viernes, 18 de abril de 2014

Custom Made Crosses

Borges Jones wasn’t precisely a tailor. Neither a man who got his education at an elite fashion school in Milan. He would surf his way around as an ordinary fellow. The average colors on his American cotton clothes squeezed from Bangladesh sweatshops. But nothing on him, superficially speaking, was ordinary except for the number of limbs he carried and the number of blinks per minute his left eye executed. And because he had a tic on the right eye, I can presume, though not confirm, of his dubious eyes synchronicity.

By nature or nurture, Borges Jones’ way of seeing had the manners of a lobbyist, usually negotiating asymmetries. Supporting lunch breaks with antagonisms. Requiring cocktail talks with paradoxes. No white could ravel in its whiteness without a black opponent. The radius of a circle would be challenged as he made a counterclockwise revision. He would force verticality, no matter how cruel the blow the slam the humiliation, to kneel down until it broke off to horizontality.

Janus was the two faced Roman god trading his greeting and farewell, permanently. A monster, as all gods are, Janus had been born out of an alter ego explosion in a megalomaniac’s dream. Jones’ face was a lacerated half of this monster. With a hello rising from the eastern edge of his lips to a fading good bye by the time it reached the west.  A mournful violin unveiling extremes without transitions. (My own god, the result of my private monotheistic religion, is a monster as well, but I dreamt of her, the illusion of a perfect synthesis –mind not the oxymoron; yes, she fails me, I never expected perfection in my spiritual Galatea.) 

But Borges Jones was no different than any other human I’d gotten to know until then. Intersected by beginnings and ends, his existential journey was the constant disturbance of wishing for peace while enjoying war. As the god of the past and the future, Janus held the door knobs, tensed the bridges’ suspensions, kept open the mouths of tunnels and caves for extravagance entrances or introverted exits. Borges Jones wanted to be the scissors for each umbilical chord, the eyes and sockets of a traveller and the contents of his pockets, the sender and the addressee almost as much as the script of the hand written letter, which he’d straighten up to a tight rope wire and whip with it every writer’s ass. 

His job at the workshop was to craft custom orders of human size crosses, gibbets or gallows. Crosses were popular, especially this year, with the renovations of Our Lady of the Sea to commemorate her 800th anniversary. A group of artists, philosophers & writers had been commissioned to rethink and redesign the fourteen chapels of the Basilica that flanked the nave. Creativity was finally permitted to land on fertile soil: the Catholic Church real estate. I’m not sure this was the secret scheme of an artist, a mischievous anonymous soul, or a Cardinal in disguise. What mattered to atheist Borges Jones was the fact that the production of crosses was about to increase and he might even try one for himself, why not. The new catalog of crosses, available to individuals and institutions, offered a wide range of choices. The wooden beams could come in a lacquered birch, assemble yourself Ikea-style; or in mahogany from the Roche-Bobois top designers. Alternative material to wood is the polyethylene cross, a commercial hit at first because of its affordable prices. As a result of concerns about being green in the 21st century and an ethical & conscientious industry rather than an environmentally neglectful one, the engineers manufactured a bio-derived polyethylene cross, made from sugar cane. (The question on the fair treatment and retribution to the almost-slave Brazilian workers got lost among the roars of the machines when the eight year old daughter of the principal shareholder of the business uttered it in sad yet hopeful tones). There was also a variation to this recycling cross: an ethylene-vinyl acetate copolymer, better known as EVA, a material widely used in sporting goods, that would resist the pressure and depth of any type of nail without scarring or breaking the beam.

Borges Jones was feeling some unusual satisfaction that morning. He stepped out of the shop to get some fresh air and buy a pack of smokes. Down from the alleyways of the barrio del Born the blue sky of Barcelona looked like a suspended beam of light, one of those pieces by James Turrell. He thought it was James Turrell’s turn to be his private secret God during that stroll. Once he got his Ducados he walked down to Our Lady of the Sea. Leaning on the medieval stone of its Gothic construction, he lit a cigarrette and debated on the rhythmic nature of existing. I have the right to interrupt my breathing, to skip an inhalation. What is one inhalation? One inhalation, one as nothing, one such a short number, reduced to the minimal, one as one unnecessary. What if I skip a day of my past, or a year, what’s a day when I’ve accumulated dozens of thousands. History is on the H, on the capital ACHE.

