Joyce Forever

This following paragraph is from the Preface that Borges wrote in the first volume of Pleiade series of Œuvres Complètes. Dated Geneva, 19 May 1986, this must be amongst the last texts that Borges wrote. I adore how Borges has discreetly slipped a simple tribute to Joyce into the Keats’ ‘joy for ever’ line. How many readers, I wonder, pass that sentence without spotting the reference.

This book is made up of other books. I am not sure whether a continuous reading is the best solution in this case, it might be more convenient to enter in and out at random as one leafs through the pages of an encyclopedia or of Burton’s Anatomy of Melancholia.(…) Eliot wrote that it is less important to know what one wants than what the century wants. He claims this, as if drunk on universal history. Is it necessary for me to say that I am the least historical of men? The circumstances of history touch me like those of geography and politics, but I thing that as an individual I am above these seductions. A thing of beauty is a joyce forever, John Keats wrote in a memorable way. There are nevertheless, moments of happiness that are singular and eternal.

Walser’s Response to a Request

Robert Walser’s Response to a Request ends with the chilling lines,”Only one of your hands is to be seen, reaching up from the smoking ruins. The hand is still moving a little, then the curtain descends.” Walser’s curious short story takes the form of an experienced thespian offering advice to an aspiring actor. The mental image of the reaching hands bring to mind Keat’s disturbing poem This Living Hand:

This living hand, now warm and capable
Of earnest grasping, would, if it were cold
And in the icy silence of the tomb,
So haunt thy days and chill thy dreaming nights
That thou wouldst wish thine own heart dry of blood
So in my veins red life might stream again,
And thou be conscience-calmed—see here it is—
I hold it towards you.

My version of Walser’s Response to a Request is the first story in Serpent’s Tail edition of The Walk collection. The picture above shows the more recent Paul North translation titled Answer to an Inquiry which comes in a numbered and signed edition, with a limited edition letterpress print from Friese Undine’s Walser series.