Bakhtin, Jabes, these visions and verbals I return to again and again and again and again – inexhaustibly – and although my copies are nearly glutted with markings and underlinings – and they feel intimate and familiar (on the one hand) – that I also feel I am always learning them anew, freshly, with EVERY read.
These things astound me.
Of this particular book (which I often say is the very best novel I have ever read, repeatedly), Adam Thirlwell writes “It is a novel which does not want to begin. Or, perhaps, it is really a novel which does not want to end…The aim of Macedonio Fernandez’s novels is to convert all reality into fiction (or the other way around).” “The real subjects of this lightly playful novel are the grave ones of death and love.”
“In his novel, Fernandez tests the possibility that all philosophical questions are only meaningful in relation to human relations: that all questions of infinity are really questions about love.”
and so on.
Macedonio is, for me, a hero the likes of Bakhtin, Blanchot, Beckett – those writings and writers I will never “get over,” never “get around.” Writings I can only ever “go through.”
Perhaps these writings are characterized by the question – “What is it to be real?” I recently discovered in one of those “shock of recognition” moments that although I’ve studied theology, philosophy, classical music, art and literature and now information sciences and systems theories – that none of the CONTENTS of these fields sustain my passions – it is the relationships between them – the ligaments and synchronous reverberations they emit – the MEANING-making effects of their pursuit and inquiry that is REALLY what drives me toward, into and through them. I’m not looking for truth or necessarily facts or any answers – but for PROCESSES and PRACTICES that enrich, enhance and extend my biological life in relation to the world I’m “thrown into.”
Borges wrote of Fernandez: “Macedonio is metaphysics, he is literature” and that “writing was no trouble for Macedonio Fernandez. He lived (more than any other person I have ever known) to think. Every day he abandoned himself to the vicissitudes and surprises of thoughts as a swimmer is borne along by the current of a great river.” The novel’s translator writes: “The method is madcap; the intent is desperately human.”
Perhaps that is what I’m after – to be “desperately human.”
and now we’re heading off to the wilds – to be desperately human with-world with-family – replete with above-mentioned authors and without wi-fi or internet services!
P.S. (also from current reading – The Waste Books by Georg Christoph Lichtenberg):
“Be attentive, feel nothing in vain, measure and compare: this is the whole law of philosophy.”
“To grow wiser means to learn to know better and better the faults to which this instrument with which we feel and judge can be subject.”
All the best!