Tuesday, June 29, 2010

What Borges quotes from Don Quixote

Pete Donaldson has pointed me to the passage cited in "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote":

. . . la verdad, cuya madre es la historia, emula del tiempo, deposito de las acciones, testigo de lo pasado, ejemplo y aviso de lo presente, advertencia de lo por venir.
[. . . truth, who mother is history,who is the rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, and warning to the future]
Ficciones, 52-53

My point about recounting as a paradoxical voiding and surplus is illustrated by this passage. The quotes this passage to prove his point that Menard has not merely repeated Cervantes. The narrator sets up a distinction without a difference: Menard "did not want to compose another Don Quixote—which would be easy—but the Don Quixote. It is unnecessary to add that his aim was never to produce a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. (49)

But the narrator's quotation from Don Quixote (in Spanish and in English is already doubles the "original" and the difference between the two "versions" (which are identical, word for word) can only been established through its negation (the difference between coincidence and copy is no difference at all; there are only more Don Quixotes; there never was "The" Don Quixote.) And yet by quoting from the composition (Menard's) in the next paragraph, the narrator can make the passage mean something different.
it is worth recalling that Cervantes calls the novel a history and in part two includes a discussion of poetry versus history:

Don Quixote discusses with Sancho Panza would could be left out for good reason by Cid Hamet from his comprehensive history:

Don Quixote observed, that they may as well has have omitted them; for those incidents, which neither change nor affect the truth of the story, ought to be left out, if they tend to depreciate the chief character. . . . it is one thing to compose as a poet, another to record as an historian: the poet may relate or rehearse things, not as they were, but as they ought to have been, whereas, an historian must transmit them, not as they ought to have been but as they were; without adding to or subtracting the least tittle from the truth.” (575)

Since history is a recounting, however, it always involves addition and subtraction, becomes a story of irreducible but productive losses in the archives and other storage devices.

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