Not much vnlike the wondrer haue ye another figure called the doubtfull, because oftentimes we will seeme to cast perils, and make doubt of things when by a plaine manner of speech wee might affirme or deny him.


Ramón del Valle-Inclán, Karma


Quiero una casa edificar
como el sentido de mi vida.
Quiero en piedra mi alma dejar

Quiero labrar mi eremitorio
en medio de un huerto latino,
latín horaciano y grimorio

Quiero mi honesta varonía
transmitir al hijo y al nieto,
renovar en la vara mía
el respeto.

Mi casa como una pirámide
ha de ser templo funerario.
El rumor que mueve mi clámide
es de Terciario.

Quiero hacer mi casa aldeana
con una solana al oriente,
y meditar en la solana

Quiero hacer una casa estoica
murada en piedra de Barbanza,
la casa de Séneca, heroica
de templanza.

Y sea labrada de piedra;
mi casa Karma de mi clan,
y un día decore la hiedra


I would raise up a house
as the sense of my life.
I would plant my soul in stone

I would work my hermitage
in midst of Latin orchards:
Latin of Horace, Byzantine

I would pass forward manhood
to son and grandson in honor,
sow new respect upon
my acre.

My house shall be funereal
as a pyramid temple.
My robe moves in a murmur
of disciples.

I would build my house rustic
with a terrace to sunrise,
and on the terrace meditate
my orisons.

I would wall my house stoic
with stone of Barbanza,
temperate hero’s house
of Seneca.

And be it worked in stone;
my karma house of my clan,
and ivy one day adorn

Baltasar del Alcázar, Song (Three Things)

Canción (Tres cosas)

Tres cosas me tienen preso
de amores el corazón,
la bella Inés, el jamón,
y berenjenas con queso.

Esta Inés (amantes) es
quien tuvo en mí tal poder,
que me hizo aborrecer
todo lo que no era Inés.

Trájome un año sin seso,
hasta que en una ocasión
me dio a merendar jamón
y berenjenas con queso.

Fue de Inés la primer palma,
pero ya júzgase mal
entre todos ellos cuál
tiene más parte en mi alma.

En gusto, medida y peso
no le hallo distinción,
ya quiero Inés, ya jamón,
ya berenjenas con queso.

Alega Inés su beldad,
el jamón que es de Aracena,
el queso y berenjena
la española antigüedad.

Y está tan en fil el peso
que juzgado sin pasión
todo es uno, Inés, jamón,
y berenjenas con queso.

A lo menos este trato
destos mis nuevos amores,
hará que Inés sus favores,
me los venda más barato.

Pues tendrá por contrapeso
si no hiciere razón,
una lonja de jamón
y berenjenas con queso.

Song (Three Things)

In love I count three things
whose prisoner I am:
the fair Inés, and ham,
and aubergines with cheese.

Inés is she whose grace
(O lovers) held me in sway,
so that I cast away
all that was not Inés.

A year without release
my wits in madness swam,
until she brought me ham
and aubergines with cheese.

To Inés first went the prize;
but now I cannot say
which of these three may
sit fairest in my eyes.

In taste, size, weight, they please
alike down to the dram:
now I want Inés, now ham,
now aubergines with cheese.

Inés may plead her beauty,
the ham that it is Aracene,
the cheese and aubergine
their Spanish antiquity.

And in such fine degrees
they balance, gram for gram,
all is one: Inés, and ham,
and aubergines with cheese.

May this my song suffice
my newfound loves to tell—
and to bring Inés to sell
her favors at lower price.

For she must yield to these,
if she refuse my claim:
another slice of ham
and aubergines with cheese.

Robert Musil on Joyce


Ein Profil: der spiritualisierte Naturalismus. – Ein Schritt, der schon 1900 fällig war. Seine Interpunktion ist naturalistisch.

Dazu gehört auch die «Unanständigkeit.» Anziehung: Wie lebt der Mensch im Durchschnitt? Verglichen damit praktiziere ich eine heroische Kunstauffassung.

Frage: Wie denkt man? Seine Abkürzungen sind: Kurzformeln der sprachlich orthodoxen Formeln. Sie kopieren den sich auf Jahre erstreckenden Sprachprozeß. Nicht den Denkprozeß.

