Muy lejos de Kensington de Muriel Spark

CUÉNTAME TU VIDA por Laura Galarza

Muriel Spark fue sin dudas una de las más atractivas, irónicas y lúcidas escritoras inglesas. La profusión de títulos casi nobiliarios que le otorgó el Imperio Británico no deberían despistar al lector. Sufrió el hambre y las penurias de los comienzos de un verdadero artista. Su obra, rescatada en nuestro país por La Bestia Equilátera, siempre tiene un sesgo detectivesco y un dejo de reflexión filosófica. En Muy lejos de Kensington creó un personaje femenino que, como ella, estaba preparado para escuchar a los demás y, a continuación, ponerlo por escrito.

Redactó mensajes falsos en el Servicio de Inteligencia Británico para despistar a los alemanes durante la Segunda Guerra y por esa acción a Muriel Sarah Camberg la nombraron, en 1993, Dama al servicio del Imperio Británico. Ya en el orden literario escribió las biografías de Mary W. Shelley y Emily Brontë, además de poesía y relatos, hasta ganar en 1950, en el Observer, su primer premio. Desde entonces publicó más de veinte novelas, entre ellas The Prime of Miss Jean Brodie, con la cual alcanzaría la fama en 1961. En nuestro país, La Bestia Equilátera se viene ocupando de hacer un justo rescate de su obra, traduciendo al español desde 2008 Los encubridores, Memento Mori, La intromisión y ahora, Muy lejos de Kensington, dejando claro que Muriel Spark es una autora que no se puede dejar de leer.

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El insólito peregrinaje de Harold Fry de Rachel Joyce

El césped ataja el asfalto de la carretera que los árboles recubren de bóvedas verdes en pleno Gloucestershire. En una granja de Brownshill, pequeño pueblo de esta área de la campiña inglesa, se refugia de la vida la escritora Rachel Joyce (Londres, 1962). Y por un escenario así pone a andar a Harold, el jubilado protagonista de su sorprendente y exitoso debut literario, El insólito peregrinaje de Harold Fry.

Todo parece simple en la vida y en la novela de Joyce, pero es como los ríos de la zona: asoman mansos pero la corriente del agua y de los sentimientos fluye tenaz y profunda. En la obra se traduce en un anodino recién jubilado que recibe la carta de una amiga a la que no ve desde hace 20 años y donde le comunica escuetamente que va a morir de cáncer. La respuesta aún es más breve, totalmente insatisfactoria y mientras va al buzón de la esquina a tirarla, Harold se lo repiensa y se da tiempo emplazándose a otro buzón más lejano y así hasta que decide que irá a pie desde Kingsbridge, tal como va (mocasines náuticos, sin móvil, sin ropa adecuada, sin avisar a su esposa), hasta donde la mujer que agoniza, en Berwick-upon-Tweed, casi la otra punta del país, un peregrinaje de 87 días y 1.009 kilómetros que acabará siendo una expiación de sus pasados pecados con la corresponsal y con su familia.

En el fondo, la novela, generosa en mensajes, trata de la batalla cotidiana por aguantar la fachada, por enmascarar lo que nos pasa por dentro, admite su autora: “Todos libramos cada día esa contienda, parecemos iguales y nos mostramos impertérritos por fuera y eso nos hace sentir aún más solos. Harold es la demostración: como está de paso, la gente se le abre y le cuenta cosas que a sus más allegados no relatan; sí, estamos solos y nuestra sociedad es individualista, pero necesitamos conectar con la gente”; el protagonista, piensa su creadora, “al caminar vuelve a conectar, con él mismo y con los demás; pero no todos saben explotar, tener ese momento irracional de contarlo todo o hacer lo que siempre soñaron y no se atrevieron y lo lamentan; vivimos demasiado aislados, expresándonos a través de e-mails y sms en vez de hablando. Y no es lo mismo”.

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Victorian Gothic

“The Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon”

On July 4th, 1885 Pall Mall Gazette editor W.T. Stead issued a “frank warning” to his readers. Due to public inattention, the Criminal Law Amendment Bill—an item of legislation drafted to suppress child prostitution and raise the age of consent in the United Kingdom from thirteen to sixteen—was once again languishing in the House of Commons. This could not be allowed to stand. The Gazette would be taking swift, decisive action to open the eyes of the public to the enormity of the crisis at hand, but it was not going to be pretty. ”We have no desire to inflict upon unwilling eyes the ghastly story of the criminal developments of modern vice,” he wrote, “Therefore we say quite frankly to-day that all those who are squeamish, and all those who are prudish, and all those who prefer to live in a fool’s paradise of imaginary innocence and purity, selfishly oblivious to the horrible realities which torment those whose lives are passed in the London Inferno, will do well not to read the Pall Mall Gazette of Monday and the three following days.”

What followed was the Maiden Tribute of Modern Babylon; a shocking, four-part exposé of child sex trafficking that sent London spiraling into moral panic. In spite of boycotts, harassment and threats of prosecution for obscenity, the Northumberland Street offices of the Gazette were literally besieged by eager newsboys and hungry runners desperate to obtain valuable new copies of the controversial paper. Meanwhile, Stead openly dared the authorities to press charges against him, threatening to subpoena almost half the Legislature to prove his allegations if such a case were brought to trial. The fiery reformer would not be silenced.

The report of a “secret commission,” the Maiden Tribute derived its title from the tribute that conquered Athens is said to have paid to King Minos: seven maidens and seven youths who were made to wander the Labyrinth of Daedalus, where they would inevitably encounter the deadly Minotaur. Truly, it was a terrible price to pay, and yet modern London was willingly offering up multitudes of its own maidens to meet their doom in the maze of brotheldom. ”The maw of the London Minotaur is insatiable,” Stead wrote, “and none that go into the secret recesses of his lair return again.

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Short Cuts

by Christopher Tayler

When Ford Madox Ford published No More Parades, the second of the four novels that make up Parade’s End, in 1925, he was likened to Proust and Joyce. Three years later the final instalment, Last Post, was the biggest commercial success of his career. (In 1915 The Good Soldier had brought in £67.) Ford being the man he was, though, his triumph was confused. Was Last Post part of his master plan or was it a slightly botched afterthought? Ford sometimes took the second view, which prompted Graham Greene to exclude the novel from his edition of the sequence in 1963. Then there was the question of where Parade’s End should be shelved: along with Ulysses and Mrs Dalloway? With Goodbye to All That and All Quiet on the Western Front? Or in the nook reserved for cultish para-Jamesiana like Howard Sturgis’s Belchamber? Buoyed up by these undecidables it’s stayed more or less afloat, not as visible as The Good Soldier but not as neglected as Ford’s partisans sometimes like to make out. Copies used to be quite difficult to find and Carcanet’s critical edition costs £75.80, but thanks to the five-part BBC/HBO adaptation that came to an end last month, blurry paperbacks can now be had for less than a fiver.

Ford maintained that prose ‘should give the effect of a long monologue spoken by a lover at a little distance from his mistress’s ear’. Such lines weren’t the only part of his output to be coloured by his famously well-populated love life, and Parade’s Enddraws heavily on his overlapping entanglements – principally those with Elsie Martindale, Violet Hunt and Stella Bowen. Ian Hamilton thought Ford’s novels ‘were too often damaged by having to serve as silvery-tongued back-ups to whatever life-muddle he happened to be engaged with’. Yet Ford’s self-exculpatory fantasies animate the sequence in a wonderfully mad way. ‘I stand for monogamy and chastity,’ Christopher Tietjens says, setting himself against the times as well as his devil-wife, Sylvia. The books are suffused with a seriously meant – if somewhat vague – neo-feudalism, partly in tribute to Ford’s friend Arthur Marwood, from whom he took Tietjens’s grand Yorkshire background, mathematical skills and habit of ‘tabulating from memory the errors in the Encyclopaedia Britannica’. He seamlessly added his own experiences in the trenches, but in giving Tietjens other Fordian attributes – bouncing cheques, rumours of scandalous polygamous attachments and the like – he combined his immensely subtle ‘treatment’ with a farce-like pattern in which Tietjens is repeatedly worked over, or mistaken for a blackguard, on account of his mulish rectitude.

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The Endgame of Taste: Keats, Sartre, Beckett

article by Denise Gigante (Stanford University)

 

[. . .] life is a thing of beauty, Gaber, and a joy for ever. He brought his face nearer mine. A joy for ever, he said, a thing of beauty, Moran, and a joy for ever.

Beckett, Molloy

Monsieur, at one time I ventured to think that the beautiful was only a question of taste. Are there not different rules for each epoch?

Sartre, Nausea

 

In the context of deciding what kind of weather was better fitted to his taste, Beckett’s absurdist quest-hero Molloy decides that he has no taste, that he had lost it long ago.[1] To be sure, modernism never wholly let go of the aesthetic legacy of taste, but by 1947 when Beckett was working on the first in his series of three novels, Molloy, Malone Dies, and The Unnamable, it had already experienced this legacy in the form of an existentialist nausea. For Molloy, as well as for Sartre’s existential man in Nausea (1938), there could be no escape from the imperative to exercise taste, although there could be no actually doing so either. Both were born on the wrong side of Romanticism as to taste, for that is where taste as a means of aesthetic self-making begins to fail. Perhaps nowhere do we see this more clearly than in Keats’s late fragmentary epic,Hyperion and The Fall of Hyperion, where the metaphor of taste gives way to into an all-pervasive sickness seated in the stomach. While the starving speaker of The Fall of Hyperion fails to relish the stale banquet he is offered at the outset of the poem, the defeated gods of Hyperion suffer an existential queasiness that plays itself out in bodies that are “crampt and screw’d” (II.25). Even the eponymous hero Hyperion experiences a “nauseous feel” from the repulsive smells he is forced to consume. Critics since Walter Jackson Bate have noticed the proleptically existential tone of the Hyperion poems, the fact that they “anticipate much that we associate with existentialism (no other major nineteenth-century poem does this to the same extent)” (591). Here, I would like to pursue the possibility, evinced by Keats, that existentialism itself—and its dominant paradigms of nausea and disgust—constitute the philosophical aftermath of aesthetic taste.(para seguir leyendo este artículo, haga click aquí)

Writer’s Writer and Writer’s Writer’s Writer by Julian Barnes

If you go to the website of the restaurant L’Huîtrière (3, rue des Chats Bossus, Lille) and click on ‘translate’, the zealous automaton you have stirred up will instantly render everything into English, including the address. And it comes out as ‘3 street cats humped’. Translation is clearly too important a task to be left to machines. But what sort of human should it be given to?

Imagine that you are about to read a great French novel for the first time, and can only do so in your native English. The book itself is more than 150 years old. What would/ should/do you want? The impossible, of course. But what sort of impossible? For a start, you would probably want it not to read like ‘a translation’. You want it to read as if it had originally been written in English – even if, necessarily, by an author deeply knowledgable about France. You would want it not to clank and whirr as it dutifully renders every single nuance, turning the text into the exposition of a novel rather than a novel itself. You would want it to provoke in you most of the same reactions as it would provoke in a French reader (though you would also want some sense of distance, and the pleasure of exploring a different world). But what sort of French reader? One from the late 1850s, or the early 2010s? Would you want the novel to have its original effect, or an effect coloured by the later history of French fiction, including the consequences of this very novel’s existence? Ideally, you would want to understand every period reference – for instance, to Trafalgar pudding, Ignorantine friars or Mathieu Laensberg – without needing to flick downwards or onwards to footnotes. Finally, if you want the book in ‘English’, what sort of English do you choose? Put simply, on the novel’s first page, do you want the schoolboy Charles Bovary’s trousers to be held up by braces, or do you want his pants to be held up by suspenders? The decisions, and the colouration, are irrevocable.

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