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From: "Jim Henley" <jlhenley@erols.com>
Subject: RE: (urth) Readerly/writerly and Pierre Menard
Date: Thu, 16 Dec 1999 19:47:21 

> -----Original Message-----
> From: urth-errors@lists.best.com [mailto:urth-errors@lists.best.com]On
> Behalf Of Michael Straight
> On Wed, 15 Dec 1999, Jim Henley wrote:
> > This came up before. But this seems a good place to adduce
> Borges' "Pierre
> > Menard." The narrator of that story claims that Menard's rewrite of
> > Cervantes produces a radically new text. But Borges makes it
> pretty clear
> > that the narrator of that story is a jerk, and maybe a fool. So...
> Interesting.  What makes you read it that way rather than as Borges
> himself narrating with his tongue firmly in his cheek?

A fair question. Since I'm feeling under the weather I want to take the
lazy man's way out and give the briefest of quotes followed by an appeal to
extra-textual authority. In a sense, I will be relying on a theory of
author construction akin to Foucault's, but like I said, I'm going to bed

In the first paragraph, the narrator damns a newspaper that has published
an account of Menard's oeuvre because its "Protestant leanings are surely
no secret." What's more, he sniffs that its readers are "few and Calvinist
(if not Masonic and circumcised)." IOW, the narrator is a catholic
reactionary. Borges hated his country's catholic reactionaries (for their
anglophobia not least). More importantly, the narrator is an antisemite
("Masonic and circumcised"). And there's nothing Borges hated more than

So I can't see that the narrator is (WARNING: PROBLEMATIC WORD COMING!)
intended as a version of Borges himself, or even someone the reader is
supposed to like much. And Borges' philosemitism and anti-antisemitism were
so deep that I can't but see the passage as a rather large clue that we are
not to take the narrator's opinion on anything at face value.

I suspect I could make a fuller case with more time and energy. In general,
I think that Borges indeed "invented postmodernism," but he did it as a
warning, not a prophecy.


"It ain't the knife thru your heart that tears you apart
  it's just the thought of someone sticking it in"
              -- Graham Parker, "Protection"

*More Wolfe info & archive of this list at http://www.urth.net/urth/

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