Every Other Week Wednesdays, 7:00 pm - 8:30 pm May 27 to July 8, 2020
7 – 8:30pm ET via Zoom
5/27, 6/10, 6/24, 7/8
Argentina’s Jorge Luis Borges is arguably the most influential short story writer of the 20th century, conjuring alternate realities, infinite libraries and arcane mythologies in a few brief pages. But he was far from alone in shaping the course of Latin American literature. In this reading group, we will take our time discussing the fascinating stories collected in Fictions, before reading short novels by Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo, masterful writers in their own right and lifelong friends of Borges and other figures of the Buenos Aires avant-garde scene.
- Week 1: We will discuss the stories collected in Part 1 (“The Garden of Forking Paths”) in Jorge Luis Borges’ Fictions. Please read the following short stories: “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” “The Circular Ruins,” “The Lottery in Babylon,” “A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain,” “The Library of Babel,” and “The Garden of Forking Paths.”
- Week 2: We will discuss the stories collected in Part 2 (“Artifices”) in Jorge Luis Borges’ Fictions. Please read the following short stories: “Funes the Memorious”, “The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”, “Death and the Compass”, “The Secret Miracle”, “Three Versions of Judas”, “The End”, “The Cult of the Phoenix”, “The South.”
- Week 3: Discussion of Adolfo Bioy Casares’ masterful The Invention of Morel. Set on an island in Polynesia, Bioy’s novella is a story of suspense and exploration, as well as a wonderfully unlikely romance, in which every detail is at once crystal clear and deeply mysterious. Includes a foreword by JL Borges.
- Week 4: Legend has it that Silvina Ocampo worked on The Promise for over twenty-five years, right up to her death in 1993. In this novel, a woman reminisces about her life, and lets her imagination get away with her, after falling overboard into the sea—a reflection of Ocampo’s own struggles with dementia and her interest in memory and identity. Translator Suzanne Jill Levine will be joining us via Zoom at the end of this meeting for a brief Q&A.
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Samuel Rutter is a writer and translator from Melbourne, Australia with an extensive research background in contemporary literature from Latin America. He has translated novels, stories, screenplays and comics from French, Spanish and Catalan, and was awarded a PEN Translates Prize in 2016. His work has appeared in Harper’s, The White Review, Gulf Coast, and T Magazine.
By Jorge Luis Borges
Published by Penguin Publishing Group
Translated by Andrew Hurley
From Jorge Luis Borges’s 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity, through his immensely influential collections Ficciones and The Aleph, these enigmatic, elaborate, imaginative inventions display his talent for turning fiction on its head by playing with form and genre and toying with language. Together these incomparable works comprise the perfect one-volume compendium for all those who have long loved Borges, and a superb introduction to the master’s work for those who have yet to discover this singular genius.
The Invention of Morel
By Adolfo Bioy Casares
Published by New York Review Books
Translated by Suzanne Jill Levine, Ruth L. C. Simms
Jorge Luis Borges declared The Invention of Morel a masterpiece of plotting, comparable to The Turn of the Screw and Journey to the Center of the Earth. Set on a mysterious island, Bioy’s novella is a story of suspense and exploration, as well as a wonderfully unlikely romance, in which every detail is at once crystal clear and deeply mysterious.
Inspired by Bioy Casares’s fascination with the movie star Louise Brooks, The Invention of Morel has gone on to live a secret life of its own. Greatly admired by Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, and Octavio Paz, the novella helped to usher in Latin American fiction’s now famous postwar boom. As the model for Alain Resnais and Alain Robbe-Grillet’s Last Year in Marienbad, it also changed the history of film.2 .
By Silvina Ocampo
Published by City Lights Publishers
Translated by Suzanne Jill Levine, Jessica Powell
A woman traveling on a transatlantic ship has fallen overboard. Adrift at sea, she makes a promise to Saint Rita, “arbiter of the impossible,” that if she survives, she will write her life story. As she drifts, she wonders what she might include in the story of her life—a repertoire of miracles, threats, and people parade tumultuously through her mind. Little by little, her imagination begins to commandeer her memories, escaping the strictures of realism.
Translated into English for the very first time, The Promise showcases Silvina Ocampo at her most feminist, idiosyncratic and subversive. Ocampo worked quietly to perfect this novella over the course of twenty-five years, nearly up until the time of her death in 1993.
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