sábado, agosto 08, 2015

Stories Without People: "Histórias Falsas" by Gonçalo M. Tavares

Published 2010.

"Histórias Falsas" = "False Stories"

Gonçalo M. Tavares tells us a bunch of semi-false stories based on “real” stories, i.e., stories belonging to a kind pf parallel universe of Stories, wherein everything looks slightly askew:

The story of Juliet, the saint from Bavaria
The story of Lianor de Mileto
The story of Listo Mercatore
The story of Metão, the little one
The tyrants’ story
The story of Aurius Anaxos
The story of Elia de Mirceia
The story of Faustina, the fearful
The story of Arquitas

I cannot resist translating into English two very small excerpts from the same story (“The story of Listo Mercatore”):


“Mercatore was climbing down small stairs when he run across the philosopher, shabbily dressed, sitting on the floor, against the wall, eating lentils.
Haughty, more than usual, with a full stomach, and full of cheekiness due to the wealth that he sported, said to Diogenes:
‘If you had learned to kiss ass to the king, you wouldn’t need to eat lentils.’
And then he laughed, mocking Diogenes poverty.
And yet, the philosopher, looked at him with even greater haughtiness and pride. He had had standing in front of him, Alexander the Great; who was this now? Just a simple rich man?
Diogenes answered to the letter: ‘and you,’ said the philosopher, ‘If you had learned to eat lentils, you wouldn’t need to kiss ass to the king.’”

While reading the story I was thinking on a different take to the excerpt:

” Hey man, I’m eating lentils because I like it. There is no accounting for taste, which is one of the conclusions in Aesthetics-Philosophy, because even yesterday I was stuffing my face at José Avillez’s Belcanto (*), but today I feel like eating lentils, you know? Therefore go kiss the King’s ass, I don’t really need this shit. For me, the power of my brain is enough to do well in life; go ass-kissing instead, scat!”


“’You have before you, Alexander the Great; what do you have to tell him?’
Diogenes, the philosopher, looked at Alexander, the great, and said, ’you are blocking the sun. Would you mind stepping aside?’
Diogenes reply became famous.”

“Histórias Falsas” follow in the footsteps of Jorge Luis Borges (“A Universal History of Infamy“ comes to mind) which also tells false stories of known characters, near and parallel to the familiar characters.  Like Borges before him, Tavares also aims at writing stuff without people. His writing delves into the research of ideas, objects and concepts. What we call “people” in some of Tavares’ novels (“Jerusalem”, “Learning to Pray in the Age of Technique”, and "A Man: Klaus Klump" also come to mind), are really archetypes of people.
Unfortunately the usual juxtaposing of logical thoughts and sensory experience is absent here. On top of that, the writing here is so sparse and pithy that some paragraphs only had one word…Not my cup of tea. I’m not sure what kind of effect Tavares was looking for here, but it didn’t work.

(*) Awarded 2 Michelin stars - one of the most famous and expensive restaurants in Lisbon.

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