Long time followers will be aware of my love of the writing of Jorge Luis Borges. A couple of this week’s news stories have a Borgesian flavour to them. Or rather, they give rise to old themes that Borges articulates very well. #
The first of these is ‘The Letter’ – an open letter signed by prominent writers and academics published in Harper’s Magazine, bemoaning the rise of cancel culture. It seems to have divided Twitter, with many people criticising the generic text based upon those who signed it. # Continue reading “Borges, Maynard, Funes, Harper’s and Depp”
Re-posted from 1001.recaps.org
So long as you are prepared to admit it, ignorance is an opportunity rather than a weakness.
— Ann Morgan, 31 December 2019
Why this book and why now?
Why do any of us read anything? I have been meaning to read the Arabian Nights, or The Thousand and One Nights, for many years. Whenever I tell anyone that I have an interest in non-linear fiction, they usually mention the nested, story-within-a-story structure for which the tales are famous. In response, I have always said that I would get around to reading the collection “at some point.” Continue reading “My Introduction to 'A Thousand and One Recaps'”
In March, I was honoured and delighted to be asked to give the keynote speech at the University of Roehampton’s Creative Writing Soiree, an annual evening of fiction, memoir and poetry readings done by the English and Creative Writing students. The suggested title of my talk was ‘The Writer in the World’ which gave me the chance to speak about creativity, literature and the work of English PEN in broader and grander terms than the speeches I am usually asked to give.
I confess to being quite pleased with the end result. Not, I must stress, in the delivery, which comes across as extemporised rather than pre-planned. But rather, the broad idea of what it means to be a ‘writer in the world’ and the pragmatic suggestions for how one might go about living as such a writer.
The speech included a potted history of English PEN, some thoughts on the moral obligations of free speech, my earliest memories of learning to read, and the grind and grit required to be ‘creative’. Its a good statement of what I believe. Continue reading “The Writer in the World”
A battered side street in the old part of Buenos Aires. The tarmac seems pockmarked. Parts of the curb are missing, and the serrated edge of the paving slabs are exposed, like the diseased gums of an old Gaucho.
A modest cafe. It seems rooted to the sidewalk, like the weeds. Other shops have long since shuttered, and their proprietors have escaped to the suburbs. But this establishment persists.
I scrape back one of the metal chairs.
“Un cafe, por favor?” The young waiter rolls his eyes. Is he annoyed that I have not ordered more, or is he casting judgement on my formal, European Spanish? Whatever: He clearly understands, and he slopes inside.
To my left, a croak. “English?”
I turn my head. A man sits alone, his mouth drawn down on one side. A stroke, perhaps?
“Yes,” I reply. “London.”
“Where else!” he replies. And now a smile. So no, not a stroke, just a crooked face. But he does not look straight at me. He cannot see very well. Continue reading “Jorge Luis Borges In The Night Garden”
It is often said that Jorge Luis Borges would have loved the Internet. The non-linear journeys we take, forking paths through the information, the near-infiinty of it all, are themes mirrored in his writing. I imagine his interest would have been piqued by the exposure of a hoax on Wikipedia.
From 1640 to 1641 the might of colonial Portugal clashed with India’s massive Maratha Empire in an undeclared war that would later be known as the Bicholim Conflict. Named after the northern Indian region where most of the fighting took place, the conflict ended with a peace treaty that would later help cement Goa as an independent Indian state. Except none of this ever actually happened. The Bicholim Conflict is a figment of a creative Wikipedian’s imagination. It’s a huge, laborious, 4,500 word hoax. And it fooled Wikipedia editors for more than 5 years.
Continue reading “A Wikipedia Hoax”