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Museum of Eterna's Novel: The First Good Novelby Macedonio Fernandez
"The Argentine novelist and sometime-philosopher Macedonio Fernandez is best known today in the English-speaking world as an early mentor of Jorge Luis Borges. Macedonio attended law school with Borges's father and during the 1920s, when Borges and other writers in Buenos Aires were expounding their avant-guard views in the magazine Martin Fierro, Macedonio acted as a sort of father figure to the group. He never learned to type, however, and most of his own work was still in manuscript when he died in 1952. In later life Borges's reminiscences fueled a mythic image of the elder writer as a quietist thinker who had no interest in courting renown, yet as Macedonio's own writings began to appear more widely in print posthumously, scholars came to suspect that quite a few of Borges's stylistic and conceptual trademarks could be shown to derive from the literary aesthetic of his early mentor." John Toren, Rain Taxi (read the entire Rain Taxi review)
Synopses & Reviews
The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel) is the very definition of a novel written ahead of its time. Macedonio (known to everyone by his unusual first name) worked on this novel in the 1930s and early '40s, during the heyday of Argentine literary culture, and around the same time that At Swim-Two-Birds was published, a novel that has quite a bit in common with Macedonio's masterpiece.
In many ways, Museum is an "anti-novel." It opens with more than fifty prologues — including ones addressed "To My Authorial Persona," "To the Critics," and "To Readers Who Will Perish If They Don’t Know What the Novel Is About" — that are by turns philosophical, outrageous, ponderous, and cryptic. These pieces cover a range of topics from how the upcoming novel will be received to how to thwart "skip-around readers" (by writing a book that’s defies linearity!).
The second half of the book is the novel itself, a novel about a group of characters (some borrowed from other texts) who live on an estancia called "la novella" . . .
A hilarious and often quite moving book, The Museum of Eterna's Novel redefined the limits of the genre, and has had a lasting impact on Latin American literature. Authors such as Jorge Luis Borges, Julio Cortázar, and Ricardo Piglia have all fallen under its charm and high-concepts, and, at long last, English-speaking readers can experience the book that helped build the reputation of Borges's mentor.
A novel decades ahead of its time, and the only work by Jorge Luis Borges's mentor available in English.
Dystopian fantasy, political parable, morality tale—however one reads it, this novel is first and foremost pure Ana María Shua, a work of fiction like no other and a dark pleasure to read. Shua, an Argentinian writer widely celebrated throughout Latin America, frames her complex drama in deceptively simple, straightforward prose. The story takes place at a fat farm called The Reeds, a nightmare world that might not exist but certainly could. The last resort of the overweight wealthy (or sponsored), The Reeds subjects its “campers” to extreme measures—particularly the regimented system of public humiliation imposed by its director, a glib and sharp-minded sadist called the Professor.
Into the midst of this methodical madness comes Marina Rubin, who experiences all the excesses of The Reeds. The pervasive cruelty of this refined novel distances it from facile conclusions. Amid the mordant social satire, The Reeds obese campers are far more than merely victims of the system, subjected to impossible social demands for physical perfection. Out of control, fierce, rebellious, or subjugated, they are recognizable human beings, contending with an unjust but efficient authority in their unique and solitary ways.
To this day, Emily Dickinson remains a beloved and enigmatic figure in American poetry. This “lady in white,” who shut herself away from the world and found solace alone with her words, has since her death been viewed primarily through the lens of her poetry, which afforded her beauty and hope amid the agony and loneliness of her life.
As a reclusive writer himself, contemporary French author Christian Bobin felt a kindred tie to the poetess, and his book The Lady in White honors Dickinson in the form of a brief, poetically imagined account of her life and the work that she gave the world. This fresh and personal interpretation of Dickinsons life leaves one with an impression of knowing Dickinson both through her poetry, as recalled by Bobin, and as he senses the person she was through her work and the sparse facts we have about her life.
About the Author
Macedonio Fernández is considered one of the greatest Argentine writers of the twentieth century. He was a close friend of Jorge Luis Borges, and Macedonio's metaphysical and aesthetic ideas greatly influenced Borges's generation. The mythical life of Macedonio is almost as interesting and fun as his books. Some of the stories about his life include: his campaign for president, which consisted of leaving notecards with the word "Macedonio" on them throughout Buenos Aires' cafes; his attempt to found a utopian society, only to be thwarted by pesky mosquitoes; and his belief that he shouldn't publish, instead allowing his work time to "age." He passed away in 1952, and the first edition of Museo de la Novela de la Eterna was released in 1967.
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