Interview with Dora Flis

We are right now with our backs to the sunset of a cold winter Wednesday, facing a brittle East River. I’m interviewing Dora Flis for the second time in a month and, today, I didn’t forget to bring the recorder.

M: Dora, tell me, people talks a lot about your infidelity. How does Dora Flis tackle her sexual instability?

D: Why, you rush me into the entreé with a greeting vomit. Let’s clear this out. I’m not unstable, dear. My vulnerabilities come from other branches, not the sexual ones. First, determine well the woods you want to unravel; then I might help you. Your cleverness will have to be as thick and leafy as abundant and sublimated my emergency exits.

M: Dora, I’m a simple woman, unable to imagine big or small details, no matter how universaly human they are, about your mosaic, convoluted life. I hardly believe you are mortal, like me, I bet your dentition (or set f teeth) is (are) not susceptible to cavities. You are an arrogant who can do without morning coffee, who is not a slave to his physiological needs neither to her tyrant passions.

D: Thank you, but not all is true. To fall over to passion is something of an adiction I adopted a while ago, and I renew my votes to them annually. I wear the habit of the converted fanatic. Thus yes, I am defenseless (exposed?). Unfortunatelly, I travelled towards a unwealthy man.

M: You are talking about the writer.

D: You can banish yourself to another country, it’s your legitimate right to carry your protest as far as you want, but you cannot accept as a temple for retreat any –just any- body in ruins. No, no, neit, nine. The scape must be realized in its entirety, in its whole & just dimension. This is about matching up the register of the shapes or scores, to highlight the borders of the invisible silhouette –that mobile space that each of us occupies—with its precise margins. This is the case of a stubborn man –or better yet, a goat—a stubborn goat, climbing a pile of problems. The mountain he thinks he can conquer is not a magic moutain: it’s a mirage. The escape, some say, any kind of escape, brings a loaf of bread (to the escaper) underneath the arm. But one’s got to drag the root, bear with it in order to re-plant oneself & grow anywhere. He is a true clinical case: he has a hologram complex. And that Russian bitch, Lila, bipolar and manic depressive, is another case of one who makes a Jackson Pollock mess out of her self portrait.

M: It’s easy for you to assert such statements after your divorce with Sal Buckman. I remember when you used to speak about him with kindness. He wounded you for so many years with his psychological abuse; I wish my repertoire of foul words would help you adjust the bill with him given that I’m a polyglot. But what good would it do to play the owl biting worms; this interview is not for me. Maybe some other day. People say you he is currently in a new relationship.

D:  ¿With Ana María? Look, between my “I’m in love” and his “I was in love” there’s a cardiac chronometric record of an abbyss, and a cheap shorthand typist.  An irreconciliable chronotopy, an unresolved welding, a deconstructive gig, a frontal crash against the floor on the already smashed better half.

M: It’s raining, Dora. Can you see?

D: Listen to me, then. Have the stars open their faucets, let the dome of each drop burst into dew of nothing. “Rain as a horde, hasty rain…” everything is distorted at the key of this poem, everything turns into itself. Have you seen the nucleus of a drop of water?


D: No? The nucleus of a drop of water is another drop of water.

M: A Mise en abime of H2O, placed into abyss, or hydraulic Chinese boxes.

D: A drop occupies a very limited space, and it’s the sum of thin liquid skins, at least seven layers.


D: Doubt, my friend, it’s all right to hesitate to believe. It’s a sign of intelligence. Rehearse theories, look, begin with this sample, a fresh tear.

M: Oh, but don’t cry, Dora, please, it’s unnecessary…

D: What? Do you think I’m serious? I put up acts wherever I go. Does the sun follow your path? Test with your shadow his pursuit. He is a forgetful passenger, always coming back to you. He did it today, and I’m thirty.

M: You were also thirty when the episode at The Giraffe restaurant happened, twenty years ago. You’re always thirty…

D: And I’m not inclined for less than that.

M: here, a tissue. Dry out those tricks off your face. Dora Flis, there have been some accusations against you in some of those hot news magazines. Do you read hot news magazines?

D: Yes honey, I’m subscribed to all but I never read the section of complaints from the exiled.  It’s a basic policy I follow: Never read complaints from the exiled.

M: A paradox, huh? You who is a major case of an exiled from the human vessel.

D: I only allow myself one exception. I never miss reading the section on The Roaming Poet.

M: You mean that poet.

