MA Week Nine

So on Monday this week we were reading Jorge Luis Borges' Labyrinths.  Well, specifically, we were looking at a few particular stories from Fictions, but Labyrinths is the book that we all had, though the tutor had a different translation than the rest of us, and he reckoned his was better - but that's by the by.

We talked mostly about how metafictional the texts are, how the postmodernists were influenced by Borges, and how he was influenced by Kafka, though he also cited Kipling as an influence, which surprised me.  Our tutor explained how Argentinian literature was at one point the product of a very Anglophile and  Hispanophile culture, before the postcolonial movement turned things in on themselves, and a new, local tradition was encouraged - but Borges preferred not to affiliate himself with either camp, not to be seen as a representative; he avoided simple issues of Nationalism in his prose.  (Apparently in later years he accepted an award or a medal from Pinochet, thus scuppering his chances at a Nobel prize -- d'oh.)  He was a professor of English and a translator as well as a writer, and his work is massively erudite; as a writer, he considered himself a poet first, and a writer of fiction second.  His work is very self-reflexive, dealing with issues of authorship and the relationship of the author to the audience; his narrators are an unreliable bunch.  He was very interested in time and perception, and he grounds the fantastic in the logical and the ordinary, often confusing or tricking the reader the first time round (unless it's just me...).

We looked at 'Pierre Menard', 'Tlon', and The Garden of Forking Paths', focusing on the unreliability of the narrators, Borges' use of language to play with semantics and meanings in his sentences, his use of Gothic conventions (the dark and stormy nights!), his dismissal of structuralism in the way he calls attention to the impossibility of accuracy and authority in language, his humour, his interest in the transmission of information through texts.  Plenty to absorb this week.   Next week we're onto Bolano, and By Night In Chile; I've read 2666 and The Savage Detectives (loved that!) so I'm looking forward to that session.

In the afternoon we had the fiction workshop; this week it was me again, and two others, all three of us submitting novel extracts.  One was a continuation of what we'd seen last time, one was a new thing, and mine was a reworked version of my last submission, albeit a pretty unrecognisable reworking.  It went well - plenty of useful feedback, and I guess I'll have to press onto subsequent chapters now, because the next thing to hand in (other than my next essay) will be the first graded piece of fiction of the year - 6000 words of prose due after the Christmas break.  We've only got three weeks left of term - how scary is that?
But in the meantime, Amis update tomorrow!

Oh, PS:  Kim, for lunch I had a latte and a pecan pastry thingy; it was yummy and not nutritious at all, and I felt like a proper student, disregarding my greens and heading to the pub for beer right after class instead of getting a good night's sleep like a sensible adult!

1 comment:

kim mcgowan said...

Right on the edge! (but as you say, pecans do have a vitamin)
By the way, the word verification word today is 'bittio'