8 sept. 2010

Imagine an aristocrat, an enormously gifted polymath of the early 17th century. He produces two bodies of literary work: the first, under his own name, is stunningly and ineptly amateurish. The second, much more varied and extensive, exhibits great genius. The aristocrat, however, dissociates himself from this work, writing it under a pseudonym, the name of a barely literate actor and shareholder in a theatrical company. While hugely ambitious, the aristocrat is entirely egoless, allowing himself to be known as an utter mediocrity while giving credit to his work to another man. The worst part, from the point of view of someone with more ego, is not that he can never be recognized for his second body of work, but that he is stuck with inferior works in his own name. Upon the death of the actor, the leading literary lights of the day compose elegies about his (the actor's) genius. The aristocrat is already in his grave.

I can imagine this as a short story by Henry James or Jorge Luis Borges. It is a thematically rich story and I am giving it to you to write, if you want, for no charge. I certainly won't write it myself.

It's true that I'm poking fun at Oxfordian theory of Shakespeare authorship. The weak point in this theory, I believe, is the one I've identified here: the Kafkaeque or Borgesian unreality of the story. (I don't believe others have remarked on this.) But this is the same aspect that makes the story so suggestive from a literary point of view.

3 comentarios:

Thomas dijo...

This reminds me of Borges's impossible (in many senses) "Library of Babel". The fact that the story is impossible even within it's own framework does not diminish its literary value. I don't know if you saw my posts on this.


I'd especially like to know what you think of the following issue of the basic layout of the galleries:


(Your knowledge of Spanish my solve the problem.)

Jonathan dijo...

I haven't studied the text from that point of view, but I think your basic approach is the correct one. The library is a tower (Tower of Babel). From any point in the tower you can see other floors up or down, to the vanishing point. There is an infinite spiral staircase going up and down.

Thomas dijo...

That's good to hear. I'm still not comfortable with my solution to this part of the description:

"One of the free sides leads to a narrow hallway which opens onto another gallery, identical to the first and to all the rest. To the left and right of the hallway there are two very small closets. ... Also through here passes a spiral stairway, which sinks abysmally and soars upwards to remote distances."

Also through where? The weird connecting passage between two towers I've drawn here—


—isn't really very satisfying.