Enchantment, in Excess (of which there can never be too much)

Image from a recent show in Boston by artist and printmaker (and one of my favorites) Fred H. C. Liang that suggests a particular kind of enchantment of the visual type.

This is a continuation of the post below since I am letting myself fall under the spell of Borges, the Borges of these 7 lectures. (There are, after all, so many versions of him, which is part of the mystique.)

Something in me is having this experience of feeling as if I am encountering my own feelings. But they are so much more eloquently expressed.

For example, on the topic of traveling:

In Buenos Aires, one day is much like another…But when I travel, I move from one comfortable armchair to another, a kindly ghost materializes and talks to me, very informedly, about my writings, then vanishes, to be replaced at once with another. It makes for great variety.

Kindly ghosts coming and going, talking informedly. I know about this!

From the short but excellent introduction by Alistair Reid:

The lectures in this book all reveal these connected shifts in Borges’ attention, the flow of his mind and memory. In understanding Borges, it is important to remember that, for him, literary experience has been more vivid an affecting than real experience, or better said, that there is no sensible difference between the two; so that when Borges is talking about books and writers, it is like talking of landscapes and journeys, so vivid has his reading been to him…

Criticism, he has reminded us, is simply a branch of imaginative literature…

For him, literature at its highest point generates awe, the disquieting astonishment that arises from a poem, a deep image, a crucial paragraph, what he calls either asombro or sagrada horror, “holy dread.” The writers he reaches for are those who have given him this essential experience; and it is what most distinguishes his own work, when, in a few phrases, the sharp edges of reality quiver in doubt, the awe is tangible.

Regarding The Thousand and One Nights:

The Orient is the place where the sun comes from. There is a beautiful German word for the East, Morgenland, the land of morning. For the West it is Abendland, land of afternoon. You will recall Spengler’s Der Untergang des Abendlandes, that is, the downward motion of the land of afternoon, or, as it was translated more prosaically, The Decline of the West. I think that we must not renounce the word Orient, a word so beautiful, for within it, by happy chance, is the word oro, gold. In the word Orient we feel the word oro, for when the sun rises we see a sky of gold. I come back to the famous line of Dante: “Dolce color d’oriental zaffiro.” The word oriental here has two meanings: the Oriental sapphire, which comes from the East, and also the gold of morning, the gold of that first morning in Purgatory.

While talking about Dante’s Divine Comedy:

Enchantment, as Stevenson has said, is one of the special qualities a writer must have. Without enchantment, the rest is useless.

Is it just me or is this man a conjurer, a magician? I don’t ever want to exit his spirited zone. Please, let me stay in Borgian flotation forever.

4 Replies to “Enchantment, in Excess (of which there can never be too much)”

  1. The quote on The Thousand and One Nights sold me on getting a copy of the lectures.

    Conjurer indeed. In awe.

  2. M, We feed each other’s weakness for books! You have sent me scurrying off so many times, and gratefully so. I am loving this one.

  3. Deborah,

    You might enjoy these: Borges: Riddle of Poetry. Pt 1 is here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=aTM8S60-i68

    You can find the other parts (5 total) on the sidebar for Pt 2 (http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=JrTZ9BID5C0&feature=related).

    It’s rather wonderful to hear Borges’ voice.

    Speaking of books: Ed Byrne at Valparaiso just published a “summer reading list” of poets. Quite a list.

  4. M, Thank you so much for these links. First time I’ve actually heard his voice.

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