Wednesday, January 9, 2013

Borges, Shakespeare's Memory, #1

Shakespeare's Memory
From the New Yorker Short Story podcast
First published in English, 1998. Airdate of podcast: 12/2012
#1  in the I will read and take brief notes on 300 short stories series

The character in Borges' story is bestowed with Shakespeare's memory. Palaces and caverns.  "Regions... of shadow, regions that he willfully shunned." The narrator tells us that we cannot experience all of our memories at once, that they come to us in parts, and likewise, his slow absorption of WS's memory is revealed to him in the same way. He says that "after some thirty days, the dead man's memory had come to animate me fully." He almost thought he was Shakespeare. He senses a deep guilt in WS's memory. "The offense had nothing in common with perversion...The three faculties of the human soul, memory, understanding, and will are not some mere scholastic fiction." WS was the artist, but the narrator sees his own life as more extraordinary. He eventually cannot bear to be the keeper of the memory, so much agony is he in. He gives the memory, per the ritual, to another keeper, and then must go about trying to erase the WS memory from his mind. "The only solution...strict, vast music, Bach." He concludes, "I am a man among men...Unsettled by small, fleeting memories that are perhaps authentic."

Impressions: feels European, without the dramatic crises we see in contemporary short fiction. But it has deep threads of history and permanence, another characteristic we miss in our internet-fueled consciousness.

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