Monday, 24 August 2015

Latte of this parish

<gratuitous_pun theme="subject line"> 
Not that I was ever a habitué of the local church, but when, over five years ago, this started being discussed, I admit to having had  a house of prayer/den of thieves [Matthew 21:12]  moment. But since then, despite the toe-curling tweeness of the name, I've come round to the idea. More recently, I felt not a twinge of such hypocritical pietism at the opening of a small (and now thriving) village shop in the next-closest church.  Besides, it makes for a rather pleasing (if gratuitous) pun (at the possible expense of its being mistaken for an Android-inspired typo). 
I've been thinking of late about the TV series Witnesses – specifically who witnessed what?  What does it have to do with the series? I suspect that a reason will be revealed in due course.

But already, regardless of the denouement, Témoins (the original title) is relevant, because exhumed corpses appear in show homes, and a show home is a maison-témoin. This sort of untranslatable linguistic clue to the theme of a work of fiction is also apparent in the name of a key (not quite central) character's name: Maisonneuve.

Death and the compass, one of the Fictions, misses a similar trick (an unwinnable one, in a translation)
<plot_spoiler avoidance_advice="Skip this bit"> 
The piece translated as Death and the Compass (most recently published as one of the Ficciones) appeared originally as  La Muerte y la Brújula in 1944 (Artificios). The denouement expected by the central detective is not where or when he expects it. He guesses the position of a murder by looking at a street-plan and plotting an equilateral triangle based on two murder sites. He assumes that this is the end of the series. 
It turns out that he was on the right track with the idea of an equal-sided 2-dimensional figure, but it is not an equilateral triangle; it is a rhombus, with the fourth corner being the site of the final murder. 
Look, I‘ve warned you ONCE... But no, I'm  not saying who the victim is.
But you don't need a compass to read a street-plan. What you do need, to describe an equilateral triangle (and then – if you've read the story – a rhombus) starting from two points on a street-plan, is a pair of compasses – un compás
Borges, whose command of English was impeccable, knew what he was doing. So he knew that he was giving his translator an impossible task. 
<rant flame="5">
On the subject of Borges, a reworking of his El Aleph has been in the news. I first got wind of it on A Good Read of  16 August, as part of. Carlos Gomero's Postcard from Buenos Aires. The relevant excerpt is at 14'44"– 15'27": that three-quarters of a minute will save you  reading this Guardian piece.

He refers to the book as The fattened Aleph, although  Amazon doesn't know of a translation. In fact – as Pablo Katchadjian only published 200 copies – Amazon doesn't know anything about it at all. The English-speaking world doesn't seem to know much about it; that Guardian article is the only one I've found in the English press.

Anyway, as that article says
In the short story Pierre Menard: Author of Quixote, Jorge Luis Borges writes of an author’s quest to reproduce Cervantes’ masterpiece, word by word, comma after comma. “Pierre Menard did not want to compose another Quixote, which surely is easy enough – he wanted to compose the Quixote,” Borges writes. 
More likely than not to be aware of this Borgesian playfulness, Argentine author Pablo Katchadjian decided in 2009 to remix one of Borges’s most renowned short stories The Aleph, keeping the original text but adding a considerable amount of his own writing. The result was the short experimental book called El Aleph engordado (The Fattened Aleph), published by a small underground press in a short run of 300 copies [BK sic; I'm not sure this is right; but the figure, whatever it is, is tiny] . An unfortunate consequence of Katchadjian’s literary experiments is an ongoing lawsuit initiated in 2011 by Maria Kodama, Borges’s widow and fervent guardian of his literary estate...
More here
The reason the issue has come to the fore again, as the judge in 2011 saw sense and dismissed the widow's talk of  'plagiarism' as the pitiful nonsense it so obviously is, is that Ms Kodama has appealed again and again and finally got a criminal court to take her allegation of  FRAUD seriously.

If found guilty, Katchadjian faces up to six years in gaol. 

OK, Katchadjian is guilty  of impoliteness. Having read Borges, he must have known that Borges would have approved [and approved of, which is a whole 'nother thing] the literary experiment; but Katchadjian should have run the idea past the literary executors as a simple matter of courtesy. In spite of this lapse, though, should the nut of a slight literary faux pas be cracked with the sledge-hammer of six years inside? I think not.

Also, had he addressed the executors back in 2009  (the 'publication' date – a print-run of 200 was hardly going to fund Katchadjian's retirement; no  wonder it took the executors two years to so much as notice it), there would have been one of two outcomes:
  • his idea would have either been given its deserved imprimatur 
  • he would at least have known that the executors were totally out of sympathy with the playful inventiveness that lies behind the body of work that they were supposed to be protecting
In the second case, he would have known what a legal minefield he was dealing with and he could have chosen to engordar something that was out of copyright – though, come to think of it, perhaps a Borges work was essential to underline the Borgesian nature of the enterprise.

Anyway, I recommend this summary and petition to all and sundry.


PS And remind me, if ever I appoint literary executors, to make sure to avoid penny-pinching and pusillanimous NINCOMPOOPS

Spooner might point the finger at child minders; topping! (5,7) 
Update 2015.11.13.10:45 – Added PS
OK, time's up: the answer to that clue is CRÈME FRAÎCHE.

Update 2018.05.12.14:45 –  Repaired broken links.

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