Tuesday, January 13, 2009

Amanda Moffat / Lecture 1

After reading 'Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote' (1939) by Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), my initial thoughts were that it was a confusing text to read, with very elaborate, highly academic and in places contradictory language, that seemed to be trying to disguise the truth. The mention of two members of the aristocracy that have supposedly verified this work adds to the deception, giving his story additional authority and authenticity. In addition, you are led to believe that the narrator/reviewer knows the writer personally as he includes quotes from direct correspondence to support his claims.

The truth is that this review is fiction and the work he is discussing - written by Menard, a fictitious 20th Century French writer - is a direct copy of the original 'Don Quixote' (1605 & 1615) by 17th Century Spanish novelist, Miguel De Cervantes (1547-1616). Borges implies that Menard has brought something of himself and of his historical context to the 'translation' and, in so doing, has made it somehow superior. This irony is highlighted by his humorous comparison of two identical passages.

Borges is clearly interested in Menard's interpretation of the text, suggesting that history and context will always change a text's meaning. Although the words are the same, Menard's version is unique because he brings something different to the 'rudimentary art of reading' - as does every new reading - thus giving centrality to 'reader-response' and raising questions over authorship...


Zeus Thunderbolt said...

I too found reading this piece confusing, mainly from the amount of "references" and "massaged" text, proving Borges' argument and through this, I was willing believe rather than check their validity.

Would you see this as point being applicable to your summation?

tomT01 said...

Amanda says " I stand by what I wrote, I was interested to find out where it was published e.g. in the obituaries of a french newspaper, that fooled the readership".