D: Yes. Those who go on exile and practice buoyancy, those that don’t demand emotional passports nor trade agreements; the stowaways. That, that sailor.  

domingo, 5 de enero de 2014

No Author in the Library

or, The Simulacrum of the Eternal in Borges  ~

The practice of literature is to operate according to intuitive laws. Laws that intend to reproduce the intricate mechanisms of the absolute. The writings of Borges are both a literal and a conceptual simulation of what is immortal, infinite. It is possible to compare Borges to a scientist, a philosopher, and anthropologist because his approach to literature is a codification of the universe. Or level him to a judge since he measures with a scale the weight of the abstract and the real. He is a mathematician. He ventures a formula –the textual equations he calls essays, poems, short stories, to be exercised before the witnesses, his readers, until his writing reaches a resolution or a verdict of his preliminary hypothesis. What’s such a hypothesis? Perhaps the same with which I (unapologetically) justify typing this essay: to demonstrate that Borges’ literature is a simulacrum of a cosmic dimension. I will focus particularly in “The Library of Babel”, where his main impulse is to render the literary contraction of the universe.

The contraction of the literary universe as well. But as the Argentine writer would state in his “In memoriam J.F.K.”, This bullet is an old one. According to the interpretation that’s currently keeping us busy, there is a double entendre between the cause of one impulse and the consequence of the other. What happened first? Let’s allow ourselves some improbable questions: The invention of the universe out of the conception of literature or the invention of literature out of the conception of the universe? If what we understand as universe depends on how it’s explained through the word is because what we understand as universe is born out of the sketch that literature makes of it. To think of the idea of the infinite, for example, requires one to comply by written explanations of a concept which, even though by nature is inaccessible (in addition to provoking horrific agoraphobia) it’s translated into accessible codes: words. The definition of the world is expressed in various forms. One is the geographical, the literal, in which the number of the square feet that Argentina occupies is exactly the same space that in the terrestrial globe is held by Argentina. Another one is the expression on a scale: the map, proportionally shrinking the dimensions of what is the physicality, the corporeality, the materiality of the world. Yet another one is the historical expression; a fourth one is philosophical. Borges defines the world from the conceptual expression (inaccessible), and he builds the concepts out of words (accessible). From “Magias parciales del Quijote”:

Why does it disturb us that the map be included in the map and the thousand and one nights in the book of the Thousand and One Nights? Why does it disturb us that Don Quixote be a reader of the Quixote and Hamlet a spectator of Hamlet? I believe I have found the reason: these inversions suggest that if the characters of a fictional work can be readers or spectators, we, its readers or spectators, can be fictitious. In 1833, Carlyle observed that the history of the universe is an infinite sacred book that all men write and read and try to understand, and in which they are also written.

There is a written depiction of the universe of the word that forges the universe. An ambitious orthographic portrait. It’s in “The Library of Babel”.  In the preface of Dreamtigers, Borges delineates an image in reference to one of his recurrent analogies between universe and literature. “The sounds of the plaza fall behind, and I enter the Library. Almost physically, I can feel the gravitation of the books, the serene atmosphere of orderliness, time magically mounted and preserved. To left and right, absorbed in their waking dream, rows of readers’ momentary profiles in the light of the scholarly lamps as a Miltonian displacement of adjectives would have it.” The figure of the cosmos in this metaphysical silhouette, the gravitation of the books as if they were planets (time at a standstill) is explicit in its attempt to contain the kind of substitutions –metaphors– with which its lines project the power of the written word to, literally, a universal stratus.

Although the brief yet convincing reflection that Borges writes in “The Flower of Coleridge” belongs to the genre of the essay (or, does it?), the tone is not very different from any of his short stories. A forceless particular algebraic connection can be established with “The Library of Babel”. The impression is that The Library is conceived from the flower. In the first sentence of his essay, Borges shoots out Valéry’s idea about the history of literature, which could be told, “without ever mentioning one writer”.  Let’s rehearse –experiment momentarily and tour the currents that Borges frequented: imagine that the sole existing history is literature’s history (religion, philosophy, all reduced as Borges himself has suggested, to the subgenre of fantastic literature), and this world is inhabited merely by characters and writers. In this world a library like “The Library of Babel” is plausible. It is origin and destination. In “The Flower of Coleridge” Borges mentions the unfinished novel by Henry James, “The Sense of the Past”, and upon referring to the regressus in infinitum says “The cause is possible to the effect, the reason of the trip is the consequence of the trip”. The mathematical theory of sets, which studies the connections between the limbs or pieces that constitute a whole, would help to validate some substitutions of words to better visualize the intersections of both texts. The cause is possible to the effect, the motive of The Library is the consequence of The Library.
In “The Library of Babel” we find not even once the name of an author. The predominant feeling throughout the short story is that we are before a precinct (the only existing precinct) containing all the books that have been written, and the common denominator is that those responsible for the works are all anonymous writers. The only name that appears –not precisely as an author – is, timidly, the name of God (and only inside a parenthesis) (similar to:) (God). In his essay “Death of the Author”, Roland Barthes insinuates the disappearance of the author, the name of the writer as the mere “brand” of a product: his work echoes Valéry’s idea of Borges’ “The Flower of Coleridge”. Or to the reduction to an indivisible figure that Borges makes at the end of his essay: “For many years I thought that the almost infinite literature pertained to one man. Such a man was Carlyle, it was Johannes Becher, it was Whitman, it was Rafael Cansinos-Asséns, it was De Quincey.” And this is another intersection where both texts coincide: one single writer, one single Library.    

