Jabberwocky for 2005 October 5 (entry 0)

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[Comments] (4) Don't Cry For Me: I have started reading the biography of Jorge Luis Borges by Edwin Williamson. My connection with Borges (aside from my being a rabid admirer of his work) is that when I was a student at BYU, majoring in Spanish so I could study Latin American literature, Borges came and spoke--one lecture for everyone, and one for Spanish majors. Which is funny because much of his work is written in English. I just sat there in awe.

The first couple of chapters of the biography are a quick overview of the history of Argentina, in which many of Borges' ancestors were involved, starting with the break from Spain in the 1820s and various other revolutions. I was familiar with all this basically, but it's always good to review.

In the 1880s and 1890s, Argentina was one of the most modern and prosperous countries in the world. Compare that to now--a long decline has made it so that anytime you hear anything about Argentina, it is more bad news. The cause of this decline, I believe, was (is) corruption in the government. (My opinion, not explicitly stated in the book.) I can see the same decline beginning in the United States today.

One thing I hadn't thought of was the fact that around the turn of the nineteenth century, Buenos Aires was redesigned on the model of Paris. When Buenos Aires was built, it was a typical Spanish colonial town, a warren of little narrow streets and haphazard buildings. They went in and yanked it all out, building wide boulevards and great and spacious public buildings. I guess that's where those miserable roundabouts came from. And I guess that if you were the owner of some property along one of those little streets that got remodeled, you were out of luck. It makes for a beautiful city, however. As I look back on my memories of Buenos Aires, I can see in retrospect that it does look like Paris--or rather, like the ghost of Paris. All those years of scandalous corrupt government and an economy where a wheelbarrow load of money won't buy a quart of milk have taken their toll.

One thing that is bothering me about this author is he translates Rio de la Plata as Plate River. Everyone knows that plata means "silver", not "plate." Not only is it incorrect, but it is wretched. If he wanted to Englishize the name of the river, he could have done as we in the Western U.S. have for our river--the Platte. I don't think authors should translate place names into English, and for the most part Williamson doesn't. I think a translation does a disservice to the traveler who wants to explore the original sites mentioned in the book. Would you rather visit the Casa Rosada, or the Pink House?

This is a very thick book, and somewhat heavy reading, so I think it will take me a while if I read carefully.


Posted by Rachel at Thu Oct 06 2005 00:12

Paris was like that, too, before Napoleon. And London before the fire. Well, London is still a bit like that. Glad you are liking the bookie! One thing that bugs me is in American editions of British books how they change things like "jumper" to "sweater" and "mum" to "mom." I mean, honestly. I like how Georgia Nicholson has a glossary in the back so if you don't know what something is you can just look it up (of course this is for her ridiculous slang as well as Britishisms, I wonder if the Br eds have glossaries, too... perhaps I will look when we go there.)

Posted by Susie at Thu Oct 06 2005 07:17

Yes, I learned in that Georgia Nicholson book that "deely-boppers" means those headbands with fluffy, flourescent balls attached to springs.

Posted by Susie at Thu Oct 06 2005 07:18

PS: like how I added to the intelligent conversation?

Posted by Kristen at Thu Oct 13 2005 06:37

Aaron said that they have the widest street in Buenos Aires. It is 8 streets wide each way =16 streets to cross to the other side. He served most his mission in La Plata.

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