starlady: (run)
Martínez, Tomás Eloy. The Tango Singer. Trans. Anne McLean. London: Bloomsbury, 2006. [2004]

Buenos Aires is one of the great literary cities of the world, both in terms of the literature written about and in terms of its denizens' penchant for reading books, and I couldn't leave without shelling out (quite a lot of money) for at least one volume somewhere. I found this book in Libros del Pasaje in Palermo, and I recognized it as one of the "recommended reads" in my Rough Guide. Reading a bit of it in the store confirmed that the prose was captivating, and the story, which follows a hapless American grad student who heads to Argentina ten days before the towers fell in New York and leaves a month after the cacerolazo protests and the collapse of the Argentine economy toppled five presidents in ten days.

People will say that none of this is important, and the truth is it isn't, but I'd rather not overlook the slightest detail. )
starlady: the cover from Shaun Tan's The Arrival, showing an aquanaut in suburbia (i'm a stranger here myself)
I didn't buy the shoes, because I decided if I was going to spend $200+ on shoes I should just put it to a pair of Fluevogs. I did buy the handbag. It's a really nice handbag.

I don't know how to reconcile the ignoble lines my hand was writing with the thoughts of the dazzling light I'd just seen. I had wanted to say to my friend that, since we didn't come from Buenos Aires, he and I were perhaps more sensitive than natives to its beauty. The city had been raised at the limits of an unvarying plain, among scrubland as useless for nourishment as it was for basket-making, on the edge of a river whose single redeeming feature was its enormous width. Although Borges tried to ascribe it a past, the one it now has is also smooth, without any heroic feats other than those improvised by its poets and painters, and each time one took any fragment of the past in hand, it was only to watch it dissolve, into a monotonous present. It's always been a city where the poor were plentiful and where one had to walk with occasional jumps to dodge the piles of dog shit. Its only beauty is what the human imagination attributes to it. It's not surrounded by sea and hills, like Hong Kong and Nagasaki, nor does it lie on a trade route along which civilization has navigated for centuries, like London, Paris, Florence, Geneva, Prague and Vienna. No traveler arrives in Buenos Aires en route to somewhere else. Beyond the city there is no somewhere else: the spaces of nothing that open up to the south were called, on sixteenth-century maps, Land of Unknown Sea, Land of the Circle and Land of Giants, the allegorical names of non-existence. Only a city that had denied so much beauty can have, even in adversity, such an affecting beauty.

     --Tomás Eloy Martínez, The Tango Singer, trans. Anne McLean (136-37)


starlady: Raven on a MacBook (Default)

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