From the perspective of the dream, a territory commonly visited by Borges’ short stories, the omniliterary world is the fantasy of other authors as well. While working on making sense of the current incongruities, my attention bumped into Umberto Eco’s novel “The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana”. Yambo, the page of the queen, suffers a sudden loss of memory, an amnesia affecting his identity, and the only thing he can remember is the literature he has read, each verse of a poem, and precise quotes.  In a way, the references of his being disappear, and one fancies that only from the knowledge found within his memory of the books Yambo will be able to traverse the map of what he was and has been. Inevitably it rings a bell to the principles of “The Flower of Coleridge” and “The Library of Babel”. Yambo would allude to be the perfect citizen in one of The Library’s possibly endless hexagons.

It’s possible to come closer to an interpretation of “The Library of Babel” as if it were an organism  -an interpretation not far away from what the short story pretends to be. The Library could be two things: a paradise, a garden; or a body. A collection of figurative references related to those of nature: beehives (like the hexagonal galleries in the story), fruit trees: “Light proceeds from some spherical fruits that are named lamps…” and it continues with an analogy to illumination or wisdom, forever limited to our human condition: “the light they emit is insufficient, incessant.”  As a body’s DNA speaks about “the organic letters on a book”. A historical body. There are other revelations accessible to the reader from The Library: its unmeasurable circumference, its solitary atmosphere. At the footnote the narrator describes some significant information of its demographics, the librarians. Suicide and pulmonary diseases have isolated its hallways and stairs. The books are confusing, the number of dialects and languages combined in the Library is unspeakable. No two books are identical or duplicated –only one of each. And as if were about unrepetitive genetic combinations, all consist in the same elements: “the space, the dot, the comma, the 22 letters of the alphabet”[1] and yet there are no two books that are identical. Two axioms arise from here, The Library is eternal and the number of characters is twenty five.

There’s a set of a different class of characters in The Library. Man, as the “imperfct librarian”, the chief of each hexagon, the “traveling decipherers”, the “librarians of genius” also called “philosophers”, the pilgrims in search of their “Vindications”, the books that hold the code of their future (although the probability of finding them, or any variation of them, equal zero); the official searchers or inquisitors trying to clarify the mysteries of humanity and the origin of the library, and Time; the purifiers; and, the infidels, for whom the rule of the library is “the non-sense”.  

The Library is a simile of the world: “I’m getting ready to die a few yards from the hexagon in which I was born”. The universe, or the “actual world”, as the narrator refers to, “can only be the product of a god”. Notice this intriguingly biased remark: his polytheist opinions don’t need a parenthetical confinement. “The Library of Babel”, written in 1941, also seems to be like a premonition of the world wide web, a virtual space of endless vertical and horizontal corridors, mirrors and multiplications where all knowledge is categorized and contrived. The narrator at some point prays “Let heaven exist, though my own place be in hell…but let there be one instant, one creature, wherein thy enormous Library may find its justification.”

And in this library the order of the books is disrupted. There are “impenetrable” books, and the narrator adds, incisive to what refers to space, “a few miles to the right the tongue is dialectal and ninety floors above is incomprehensible”. Even in his infinite quality he establishes hierarchies.         
Indeed, The Library is a portrait of a building, of a spacial system. In its name resides its justification: just like the Tower of Babel, the Library has a vertical structure that is geometrically symmetrical: “From any hexagon, the lower and upper floors can be seen, interminably”.

