Labyrinths

Veneto_0006
Bartolomeo Veneto: Gentiluomo con laberinto, ca. 1550. The Fitzwilliam Museum, Cambridge.

It was around 1984, that oft-quoted, most literary year, that Borges’s first set of dialogues with Osvaldo Ferrari took place. The topics were customarily universal: he dabbled into Plato (whom he favoured, quite hard-headedly, over Aristotle) and stretched Greece into the modest quarters of Evaristo Carriego; he discoursed on Alfonso Reyes (whose work has unjustly faded from general memory) and reappeared under the guise of tiresome Anglo-Saxon epic. Such enjoyable duplicity has been stated earlier by Emir Rodríguez Monegal, whose Borges biography is both a classic and an act of fair will. Late into the conversation, that vanishing Greek skill, Ferrari wonders whether Borges is still assailed by his olden, almost friendly recurring phantoms: tigers, daggers, labyrinths. Borges shook his head: the daggers had grown to rust, the tigers made (paraphrasing Tennyson) weak by time and old age. Only the eternal labyrinth, the sphere that is at one time the world and holds it strong, stood. Labyrinths loomed in frequent nightmares and lurked within daylight dreamt-of plots, and in the daily solstice we call siesta. Jocularly, days before his death in Geneva (whose Vieille Ville is a labyrinth), Marguerite Yourcenar asked a bed-ridden Borges when he would finally leave the labyrinth. When everyone else already has, Borges answered. He still, presumably, dwells within.

A few weeks before her own parting, it was Yourcenar’s turn to joke with labyrinths, death, and a dream, as recapitulated by Giorgetto Giorgi in his Labyrinthe du monde di Marguerite Yourcenar . It was, most likely, the last interview she held. She told the amazed reporter, a young man bearing a passing resemblance to a late friend, that she had dreamt of that afternoon in which she had flippantly mocked the power of the maze beside Borges. In her dream, Borges presided a labyrinth: it revolved around him, as celestial bodies dance around stars (Giorgi would later assert Yourcenar had been revisiting, as an apt preparation for her last day, Dante’s least inspired cantos, the protracted Paradise), and he was awaiting everyone’s riddance of the shackles of that unfinished and unending labyrinth.

It was most strange, Yourcenar continued, since Borges had revealed to me, that day, so close to his last day, that he had endured the same dream, but he had seen Shakeapeare sitting at the very heart of that peaceful storm. Now that I know I will have my place in the labyrinth, in whose dream, on his or her last day, will I be a death vision?

HB

Fue hacia 1984, ese año demasiado citado, demasiado literario, que la primera sesión de diálogos entre Borges y Osvaldo Ferrari tuvo lugar. Los temas fueron predeciblemente universales: repasar a Platón (al que prefería, tercamente, a Aristóteles), estirar a la Hélade hasta la módica mansión de Evaristo Carriego; sopesar a Alfonso Reyes (cuya obra injustamente ya no puebla la memoria general) y reaparecer bajo el tedioso manto de la épica anglosajona. Esa gozosa duplicidad había sido anunciada previamente por Emir Rodríguez Monegal, cuya biografía de Borges es a la vez un clásico y un acto de buena fe. Adentrado en la conversación, arte griego que se desvanece, Ferrari se pregunta si Borges es aún asediado por esos fantasmas recurrentes que ya son casi viejos amigos: tigres, puñales, laberintos. Borges sacudió la cabeza: los puñales se han herrumbrado, los tigres (parafraseando a Tennyson), se han debilitado por el tiempo y la vejez. Sólo sobrevive el eterno laberinto, la esfera que es al unísono el mundo y contiene con firmeza al mundo. Los laberintos acechaban en las pesadillas frecuentes, se agazapaban en argumentos soñados en la vigilia y en ese cotidiano solsticio que llamamos siesta. Bromeando, días antes de la muerte en Ginebra (cuya Vieille Ville es un laberinto), Marguerite Yourcenar preguntó a un Borges moribundo cuándo saldría, finalmente, del laberinto. Cuando hayan salido todos, contestó Borges. Aún, quizás, mora dentro.

Unas semanas antes de su propia muerte, visitó a Yourcenar la oportunidad de jugar con los laberintos, los sueños, el fin, tal como recapitula Giorgetto Giorgi en su Labyrinthe du monde di Marguerite Yourcenar. Fue, seguramente, durante la última entrevista. Reveló al asombrado periodista, un joven un tanto parecido a un amigo muerto, que había soñado con esa tarde en la que se había burlado de los poderes del laberinto junto a la cama de Borges.  En el sueño, Borges presidía el laberinto, que giraba en torno suyo, como los planetas giran en torno a una estrella (Giorgi afirmaría más tarde que Yourcenar había estado releyendo, en útil preparación para el día final, los versos menos notables de Dante, los que corresponden al prolongado Paraíso), y Borges aguardaba la liberación de todos de las cadenas del inacabado e inacabable laberinto.

Era muy extraño, prosiguió Yourcenar, ya que Borges me reveló, ese día, tan cercano a su último día, que había padecido el mismo sueño, pero él había visto a Shakespeare sentado en el centro de esa tormenta serena. Ahora que sé que tendré mi sitio en el laberinto, quién me soñará, en su último día, como se sueña a la muerte?

HB

 

Categories: ImpurezasTags: , , ,

Hadrian Bagration

Hadrian Bagration is a humble and avid reader and perhaps an author. He pleads guilty to a few titles. He is also an enthusiastic but somewhat negligent follower of such intellects as those of the early Sartre, Albert Camus, Harold Bloom, Jorge Luis Borges, the French encyclopaedists, epistemologist Mario Bunge, Richard Dawkins and the insufferable (in today's ludicrous politically correct view) paleontologist Peter Ward. Beyond the above, and besides a vague vital skepticism and abhorrence of the cult of zeal, he is known for being unremarkably collected.

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