Eine andere Kennzeichnung Joyce’s und der ganzen Richtung der Entwicklung ist: Auflösung. Er gibt dem heutigen aufgelösten Zustand nach und reproduziert ihn durch eine Art freien Assoziierens. Das hat etwas Dichterisches, oder den Schein davon; etwas Unlehrhaftes und Wiederanstimmen eines Urgesangs.


A profile: spiritualized naturalism. – A step that was already overdue by 1900. Its punctuation is naturalistic.

This accounts as well for the “indecency.” The attraction: how does a man live on average? Compared with this, the conception of art I practise is heroic.

Question: how do we think? Its abbreviations are: short forms of linguistically orthodox forms. They are copied from the speech process  as it extends over years. Not the thought process.

Another distinguishing mark of Joyce’s, and of the overall direction of development, is: disintegration. He yields to the current disintegrated situation and reproduces it through a kind of free association. There is something poetic in that, at least in appearance; something uninstructive, striking back up a primal song.

Salvador Espriu, two poems (for a wedding)

Both from La Pell de Brau (1960), “The Bull-Hide.” With much special thanks to N. for the reading.


Diversos són els homes i diverses les parles,
i han convingut molts noms a un sol amor.

La vella i fràgil plata esdevé tarda
parada en la claror damunt els camps.
La terra, amb paranys de mil fines orelles,
ha captivat els ocells de las cançons de l’aire.

Sí, comprèn-la i fes-la teva, també,
des de les oliveres,
l’alta i senzilla veritat de la presa veu del vent:
« Diverses són les parles i diversos els homes,
i convindran molts noms a un sol amor.»


Men differ, and speech differs,
And many names have fit a single love.

The old, fragile silver becomes afternoon
halted in light over the fields.
The earth, with snares of a thousand fine ears,
has trapped the birds of airy song.

Yes, understand and take too, as yours,
from the olive groves,
the high, simple truth in the wind’s captive voice:
“Speech differs, and men differ,
And many names will fit a single love.”


Hem caminat i avui ens emparàvem
en la crescuda serenor de l’arbre,
contra el gran vent del llindar de la nit.
Hem estimat la terra
i el nostre somni de la nova casa
alçada en el solar de la llibertat.
No una segura flor, però sí l’esperança
de la segura flor hem collit i portàvem
al llarg d’aquesta pols de la peregrinació.
Ara deixem les paraules
i ens hem sentit arribats al silenci,
per la remor d’una llunyana cavalcada.


We’ve walked, and today we shelter
in the still growth of the tree,
against the great wind at night’s edge.
We’ve loved the earth and loved our dream
of the new house raised over free soil.
Not a safe flower, but the hope, yes,
of a safe flower, we’ve picked and we carry
down the length of this wandering dust.
Now we quit words
and feel ourselves come to silence,
through the sound of a distant galloping.

Paul Ricoeur, Time and Narrative

Ricoeur, Paul. Time and Narrative (Temps et Récit), 3 vols. Trans. Kathleen Blamey and David Pellauer. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1984-1988 (1981-1985). 

I kind of want to Cafepress myself a JE COEUR PAUL RICOEUR T-shirt. I had been wondering where was the account of nineteenth-century historiography and the novel; why no one could engage with Hayden White’s tropological theory of history without sliding into his dumb relativism; where was the reasonable account of those qualities that make narrative an indispensable counterweight to science which still took seriously the ways in which our lives are not very much like The Brothers Kamarazov. Every vein here is loaded with ore, and as with Truth and Method, which I read over the holidays, this was only a first pass through something I’ll be returning to for a long time. (I did kind of skim the twenty pages about The Magic Mountain. Hans, the magic mountain sucks! Go home!)

Peter Carey, His Illegal Self

Carey, Peter. His Illegal Self. New York: Knopf, 2008.

