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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.
Written by Borges's mentor in the 1930s, but unpublished until after Fernandez's death, Museum is an "anti-novel," opening with more than fifty prologues—some philosophical, some outrageous—and ending with a novel featuring characters who are aware they're in a novel. Incredibly innovative, Macedonio deemed this "The First Good Novel," a counterpart to his very conventional "Last Bad Novel." A true masterpiece.
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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