In this game of an “unlimited and periodic” Library in which the narrator incurs, we attend a Borgesian recurrence, the same one that is explained and facilitated through the story of “The Flower of Coleridge”: it’s the image of the geometrical figure of Möbius, the belt that engaged in an endless movement shows the reverse and obverse of both sides without defining which is which. Dream and vigil, literature can be both, Borges’ literature specifically: world, space, Library, the flower picked in a dream and found in your palm the next morning.  

[1] The Hebrew alphabet has 22 letters. This essay will have to bear a second part in order to address this fundamental piece of Borges’ puzzle.

Ningún escritor en la biblioteca

o, Borges y el simulacro de lo eterno ~

El ejercicio de la literatura es operar de acuerdo a leyes intuidas. Leyes que pretenden reproducir los intrincados mecanismos de lo absoluto. Así es la escritura de Borges una simulación literal y conceptual de lo inmortal, lo eterno, lo infinito. Lo que hace posible equiparar a  Borges a un científico, filósofo, antropólogo o a un juez es que aborda la literatura como una codificación del universo. Es un matemático. Arriesga una fórmula --una ecuación-- textual, a las que llama ensayos, poemas o cuentos,  que irá resolviendo ante los testigos –sus lectores— hasta  alcanzar la resolución o el veredicto de su hipótesis previa. ¿Cuál es la hipótesis previa? Quizá la misma con la que yo justifico escribir el presente ensayo: demostrar que la literatura de Borges es un simulacro del universo. Con La biblioteca de Babel, en particular, escribir el retrato de la contracción literaria del universo parece ser su móvil.

También la contracción del universo literario. Pero como diría el escritor argentino “Esta bala es antigua” ("In memoriam J.F.K", El hacedor). Es decir, y de acuerdo a la interpretación que aquí nos ocupa, el double entendre entre la causa de una y la consecuencia de otra. Porque: ¿qué fue primero, la invención del universo a partir de la concepción de la literatura, o la invención de la literatura a partir de la concepción del universo? Si lo que entendemos por universo está supeditado a cómo éste se explica a través de la palabra, es quizá porque lo que entendemos por universo nace a partir del ‘dibujo’ que hace de él la escritura. Pensar en la idea del infinito, por ejemplo: exige remitirse a explicaciones escritas, a un concepto que, aunque por naturaleza es inaccesible (además de provocar agorafobias espantosas), se traduce a códigos accesibles: palabras. La definición del mundo se expresa de varias formas. Una es la geográfica; la literal, en la que el espacio que ocupa Argentina es exactamente el espacio que en el globo terráqueo ocupa Argentina.[1] Otra es la expresión a escala: el mapa, que encoge de manera proporcional las dimensiones de lo que es en realidad lo físico, lo corpóreo, lo material del mundo. Otra es la expresión histórica; otra la filosófica. Borges define al mundo desde la expresión conceptual (inaccesible), y los conceptos los construye a partir de palabras (accesible).  Cito de Magias parciales del Quijote: 

¿Porqué nos inquieta que el mapa esté incluido en el mapa y las mil y una noches en el libro de Las Mil y Una Noches? ¿Porqué nos inquieta que don Quijote sea lector del Quijote, y Hamlet, espectador de Hamlet? Creo haber dado con la causa: tales inversiones sugieren que si los caracteres de una ficción pueden ser lectores o espectadores, nosotros, sus lectores o espectadores, podemos ser ficticios. En 1833, Carlyle observó que la historia universal es un infinito libro sagrado que todos los hombres escriben y leen y tratan de entender, y en el que también los escriben. 

Hay un retrato escrito del universo de la palabra que crea al universo.  Es el de “La Biblioteca de Babel”. En el prólogo de El hacedor, que lleva por encabezado “A Leopoldo Lugones”, Borges
dibuja una imagen que remite a una de sus analogías recurrentes entre el universo y la literatura: “Los rumores de la plaza quedan atrás y entro en la Biblioteca. De una manera casi física siento
la gravitación de los libros, el ámbito sereno de un orden, el tiempo disecado y conservado mágicamente. A izquierda y a derecha, absortos en su lúcido sueño, se perfilan los rostros momentáneos de los lectores…”. La figura del cosmos en ese orden al que se refiere, la gravitación de los libros como si se tratara de planetas, el tiempo detenido, por sí misma es explícita ésta cita que contiene el tipo de sustituciones –-metáforas— que hacen de sus líneas proyectar el poder de la palabra escrita a un nivel, literalmente, universal.

