El inventor de Borges
En el nuevo número de The Quarterly Conversation aparece una nota de Marcelo Ballvé titulada apetitosamente "The Man Who Invented Borges". Se trata nada menos que de Macedonio Fernández, uno de los escritores más insólitos de América Latina. El ensayo es extenso y se dedica especialmente al análisis de las obras de Macedonio y la comparación con Borges. Cuenta al inicio del texto la relación amical entre ambos:
Gabriel del Mazo, Macedonio's cousin, remembers Borges's speech by the family crypt for a different reason. It may have been the first time in the history of the Recoleta Cemetery, a decidedly somber if beautiful necropolis, that attendees at a burial burst into laughter. Borges accomplished this by recalling one of Macedonio's jokes: that gauchos were invented as entertainments for horses.2 Humor was one of the hallmarks of Macedonio's writing—a refined and cerebral humor typically flavored with paradox (in one piece he describes a man who is always rushing around so as to be the first one to arrive late). The affinity for the paradoxical proposition is one of the many ways in which Borges took after his old friend, but hardly the only one. Both men were enamored of speculative philosophy, and arguably it was Macedonio who was responsible for making a metaphysician out of Borges. Both writers were incessant explorers of a handful of themes: the inexistence of the individual personality, the elastic nature of time, the permeability of waking life to dreams and vice-versa; one might say: the instability of reality in general. In both writers' work the supposedly bedrock concepts by which we live are revealed to be unstable isotopes, slippery and layered, none being in essence what they appear to be and all of course eminently moldable, especially within the pages of a story, poem, or essay. There is an ongoing debate in Argentine literary circles about the extent to which Borges was influenced by Macedonio, an eccentric genius who spent the final three decades of his life drifting through Buenos Aires boardinghouses and country hermitages, absorbed in writing and thinking. Some critics believe that without Macedonio's influence, the Borges we know would have never existed. Noé Jitrik, who might be described as the dean of academic literary critics in Argentina, said last year in an interview with Buenos Aires' leading newspaper, Clarín, that "Borges is a product of Macedonio."3Una de las partes más interesantes del artículo es cuando cita la influencia de Macedonio Fernández en diversos relatos (e ideas fundamentales) de Jorge Luis Borges. Esa influencia se puede rastrear, según el autor de la nota, por ejemplo en el cuento "El Inmortal" de Borges. Dice:
Consider the 17 epic pages of "The Immortal." The cross-references start even before the actual story begins. First, there's the title of the story. Immortality, as before said, was one of Macedonio's favorite ideas to toy with, since he believed death to be as illusive as most of the other concepts we fear or feel buoyed by in this life. Macedonio once described death as a "game . . . that happens and never kills."11 After the title we find hovering above " Immortal?s? text Borges?s characteristically erudite epigraphs, this one from Francis Bacon, begins: ?Solomon saith: there no new thing upon earth.? The quote sums up story?s deeper theme, which is how our notions history and memory are turned to dust once we consider the mind-boggling ramifications infinitely elasticized lifetimes: infinite destinies, transmigrating personalities, a leveling of ethics. After reading this epigraph, a reader familiar with Macedonio can't help but think of his "Prologue to Eternity," included in the first pages of the Museo de la Novela Eterna, which explores a similar idea, only less solemnly (...) Beyond these surprising biographical connections, there are lines in "The Immortal" that simply gleam as polished avatars, concise coinages, of Macedonio's theories. At the pivot point in the story, when a central enigma is revealed via the unveiling of a troglodyte's secret identity, Borges's narrator states: "We easily accept reality, perhaps because we intuit that nothing is real." A bit later in the story we find a succinct and poetic rendering of Macedonio's metaphysics canceling out death and individuality: "Nobody is somebody, one immortal man is all men . . . I am God, I am a hero, I am a philosopher, I am a demon, I am the world, which is a fatiguing manner of saying that I am not." The philosophical vein running through Borges and Macedonio might be described as mystically-inclined skepticism (though perhaps Macedonio drank more and more eagerly of his own Kool Aid than Borges did). Both were habitual doubters of their own existence, and by extension, also of their novelty as artists. Borges liked to say "I don't write well, I plagiarize well." Macedonio once wrote prophetically of Borges, "he will be what others thought I would be." But if we accept the premise of "The Immortal," perhaps it's immaterial who wrote what, or who became what. Given immortality, there's no doubt each would have written the other's work, with an unshakeable, creeping sense of deja vu.
Sin duda a Macedonio, que le encantaba inventar artefactos literarios insólitos, le encantaría saber que lo consideran el inventor del mejor artefacto literario que ha dado el siglo XX: Jorge Luis Borges.