Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, born this day in 1899.
Posts Tagged ‘Borges’
I recently acquired Gilbert Alter-Gilbert’s translation of Leopoldo Lugones’ Strange Forces, the first two stories of which are extremely promising. In the foreword, Alter-Gilbert relates that
Lugones regularly took practice in the fencing academy at the Military School in Buenos Aires. A romantic, a gallant, and a devotee of the chivalric code, he once fought a duel with a colonel and challenged the young poet Jorge Luis Borges to another when he felt insulted by what he considered a slight in the newspapers; the contest wasn’t consummated on account of Borges’ blindness about which, when he learned of it, Lugones said, “In that case, please be so kind as to inform that lackey Borges that he would do well not to make unsubstantiated assertions in the newspapers which he is not prepared to defend with his person.” The lackey Borges would later write an adulatory book about his challenger.
I wonder what book this is? Lugones was apparently one of the topics Borges discussed in this 1951 lectures at the University of Texas, and I gather that the book dated from the same decade. Incidentally, there is no mention of any potential duel in Monegal’s biography of Borges, though it does mention that Borges penned or collaborated on multiple parodies of Lugones’ poetry in the 1920s; one of which involved transposing some letters in Lugones’ name, “produc[ing] a ridiculous variant, ‘Leogoldo Lupones,’ with the stress on ‘goldo’ (a childish pronunciation of gordo, fat) and ‘lupones’ (lupo, wolf). Lugones was not fat or particularly wolfish.” It also notes that, in an interview with Cesar Fernandez Moreno in 1967, Borges said of Lugones:
[He was] a solitary and dogmatic man, a man who did not open up easily… Conversation was difficult with him because he used to bring everything to a close with a phrase which was literally a period… Then you had to begin again, to find another subject… And that subject was also dissolved with a period…His kind of conversation was brilliant but tiresome [...] we had a great respect for him.
Oxford has recently published more Lugones. The Selected Writings includes some nonfiction and seems to have some of the same short stories as are in Alter-Gilbert’s volume.
…there were neither defeats nor victories nor even an open encounter…”
For the sake of proportion, I will post the response of one N.T. di Giovanni to this post, in which I quoted a portion of a letter Marian Skedgell (who is now or once was apparently an editor at Dutton) wrote to the Atlantic. Ms. Skedgell asserted, among other things, that Maria Kodama “now regards Di Giovanni as a thief who stole thousands of dollars from her estate.” Given that that bit was front-paged here, I think it is only right to front-page the response:
I had never before seen Marian Skedgell’s Atlantic letter. I had never before known that Maria Kodama thinks I stole money from Borges or from her. Talk of throwing the stone and hiding the hand. I am sorry to say that Kodama is ignorant of all that took place between others and Borges before she came along. By sheer coincidence, just this morning I came across some old correspondence dealing with the royalty divisions of The Book of Imaginary Beings. Among the vast library of things that Kodama does not know is that I doubled Dutton’s original offer for the book back in 1968. At the time, Borges was so uninterested in money that he did not even bother to tell me what his financial relations were with his co-author Margarita Guerrero. There is far more to tell, all documented, but I have miles to go before I sleep.
Norman Thomas di Giovanni, one of the finest translators of Borges, has posted several translations up on his website. There was some grumbling about the translations in the Borges “Collected and Selected” volumes that came out a few years ago (item: “Funes, His Memory” vs. “Funes the Memorious”). Di Giovanni, whose talent and proximity to the master made him an ideal candidate for Chief Borges Translator, was apparently frozen out by Maria Kodama, a situation I was hipped to in the letter pages of the once-decent Atlantic:
As executor of Borges’s literary estate she has exhibited unparalleled power—power enough to delete an entire decade (1969—1979) from the story of his life.
In this decade the publisher E. P. Dutton published ten books by or about Borges, among them The Aleph and Other Stories 1933—1969. I served throughout this decade as Borges’s editor.
You will find these books, if you find them at all, in secondhand bookshops. Kodama has repeatedly refused to allow reprints of any of them, for the single reason that Norman Thomas di Giovanni had a hand in translating or editing the text. Their feud has its origin in the contract Dutton signed with Di Giovanni in 1969 for his translation of the first book, The Book of Imaginary Beings, and his work as translator for all the books to come. The contract, inexplicably, gave the author a smaller share of the royalties than the translator. Kodama now regards Di Giovanni as a thief who stole thousands of dollars from her estate. No reconciliation is in sight. Meanwhile, any biographical information she gave to Williamson must be regarded as unreliable.
This from one Marian Skedgell of Roxbury, Conn.
Translators are normally either paid a set, small fee by the publisher for their work, or, less commonly, a very low percentage of royalties. Borges had hit upon a generous and highly unusual agreement with di Giovanni that saw them split royalties equally.
For the Borges estate, this arrangement meant a 50 per cent reduction in its income from English language editions of some of his main works.
In the mid-1990s Kodama had a New York agent negotiate a lucrative new English-language deal, selling the English translation rights to Borges’s complete Spanish works. These would be the official English language editions, authorised by Borges’s estate, rendering the work by Borges and di Giovanni redundant and unpublishable, and giving Maria Kodama full copyright and the Borges estate 100 per cent of English royalties.
Bizarrely, in the name of Borges, this was condemning to obscurity those very works Borges had co-authored in English.
Di Giovanni’s story, which is implicit but never told in this odd volume, is of a loyal friend whose most significant work has been largely lost – hopefully not permanently – due to the woman Borges loved expressing her respect for her dead husband by managing his literary estate with a strong hand. Literature does not lend itself to the pathos of such a story, because love always plays better between the clapboards than friendship.
Perhaps this is why, finally, we recognise Borges less in di Giovanni’s pages than we do in Borges’s own, and why we feel we come closest to Borges in his own writings when he speaks of his love for other writers’ books; not in such works’ triumph over death, but in their transcendence of the individual soul.
Yes indeed. Read the stories: