Monday, January 14, 2013

G-Lab Argentina: In Praise of Darkness

“Buenos Aires,
which once broke up in a tatter of slums and open lots
out toward the endless plain,
is not again the graveyard of the Recoleta, the Retiro square,
the shabby streets of the old Westside,
and the few vanishing decrepit houses
that we still call the South.”
Extract from “Elogio de la Sombra” by Jorge Luis Borges
translated from Spanish by Norman Thomas di Giovanni

Borges, one of the most acclaimed writers in history—and an Argentinian—loved to write about the paradox of self-discovery, and “In Praise of Darkness”, he excels in his ability. He once described Argentinians as if they live their lives as in a dream, without knowing who they were or what they were.

Buenos Aires, feels to me, like a troubled middle-age educated white man raised in a working family. Although he may have not had the most privileged childhood, his efforts and skills led him to attend a prestigious college and became a healthy handsome man. His family built high expectations around his future (their future), and blinded by his newly acquired self-confidence, he made a couple of reckless decisions that are still dragging him today. The problem with this man is that he still wants to believe that success is written in his fate—he looks at the mirror and still sees his dreamy blue eyes and that seductive smile who never failed him. He fails, though, to note his wrinkled skin and his also newly acquired receding hairline. Nowadays, his family is very divided on its admiration—so much potential and still, just a shadow of what they once hoped for him (for them).

He looks once more at the mirror—the one he bought in Florida Street when he was still a teenager. He starts hearing some music in the background and remembers her—she really looked beautiful that steamy summer night when they attended their first show at Teatro Colón. He looks once more and he’s afraid.
     Afraid to see what others see
     Afraid to let go part of his identify
     Afraid to finally become what he was destined to be
     What he must ought to be

“El día que me quieras
endulzará sus cuerdas
el pájaro cantor,
florecerá la vida,
no existirá el dolor...”

El día que me quieras (1935). Music by Carlos Gardel. Lyrics by Alfredo Le Pera. Based on poem by Amado Nervo

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