On the long list of things that Mr. Carey does damn well, I would give top place to children. Those who fear that the child POV was exhausted with high modernism and is now verboten and twee will be glad to meet Che, or Jay, who is rendered with fidelity in his moments of perception and emotion and transgression, who is used neither sentimentally as a miniature adult nor sadistically as a punching bag for the world’s arbitrary cruelty. Both cruelty and love in this book come as surprises, reversing themselves without warning – Carey has the genuine storyteller’s confidence, with no fear of the leaping metaphor or the unexpected lurch in time and perspective. Damn if he doesn’t know how to deploy them. This doesn’t enter the marketplace for another month or so (a friend in high places scored me a review copy), but watch the skies.

Gustave Flaubert, Bouvard and Pécuchet

Flaubert, Gustave. Bouvard and Pécuchet; with the Dictionary of Received Ideas (Bouvard et Pécuchet, Dictionnaire des id<ées reçues). Trans. A.J. Krailsheimer. London: Penguin, 1976 (1874-1880).

It’s so funny. It’s so mean. It’s so funny. There’s no way to do right by it – one of B. and P.’s principal occupations is mocking the stupidity and unoriginality of other people, and they aren’t precisely wrong to do so. It doesn’t feel unfinished. The tone is so homogenous that it’s easy enough to superimpose it over Flaubert’s plot sketch for the last chapters (with another steel-trap ending, just like L’Éducation Sentimentale), have the received ideas for dessert and go to bed with heartburn.

John Keats, works; letters; life

Keats, John. The Complete Poems. Ed. John Barnard. 3rd ed. London: Penguin, 1988 (1814-1820).

Keats, John. The Letters of John Keats. Ed. Maurice Buxton Forman. 2 vols. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1931 (1815-1820).

Bate, W. Jackson. John Keats. Cambridge: Harvard University Press, 1963.

You can't do this kind of concurrent reading with every writer (the thought of trying it with Henry James gives me the shivers), but Keats's career is so brief and changes so rapidly that periodic switching from work to life and back again makes a pretty congenial project. What cheered me in the overall sad story was Keats's silliness as a person (at dinner he starts an impromptu concert with his friends; he makes the bassoon noises), his nerdy bookishness (Shakespeare and Milton are never out of his mind for a moment), and the way his ambition keeps pace about a league ahead of whatever he's actually working on. The unfathomably brilliant works — the sonnets, odes, ballads — appear almost by accident, while his greatest effort is turned to those longer pieces in which compositional brilliance is tied to structural flaws that he's always aware of, keeps trying to outpace, keeps discovering in new forms. It's the admission of uncertainty, the continued questing, that makes me feel so warm – maybe in this era of improved medical care there is still hope for us all.

M.H. Abrams, The Mirror and the Lamp

Abrams, M.H. The Mirror and the Lamp: Romantic Theory and the Critical Tradition. New York: Oxford University Press, 1953.

Oh man, this really is how it's done. Remember how an account can be detailed and historically grounded without being reductive about it? Remember?…

One thing this has finally brought me to articulate is that if you're going to talk seriously about lit and philosophy, you have to distinguish between philosophy and poetics – that is the poetics are rules of art which may imply a philosophy but need not necessarily do so – they are a background for the construction of forms and are not identical with philosophy any more than life itself – though both life and poetic form may be subjected to the interpretive art which aims to distill out the unspoken propositions of philosophy drop by drop – All this needs much more room to spread like the pattern of a Persian carpet into the length and breadth of the treatise I hope to complete if I am granted the time – and yes I have been reading the letters of Keats and have contracted his epistolary style. Gentle Poet! – yours ever – adieu

Rainer Maria Rilke, Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge

Rilke, Rainer Maria. Die Aufzeichnungen des Malte Laurids Brigge. Frankfurt a/M: Suhrkamp, 1996 (1910).

They call it a novel, but the notebook format basically turns it into a series of prose poems held together by the Brigge persona, who sometimes is a solid character with a personal history and sometimes is just a voice – more willfully naive than a lot of Rilke's poetic speakers but recognizably continuous with them. So it's a book of wonderful moments: funny, often scary, circling around anonymity, death and time. My favorite might have been the fable about the man who exchanges his fifty remaining years of life for a titanic heap of seconds, which immediately start to vanish on him – but it's hard to choose.