Forwarded from Nestor

Louis Proyect lnp3 at
Mon Dec 4 16:33:57 MST 2000

Could you please fwd, Lou? TKU

Dennis has stated, as an answer to my observation that there was no actual
personal feeling expressed in the works of Jorge Luis ("Georgie dear")
Borges,  no vibration of the personality of the writer at all:

"But if he had [given way to his own structures of emotivity, NMG],  he
would've been just one more comprador bourgeois."

A couple of important points re: the above.

In the first place, Borges did _not_ (repeat, did _not_, and this is an
important issue) belong to the oligarchy. He was ironically co-opted, he
was a  minstrel of a worthless king, not a prince himself. And this was
always very  clear for him, that is precisely why he took all the pains to
stiffle the  expession of his own feelings, giving voice to another one´s
(better still, to  what he believed another one´s) vision of the world.
This is what gives his  job the sense of void and futility that Dennis so
much admires.

There is a second thing to take into account, however, that probes deeply
in  the social structure of Argentina. Our oligarchy, or at least the kind
of  oligarchic _rosca_  that glorified Borges and which Borges tried to
express,  was a complex class including conflicting groups: on the one
side, yes, you  have the "gang of the ravine" (pandilla del barranco), as
the _comprador_  bourgeoisie of the Port was known in the early 1800s by
the British smugglers;  but there are also other sectors, the large
landowners, the financial tycoons  (most usually interlopers for foreign
financial capitalists), the foreign  managers of the large utilities (and,
in the world of Borges, of the  transportation system), and other splinters
of class.

But all of them were amalgamated in the common interest of dependency and
social exclusion. This did not imply futility, simply emptiness. As Galeano
so  aptly stated in the writings which began this thread, they import their
ideas  in the same way they import their shoes. Thus, there is nothing to
be created  by whoever wants to express them. If you find some aesthetic
value in this,  Dennis, I accept it. But there is nothing truly artistic in
this kind of  creation, in the same sense that I would like someone to show
me a worthy  artform generated by the planter society of antebellum Dixie.

Dennis, then, describes why he considers Borges´s work valuable:

" There's a fascinating dialectic of futility in his work, you know, he
describes thieves who escape, detectives trapped by their quarry, alternate
worlds which virulently infect our own, this ambiguous fear and yet
identification with the underworld."

I would not contest the futility of his work (I would rather contest the
idea  that there is a "dialectic of futility", that is, that whatever we
can do  everything is already arranged: in fact, what he tells us is that a
anything  is possible, that history is unnecessary!), but his
"identification with the  underworld" is completely a myth. The
"underworld" of Borges has no  relationship at all with the actual
underworld of Buenos Aires and the vast  Pampa extensions where he installs
his narrative.

Take for instance that story of a "guapo" who kills his brother simply
because  the brother had killed more people than the killer, and he wanted
to arrive at  a draw. This is simply stupid, not even reactionary. Such
people could exist  only in the mind of a man who might dream with a world
that he could have  simply got in touch with by -yes, I admit it, very
complex an accomplishment-  going to some cafe ten or fifteen blocks away
from where his middle class home  existed at, say, five o´clock in the
morning, then try to have a conversation  with the semi rural workers
there. For example he could have gone to "La  Pura", a cafe where other
intellectuals (Celedonio Flores, for example)  obtained their inspiration
for some of the most beautifully written tangos of  the 20s and 30s. No,
Dennis, Borges was not in my opinion

"...unconsciously mapping out the underbelly of gangster capitalism... --
the  shocking realization that the names of the dictators change, but the
structure  of accumulation stays the same."

It is a common mistake to suppose that semicolonial capitalism and
particularly the ruling classes in Latin America are gangster-like, when in
 fact these classes are usually (and most strikingly so in Buenos Aires)
very  careful with formalities and issues of right and precedence.
Conservative  republicanism is their ideal, not "batallions of death". And
though sometimes  this republicanism implied to hire killers (such as was
the case during the  30s with Ruggierito in Avellaneda, across the
Riachuelo from Buenos Aires  City) the oligarchs hate dictators, who may
become popular Bonapartes. They  prefer a system of emasculated democracy,
such as the one now ruling my  country. Thus, Borges could not express IMHO
a social relation that did not  exist in the consciousness of the class he
attempted to give voice to.

" His texts undermine his own class position, and the resulting vertigo
(Southern Cone existentialism, if you will) opens up a space, however
briefly, for radical intellectual and political  alternatives -- something
which should be a rich source of materials for a Marxist literary analysis"

Southern Cone existentialism exists, and exists galore, and in wonderful
artforms, but not in Borges. You should read Roberto Arlt, or take a look
at  the lyrics of the tangos of desperation during the 30s. You should even
cast a  glance at Sábato´s despair in _Sobre héroes y tumbas_, written with
the  backcloth of the 1955 coup against Perón and the realization by the
middle  classes that for the actual winners, "democracy" meant mass
shootings and  repression of the working class. You should take some of the
things by horacio  Quiroga. And there are others. But not Borges. Nothing
further away from his  own cast of mind, by the way, than existentialism...

A hug,

Lic. Néstor M. Gorojovsky
Dirección de Estadísticas del Sector Primario
Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos Argentina

Tel.: (05411) 4349-9728

Louis Proyect
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