Aunque la breve (sin embargo contundente) reflexión que escribe Borges en “La flor de Coleridge” (Otras Inquisiciones) pertenece al género del ensayo, el tono no es muy distinto al de sus cuentos, establezco una conexión en particular al de “La Biblioteca de Babel”. La impresión es que de La flor… se concibe La Biblioteca…. Lanza en la primera línea de su ensayo la idea que Valéry escribió sobre la historia de la literatura, la cual podría contarse “sin mencionar un solo escritor”. Experimentemos momentáneamente y recorramos el cauce que frecuentaba Borges: imaginemos que la única Historia que existe es la Historia de la literatura (la religión, la filosofía, todo reducido, como él mismo ha sugerido, al género de la literatura fantástica), y este mundo únicamente lo habitan escritores y personajes. En este mundo una biblioteca, como “La Biblioteca de Babel”, es posible. Es causa y consecuencia. Cuando en “La flor de Coleridge” Borges menciona la novela inconclusa de Henry James, The Sense of the Past,  dice al referirse al regressus in infinitum que “La causa es posible al efecto, el motivo del viaje es la consecuencia del viaje”. La teoría matemática de los conjuntos (aquella que estudia las relaciones y las conexiones entre las partes o piezas que constituyen un todo) ayudaría a validar unas sustituciones de palabras para visualizar mejor la intersección entre ambos textos: La causa es posible al efecto, el motivo de La Biblioteca es la consecuencia de La Biblioteca.

En "La Biblioteca de Babel" no se menciona ni una sola vez el nombre de algún escritor. La sensación a lo largo del cuento de que estamos ante un recinto (el único recinto existente) que contiene todos los libros existentes, y que son escritores anónimos los responsables de estos libros, es el denominador común. El único nombre que aparece –aunque no precisamente en calidad de autor—es, tímidamente, el de Dios (y aparece entre paréntesis). Roland Barthes, en su ensayo “Death of the Author”, insinuaba la desaparición del autor, del nombre del escritor como “marca” de un producto: su obra, y por lo tanto nos recuerda al Valéry de Borges en "La flor de Coleridge". O a la reducción que hace el mismo Borges al final de su ensayo en una figura indivisible: “Durante muchos años, yo creí que la casi infinita literatura estaba en un hombre [2]. Ese hombre fue Carlyle, fue Johannes Becher, fue Whitman, fue Rafael Cansinos-Asséns, fue De Quincey.” Y esta es la intersección en que coinciden ambos textos: un solo escritor, una sola Biblioteca.

Desde la perspectiva del sueño, territorio que invariablemente visitan los cuentos de Borges, el mundo omniliterario es la fantasía de otros autores también. Me llamó la atención cruzarme recientemente con la novela de Umberto Eco, traducida al inglés como The Mysterious Flame of Queen Loana. Yambo, el paje de la reina sufre una pérdida repentina de la memoria, una amnesia que afecta su identidad, y lo único que puede recordar es la literatura que ha leído, cada verso de poesía y citas precisas.  Las referencias de su ser, digamos,  desaparecen, y se antoja creer que será a partir de los libros que podrá recorrer el mapa de lo que fue y ha sido. Inevitablemente recuerda a los principios de “La flor de Coleridge” y a “La Biblioteca de Babel”.

Es posible aproximarse a una interpretación de “La Biblioteca de Babel” como si fuera un organismo –interpretación que no dista de ser lo que procura por sí misma la hipótesis del cuento. La Biblioteca puede ser dos cosas: el paraíso (un jardín), o un cuerpo. El Paraíso por las referencias que recuerdan a las figuras de la Naturaleza: panales de abejas (“galerías hexagonales”), árboles frutales: “La luz procede de unas frutas esféricas que llevan el nombre de lámparas…” y continua con lo que parece una analogía a la iluminación o a la sabiduría, siempre limitadas a nuestra condición humana: “ la luz que emiten es insuficiente, incesante.”

