Si un libro los aburre, déjenlo, no lo lean porque es famoso, no lean un libro porque es moderno, no lean un libro porque es antiguo. Si un libro es tedioso para ustedes, déjenlo… ese libro no ha sido escrito para ustedes.
(Jorge Luis Borges: Borges profesor – curso de literatura inglesa en la Universidad de Buenos Aires)
If a book bores you, leave it, don’t read it because it’s famous, don’t read a book because it’s modern, don’t read a book because it’s ancient. If a book is tedious to you, don’t read it… that book was not written for you.
(Jorge Luis Borges:Profesor Borges – A Course on English Literature)
But when Tragedy and Comedy came to light, the two classes of poets still followed their natural bent: the lampooners became writers of Comedy, and the Epic poets were succeeded by Tragedians, since the drama was a larger and higher form of art.
Pero tan pronto como la tragedia y la comedia aparecieron en el ambiente, aquellos naturalmente atraídos por cierta línea de poesía se convirtieron en autores de comedias en lugar de yambos, y los otros inclinados por su índole a una línea distinta, en creadores de tragedias en lugar de epopeyas, porque estos nuevos modos del arte resultaban más majestuosos y de mayor estima que los antiguos.
A slightly longer quote this week, from the Poetics of Aristotle. He talks about the meaning of unity of action, or plot – one of the three unities (aka classical unities) in literature. The other two unities are the unity of place and the unityof time. The three unities were described by Aristotle in his Poetics; they were later followed by such neo-classical authors as Molière and Racine. A play that observes the three unities will have a single action occurring in a single place in the course of a single day.
Una cita un poco más larga este semana, de La Poética de Aristóteles. Nos habla sobre el significado de la unidad de acción, es decir trama – una de las tres unidades (también conocido como unidades clásicas) en literatura. Las otras dos son la unidad de tiempo y la unidad de lugar. Las tres unidades fueron descritas por Aristóteles en La Poética; luego fueron observadas por tal autores neoclásicos como Molière y Racine. Una obra que observa las tres unidades tendrá una acción sola, ocurriendo en un lugar único durante un día sólo.
Homer, for example, makes men better than they are; Cleophon as they are; Hegemon the Thasian, the inventor of parodies, and Nicochares, the author of the Deiliad, worse than they are.
As, in the serious style, Homer is pre-eminent among poets, for he alone combined dramatic form with excellence of imitation so he too first laid down the main lines of comedy, by dramatizing the ludicrous instead of writing personal satire. His Margites bears the same relation to comedy that the Iliad and Odyssey do to tragedy.
So in this respect, too, compared with all other poets Homer may seem, as we have already said, divinely inspired, in that even with the Trojan war, which has a beginning and an end, he did not endeavour to dramatise it as a whole, since it would have been either too long to be taken in all at once or, if he had moderated the length, he would have complicated it by the variety of incident. As it is, he takes one part of the story only and uses many incidents from other parts, such as the Catalogue of Ships and other incidents with which he diversifies his poetry.
In composing the Odyssey he did not include all the adventures of Odysseus- such as his wound on Parnassus, or his feigned madness at the mustering of the host- incidents between which there was no necessary or probable connection: but he made theOdyssey, and likewise the Iliad, to centre round an action that in our sense of the word is one.
Everything in this book may well seem both to lovers of poetry and to classical scholars an unnecessary gloss upon the Odyssey. In one sense it is, for it is clearly unnecessary to attempt to trace the voyage of Ulysses when millions of people, for thousands of years, have been quite happy to read the Odyssey as if it was only a fable…
I do not think that anything is lost by attempting to find a skeleton – however magnificent the cupboard that hides it. I have seen coral formations disguising the old bones of ships, but I did not feel less amazed by the beauty of the coral just because I had found the timbers and iron frames which the polyps had disguised and decorated.
In 1981, the Italian writer Italo Calvino wrote an essay titled Why Read the Classics?. It’s less than ten entertaining pages, so I recommend you read it if you can lay your hands on it. (It’s been published in a book form, in a collection of his essays, bearing the same title.)
What follows here is the 14 definitions of what classics are as put forward in the essay – 14 definitions worth thinking about:
Hace mucho tiempo el escritor argentino, Jorge Luis Borges estaba enseñando literatura inglesa en la universidad de Buenos Aires. Un día dijo a sus estudiantes:
A long time ago the Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges taught English Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. One day he said to his students:
La cita de la semana / Quote of the Week:
Si Shakespeare les interesa, está bien. Si les resulta tedioso, déjenlo. Shakespeare no ha escrito aún para ustedes. Llegará un día que Shakespeare será digno de ustedes y ustedes serán dignos de Shakespeare, pero mientras tanto no hay que apresurar las cosas.”
(Jorge Luis Borges: Curso de literatura inglesa en la universidad de Buenos Aires)
If Shakespeare interests you, that’s fine. If you find him tedious, leave him. Shakespeare hasn’t yet written for you. The day will come when Shakespeare will be right for you and you will be worthy of Shakespeare, but in the meantime there’s no need to hurry things.
It was evening when we made our way back to the cove. The sun was setting fire to the headlands west of us, and the sea had become absolutely still. Not even a cat’s-paw trailed across the purple water. The sea was truly like wine to look at. The professors who had decried Homer’s adjective and invented other meanings for it, had never been sailors.