Two Items


I think of my dog and how she will be the first one to die—in all likelihood. I imagine it will be sudden—by a car, maybe, or by ingesting something poisonous to her biology (not that we encourage such accidents). No one in my family has ever gone quite like that. The cats, even if she lives to old age, will probably have some years on her, even though they are older than her now. My family, who used to live in this house, now live in Saskatoon. They went suddenly and it is almost like we are inhabiting their ghostly corpse, like they died. But I can still talk to them on the phone so it is not quite like that.


I imagined explaining this to my future Latin American Studies professor, or perhaps to a sympathetic graduate student running a tutorial. Reading Borges, I feel like he is simultaneously outside and within all traditions of literature. He is the aleph and also the person describing the aleph. As he aged he seemed to become tired of crafting fictions: his books become shorter, more weary (as opposed to tired). The Derridean scholar will note with pleasure that this weariness comes to its head in two stories which demonstrate the replacement of all literature and experience with a single word (the Ur signifier). Borges’s growing weariness may have been influenced to some extent by his growing blindness, which overtook him in the middle of his life.

Admittedly, I have not read much of Aira. Of his six books translated into English, only The Literary Conference, and now, Ghosts. But if Borges is the aleph and outside the aleph, somehow Aira is outside the aleph and looking in the other direction. I imagine him walking on a current of air, each step he takes somehow in accordance with the rhythm of life. Don’t misunderstand me: his writing is not ecstatic, nor is it earthy. He is clearly a man who spends a lot of time within himself. But it is his unaffected presence, or maybe it is a lack of presence, that causes me to think that his writing is at the root of things. In The Literary Conference he writes that he never makes literary allusions—and that’s not quite true—but it’s easy to believe that his fiction is from a time before such allusion was possible, because there was nothing to allude to, only the history or cycle and its references to itself.

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