A un cuerpo porque, como a la manera de un jardín, habla de “las letras orgánicas de un libro”. Un cuerpo histórico. Y también sabemos otras cosas que se nos revelan de la Biblioteca: su circunferencia es inaccesible, su atmósfera solitaria. En una de las notas al pie de página el narrador describe algunos datos significativos de su demografía (los “bibliotecarios”): el suicidio y las enfermedades pulmonares han desolado sus corredores y escaleras. Los libros son confusos, la mezcla de dialectos y lenguajes en ellos combinados es histriónica. No hay dos libros que sean iguales o que se repitan, y como si se tratara de combinaciones genéticas irrepetibles, todos constan de los mismos elementos: “el espacio, el punto, la coma, las 22 letras del alfabeto”, pero no hay dos libros que sean idénticos. En este sentido se basan dos axiomas, la Biblioteca es eterna y el número de sus símbolos ortográficos es veinticinco.

La Biblioteca es el mundo: “me preparo a morir a unas pocas leguas del hexágono en que nací: Se sospecha que Dios está materializado en un libro cíclico, pero esta es una revelación que sólo le es dada a los místicos. El universo, o este mundo, se refiere deliberadamente el narrador “sólo puede ser obra de un dios”.  La Biblioteca de Babel parece un anticipo del concepto que hoy entendemos por la red cibernética o Internet, un espacio  virtual de  multiplicaciones donde todo el conocimiento está categorizado y discurrido. El narrador llega al grado de hacer una petición, como si de una grave oración se tratara: “Que yo sea ultrajado y aniquilado, pero que un instante, en un ser, Tu enorme Biblioteca se justifique”.  Y en esta Biblioteca el sentido de los libros está trastocado. Hay libros “impenetrables”, y agrega, incisivo en cuanto a espacio se refiere, “unas millas a la derecha la lengua es dialectal y 90 pisos más arriba, es incomprensible”. Hasta en su cualidad infinita establece jerarquías.

En efecto, la Biblioteca es la estampa de un edificio, de un sistema espacial. En su nombre reside su explicación: igual que la Torre de Babel, la Biblioteca tiene una estructura vertical y geométricamente simétrica: “Desde cualquier hexágono, se ven los pisos inferiores y superiores, interminablemente”. 

En este juego de la Bibioteca “ilimitada y periódica” en que incurre el narrador, acudimos a una recurrencia borgeana, la misma que se explica –o que posibilita—que una hipótesis como la de “La flor de Coleridge” exista: es la imagen de la figura geométrica de Möbius, cinta que en un posible movimiento infinito muestra el anverso y el reverso de sus lados sin definir cuál es cuál. Sueño y vigilia, la literatura puede ser ambas, la literatura de Borges sobre todo, telescopio y microscopio, un contenedor de bibliotecas en sí misma, una colección de jardines lo mismo de flora exuberante que de flores marchitas. 

[1] “Magias parciales del Quijote”. Otras inquisiciones.
[2] El énfasis es mío.

martes, 31 de diciembre de 2013

Polifonía en un anagrama improvisado: Laurie Anderson

En Laurie Anderson cabe Lou Reed --y hasta le sobra tela. Y cabe L.A. con sus millones de voces. Y cabe el do, el re; mi no, ni fa. Cabe el sol. El la, el si sí. Cabe el aura, el río y el aria. Y otra vez Lou Reed, que es a su vez una puesta en abismo de voces.

Laurie Anderson rinde culto a un amplio espectro de dioses. Su politeísmo obedece a otro ismo: el inconformismo, que raya, bienaventurados paganos, en la promiscuidad creativa.  En Anderson opera la idea de la interpretación múltiple: nada de fidelidades a una sola disciplina, un discurso ha de abordarse de cuantas formas pueda el cuerpo, la habilidad y el talento: desde el violín, desde el performance, desde la voz: canciones, desde la pluma: cuentos y poemas. Las leyes de la inspiración gravitan en las órbitas sensoriales de los artistas. Cuerpos con peso, volúmen, intelecto y sensibilidad; si no se sabe, se sospecha. Muchos hay que no cumplen con las cuatro citas.  Habría que elaborar, reunirse en asamblea, trazar figuras, marearse en gráficas, proponer, discutir, modificar y sancionar, cosas todas que no se harán ahora, pero que se arrojan con la divertida arbitrariedad de algo que (presume) superficialmente de ser farsa, aunque en el fondo, la simple tentativa de su posibilidad, se entretengan siendo una cosa bien seria. Son los dados del juego del destino de un texto que no se lanzarán. Esta lógica, retórica de tianguis, es una suerte de intromisión gratuita, caprichosa. Malcriada, desvelada. Una oportunidad para perder el tiempo. O no. Tal vez es mística. El progreso, dice Anderson, es un angel que vuela de espaldas al futuro.

