Алексей Фукс (afuchs) wrote,
Алексей Фукс
afuchs

Correspondences

Cortázar writes a letter to Felisberto Hérnandez, who is long dead by then, about those occasions when they were very close to meeting, as it later turned out, but never met, never knew anything about each other, about their proximity not only in time and space, but in their work etc. It's a beautiful letter, and in the end Cortázar quotes Hérnandez himself:


Yo he deseado no mover más los recuerdos y he preferido que ellos durmieran, pero ellos han soñado.
I wished to stop stirring up memories, I preferred to let them sleep, but they had dreams.
(in my transmogrification)


It seems like a curious complaint coming from a person whose Spanish reading experience consists of one story by Hérnandez and the said letter exclusively, but here is a Russian translation of this quote by the venerable Boris Dubin:


"Я не хотел тревожить воспоминания и предпочел бы, чтобы они мирно спали, но что делать, если они снятся?"


Hérnandez uses a remarkable inversion of the dreamer and the dream, the interpreter and the interpreted, the remembering and the remembered -- it's the memories who are dreaming, and their dreams disturb the narrator. Dubin kills this inversion and I shudder thinking what else he killed during delivery. The letter I read is a massacre. It is a good thing -- gives you confidence, because if your knowledge of Spanish disappoints you, the Dubin version shows you you are still much better off reading the original.

The inversion made me think of Stephanie Vaughn, a frugal writer, who has only published one short story collection as far as I know and is working on a novel according to Tobias Wolff, who read her story "Dog Heaven" on The New Yorker Fiction Podcast. The story begins thus:


Every so often that dead dog dreams me up again. It's twenty-five years later.


It's a good story, and I find Cortázar's point well taken. Proximity in fiction is a trump that beats space and time.

I was quite content with myself when I understood what Hunter S. Thompson's famous lines about the 60's from "Fear and Loathing..." reminded me of. Here's the reminder and the reminded:


IT seems like a lifetime, or at least a Main Era — the kind of peak that never comes again. San Francisco in the middle sixties was a very special time and place to be a part of. Maybe it meant something. Maybe not, in the long run... but no explanation, no mix of words or music or memories can touch that sense of knowing that you were there and alive in that corner of time and the world. Whatever it meant...

There was madness in any direction, at any hour. You could strike sparks anywhere. There was a fantastic universal sense that whatever we were doing was right, that we were winning...

And that, I think, was the handle — that sense of inevitable victory over the forces of Old and Evil. Not in any mean or military sense; we didn't need that. Our energy would simply PREVAIL. There was no point in fighting — on our side or theirs. We had all the momentum; we were riding the crest of a high and beautiful wave...

So now, less than five years later, you can go up on a steep hill in Las Vegas and look West, and with the right kind of eyes you can almost see the high water mark — that place where the wave finally broke, and rolled back.

Hunter S. Thompson, Fear and Loathing in Las Vegas (somewhat abridged)


AND as I sat there brooding on the old, unknown world, I thought of Gatsby’s wonder when he first picked out the green light at the end of Daisy’s dock. He had come a long way to this blue lawn, and his dream must have seemed so close that he could hardly fail to grasp it. He did not know that it was already behind him, somewhere back in that vast obscurity beyond the city, where the dark fields of the republic rolled on under the night.

Gatsby believed in the green light, the orgastic future that year by year recedes before us. It eluded us then, but that’s no matter — to-morrow we will run faster, stretch out our arms farther. . . . And one fine morning ——

So we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.

Francis S. Fitzgerald, The Great Gatsby



However, it seems common knowledge that Hunter Thompson was obsessed with The Great Gatsby to the point of reproducing it repeatedly on his typewriter to get into the rhythm of FF's prose.

So I am not as content with myself and am pushed to looking for proximity where there is little of it, e.g.:


Nun fehlte es ihm aus Mangel des Flötenspielers an einer Stimmensammlung und an irgend einer auch nur kleinsten Minorität weil die Majorität selber (er) nur 1 Mann stark war, welches wenn nicht die kleinste -- denn oft ist gar kein Mann beim Stimmen -- keine beträchtliche ist.

The flautist being absent, he was missing votes (=voices) as well as any minority, even a very small one, for the majority itself (or himself) was only one man strong, which if not the smallest one (as at times there is not even one man to give his voice), still wasn't substantial.


Jean Paul (Flegeljahre, 1803) plays here with the meaning of voice (vote vs. musical part), and I am reminded of Mayakovsky. But then making my way through the thicket of Jean Paul's prose I am reminded of many things.

If you, gentle reader, got as far as this, here is a prize poem by Greg Williamson.
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