I agree with this commentary, though I wonder how it can be made to exist in the current state of publishing. Possibly one could have a total virtual library--though I love paper but could print out I assume--but how do you see a reader finding a way through a total library? This is a real question--I think Borges is right, but the books that have been recovered have, ironically, been the ones in libraries. Recovery has to include some distribution.
>>> 01/03/10 7:55 PM >>> One strength of Borges' conception of the open, inclusive library is that texts disfavored at the time of their creation or subsequently but widely read and appreciated by later audiences and then again disfavored would have a perpetual home in the tradition, available for recovery and rereading. That approach would avoid the need for scholars like Judith Fetterley to "recover" and resurrect even relatively recent texts that a male dominated publishing industry has rendered unavailable. Borges' library is a helpful precondition for the preservation of work by incompletely or never enfranchised writers. It avoids the problem of Gray's unseen blushing rose and renders us the richer while at the same time permitting the possibility of learning from a wider range of thought than that allowed by a patriarchal tradition implicitly driven and limited by contemporary bias and the limits of market capitalism.
I think these are just examples of points of departure. [both come from the conclusions of the articles if you wish to check them.] But both strike me as ways of thinking that are not present in most of what we read. I do not have any investment in either claim; I just find them deeply interesting and unlike most Anglo-American discussions, though I think Hugh MacDiarmid took a line much like that of Borges in his vision of worldwide inclusion. I would love to hear reactions:
From "Jorges Luis Borges Rewrites Eliot" by Juan E. De Castro:
More than Eliot's Eurocentric and rather abstract literary order, Borges's tradition is a 'library, where ideally everything is preserved and where the system of preservation makes no distinction at all between good books and bad' (Guillory 1995, 240). The library is one of the central figures in Borges's writings; indeed, in 'Poem of the Gifts', he claims "I imagined paradise as a library' (1996m 146). Borges explored the notion of the 'total library'--a library that includes every possible book--in his essay of the same name and, in nightmarish terms, in his story, 'The Library of Babel'.
. . .
Borges's conceptualization of tradition as a library implies a denial of qualitative classification based on influence, content, place of origin, language or putative quality. Moreover, he hints at the possibility of a non-Eurocentric version of literary tradition that would include, but not be limited to, the literary monuments of Europe. His denial of chronology and his privileging of the act of reading in the constitution of tradition is designed to empower writers from apparently marginal or supposedly new countries. In this, as in his ability to combine Eutopean cultural elements with local Argentine and non-Western elements, Borges is indeed, as Aizenerg maintained, a 'postcolonial precursor', who is 'for postcolonial writers . . . a reference point beyond his general preeminence in a European-North American repertoire of culture'.
Yet it is necessary to keep in mind that Borges's vision of tradition is a modification--even radicalization--of ideas found in Eliot's 'Tradition and the Individual Talent'. Like Eliot, Borges is ultimately concerned with reconciling an awareness of literary tradition with innovation, in other words, of transforming the European and World traditions from cultural dead weights into sources of literary productivity and innovation. By using Eliot as the theoretical starting point for conclusions that contradict the poet's Eurocentric vision of tradition, Borges exemplifies the manner in which European texts can be used against their grain. At the same time, the very fact that Borges's critical innovations stem from the Anglo-American poet's influential essay testifies to the richness of Eliot's critical writings.
or from "T. S. Eliot and La Nouvelle Revue Franšaise," by William Marx:
Eliot's assertion of classicism, then, made it difficult for his French colleagues to understand his position. The writers of the NRF could not reconcile the conservatism of Eliot's classicism with the radical modernism of his poetry, which seemed by French standards to embody a sort of anti-classicism. The idea that Eliot's modern poetry could change the English tradition while supporting it seemed contradictory to French critics, for whom rejection was requisite to progress. Anglo-Saxon modernism issued from a supple, ever-changing tradition, while French modernism rose up against classicism's limits. Like any other French movement, it began as anti-classic, and was accepted as part of the classics only when a new movement rose up to defy it. There are two different modernisms because there are two different ways of relating to the past, with rupture or with continuity: this was Eliot's lesson from La Nouvelle Revue Franšaise.
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