Friday, January 24, 2014

Most interesting thing all day, few days ago, may have been in the Dunkin Donuts before the movie.  Twin brothers in their late 30s, each with neatly trimmed heavy black beard, talking Christian theology and church, the dominant twin lecturing the quiet twin about the true nature of Christian interpretation and worship.  Mentioned the Church of the Sepulchre and realized they meant the one in Jerusalem.  That and the fact that they looked Greek-American made me decide they were Greek Orthodox.  I think there is a large population in and around Nashua. Something rather touching about it.  “It is all still going on.”  

“In any reconstruction, it is always only what is pleasing that emerges, while that which genuinely existed eludes demonstration.”   113 Walser

“The author of the clown essay deserves recognition in my view because he takes seriously the good cheer that stems from immediacy.  I am just reading a book by a celebrated novelist who cold-bloodedly antagonized yet another celebrated novelist by one day writing him a letter that accused him of having a “sycophantic soul.”  In truth he merely envied him his open, carefree mode of artistic production.”   112 Walser

That carefree mode seems apt with regard to the work of César Aira.  

The Hare feels longer and “earlier” than other Aira books I’ve enjoyed.  I suppose I am staying with it more because I’m now, have long been, a “fan” and so I give him all the benefits of the doubt.  With Sergio De La Pava, though, I loved A Naked Singularity but had to finally speed through the end of Personae.  But I’m still a fan of De La Pava, too.  He writes in American English and he’s terrific.  

Been thinking about the start of interest in translated lit.  Catholic childhood in western Maryland, on West Virginia line.  Everything was in Latin in church so prayer books etc were Latin and English.  That must be the “source.”  Learned to sing Gregorian chant in college just a year or two before the Vatican did away with it.  La Salle college in Philadelphia.  Standard English major with a touch of French but not enough to do more than stumble through L’Etranger and barely make sense of it.  Married Virginia a few years later, however, and she was a Spanish major and since then she has taken me to Spain lots of times and in ’98 all through lots of Latin America.  

After a few weeks in a Spanish-speaking country I can get back into it but I’ve never had more than the present tense.  Zen Spanish I call it. Strange as to why I never fully dove in and mastered Spanish enough to read the lit.  We made money on our travels by teaching English conversation classes.  Then in my teaching at Plymouth State I fell into teaching the world lit, global lit, classes in translation.  Plus I started a course in Travel Lit that I taught for years.  Somewhere along the way I decided to make a positive out of “flaneuresque” reading and decided that translated English tends to have its own tics and textures of style and even thought.  By then I had found out more about Beckett’s whole project of going into French and back into English.  And by then I had more of a sense that staying in one language could be fully justified from various (bogus and possibly valid) angles.  I could tell too from reading Spanish authors in English such as Javier Marías just how good a translator Margaret Jull Costa is.  She also does Pessoa.  etc etc

One sideline:  we took our son to Spain when he was 10-11 for our longest stay there—16 months.  He became perfectly fluent and started correcting his mother’s use of the tilde—after she hung up the phone one day.    Fifteen years later he married a French woman and now has perfect French too.  He has a musician’s ear for it.  His wife speaks English, and German too.  Those darned Europeans.  Her mother is a German teacher.  

Virginia is a scholar of Ramon Maria del Valle-Inclán—Spain’s great Modernist writer— impossible, yes, to translate.  Joyce/Pound/Yeats/Pessoa rolled up into one.  Maybe that helped keep me from trying, or confirmed me in my laziness. I had never heard the word “flaneur” until I was maybe 45? or even 50.  But I was already a confirmed wandering layabout by then.