O Superman, al estallido de la pronunciación de un mito se esparcen los decibeles de respetadísima  artista, versátil posmodernista, que arremete con su voz contra las nebulosas. Es de un desliz aterciopelado, tornasol, su voz: mece el canto en columpio, que va de ida opaco y de vuelta brillante. Y cuando habla el balance es nacarado, en informal tensión de un hilo fino, que parece escurrirse en murmullos liberados de la espiral de un caracol. Un día trabajé para Laurie Anderson, por eso arriesgo a medir las sombras y las luces de su voz.

Anderson creció en Chicago, entre el acto cotidiano de una familia grande y la influencia religiosa de la iglesia bautista, su abuela la principal promotora. Sigue en ella vigente la fascinación por la organización de la religión, sin duda por el impacto de las asambleas de Bill Graham, a las que asistía, donde al acto de salvación lo consideraría después como el “verdadero teatro”. Anderson ha escogido la voz como principal vehículo de información de sus performances; en sus presentaciones públicas o “spoken performances” es con la voz que busca la redención estética. Su trabajo consiste esencialmente en contar historias, el arte más antiguo del mundo. “I think of myself as a speaker”, encajada en la tradición de la oratoria, y entre las influencias que nombra tiende un puente que va de la poesía épica de Homero  hasta las prácticas orales de William Borroughs y de Vito Acconci. Su acto es sobre la ejecución de las palabras; la voz es maleable, moldeable, y el rango de voces que ella utiliza es la prueba.

Fue la tarde de sábado de invierno cuando, contratada por la misma Anderson, fui con ella a trabajar. La nieve había rendido sobre Manhattan un molde purificado, otorgaba reposo al violente vértice bauhaus predominante de su barrio. Toqué el timbre de su estudio y el tiempo sincronizado en demócratica concordancia claroscura, ella/yo-star/loser, se activó. El elevador del edificio tenía en el techo hermosos recortes pegados de pájaros en vuelo: alguien asciende y desciende todos los días en la metáfora de su propia jaula. Yo asistía a la cita como la embajadora fonética del español.  En una semana ella iba a viajar a México para hacer una presentación en el Teatro de la Ciudad. Su intención era practicar el idioma y quería grabar mi voz mientras leía un cuento que había  escrito acerca de rituales y conquistas fracasadas de montañas. Se abrió la puerta y ahí estaba  ella, 1.62 como yo y los ojos que nos coincidían en perfecto paralelo, amabilísima,  matemáticamente despeinada, su voz de hilo de seda haut-couture. Pronuncia mi nombre, que desde su voz ha convertido en holograma, y yo quería en ese momento llamarme indefinidamente así. Mi emoción, que desde el lado del brillo titubeaba, obedecía a la posibilidad de un shock interestelar repentino: la esperanza de toparme con el ex terciopelo subterráneo, gran cantante de dos sílabas, Lou Reed.

Una foto grande del Dalai Lama colgaba del muro principal, con adornos sobrepuestos, a modo de altar vertical . Platicamos un momento y entramos en materia. Me extiende la letra de la canción Progress, anotada en una hoja, y me pregunta si podría traducirla porque era probable que decidiera cantarla en español. Hansel llama a Gretel bitch, mesera especialista en gin. Hansel es huevón y apareció en un film de Fassbinder. Su relación incestuosa termina explosivamente cuando Hansel tiene a bien confesarle a Gretel que su verdadero amor fue siempre la Bruja. Luego aparece el angel progresista que vuela de espaldas al futuro, y la que fuera rola centrada en desaveniencia sexual pecaminosa se tornasolea en activismo político fatalista de cantautor.

La vida quiso que Lou Reed no estuviera. Existía uno inanimado que dentro de un marco colgaba en una columna. Quieto y sin moverse. Existía otro, de forma singular y ciertamente absorta, de ocurrencia puñetera cortesía de la que escribe, dentro del nombre de la artista, donde vacila inmerso el de él, sostenido entre sus letras y al tejido carnal de quien su nombre representa, desde su adicción aérea, que siempre es femenina.  Y hacer con las siete que sobran sopas y coros, siete minúsculos que regeneren un cuento infantil, o se escandalicen contra el viejo cuento religioso, o eviten el empate por ser número non en el voto político; hacer mediante la mención incisiva de un héroe la injusta sinopsis de quien es realmente la verdadera heroína.  Hansel y Gretel viven en Berlin y discuten en el porche con un gin.