The Rejected Sorcerer

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Cover art by Ed Emshwiller.

More Borges. While checking the details of yesterday’s post I discovered this oddity, an American SF magazine that published a two-page Borges story in March 1960, and put the author’s name on the cover even though few of the magazine’s readers would have heard of him at the time. The issue, which turned out to be the final one, lacks an editorial page so there’s no indication as to how the story found its way there. The story itself concerns an encounter in modern-day Spain between two men, one of them an established magician (in the occult sense), the other a neophyte hoping to gain similar powers. The piece is as much a moral fable as a work of fantasy, and as such appears out of place in a magazine with flying-saucer artwork on its exterior and a Virgil Finlay illustration inside (not for the Borges, unfortunately).

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I thought at first that I might not have read this one before, the title wasn’t familiar but the story was one I recognised immediately. I was also surprised to find that I have it in four different collections under different titles, and with two of the printings appearing at first to disguise the author. In Black Water: An Anthology of Fantastic Literature (1983), edited by Alberto Manguel, the story appears as The Wizard Postponed, with the writer given as “Juan Manuel”; in The Book of Fantasy (1988), an updated version of the Antología de la Literatura Fantástica edited in 1940 by Borges, Adolfo Bioy Casares and Silvina Ocampo, the same piece appears as The Wizard Passed Over, with the author credited as “Don Juan Manuel”. The latter turns out to be the original author, a medieval Spanish writer, although “original” here is a debatable term when the story is Manuel’s adaptation of a piece he found in a book of Arabian tales. Borges rewrote this together with several other short reworkings which appear in the Etcetera section at the end of A Universal History of Infamy, its third appearance on my shelves (once again as The Wizard Postponed).

The fourth appearance is in the Collected Fictions (1998), or the cursed volume as I tend to think of it. I often feel bad about traducing the efforts of translator Andrew Hurley every time Borges is mentioned here but this story provides a good example of why his work is so unsatisfying to readers familiar with the stories from older editions. In its original Spanish the story is El brujo postergado, a short title for which The Wizard Postponed or The Wizard Passed Over would seem like reasonable analogues. Hurley expands this to The Wizard That Was Made to Wait, a lumbering, graceless phrase that’s typical of the lumbering gracelessness elsewhere in Collected Fictions. These tin-eared translations are the ones approved by the Borges estate so they’re present in all the reprints of the past 20 years. Fortunately for readers, most of Borges’ books were widely reprinted in English translations that the author approved, and some of which he even assisted with. Reject the conjurations of maladroit sorcerers, that’s my advice.

Previously on { feuilleton }
The Immortal by Jorge Luis Borges
Borges on Ulysses
Borges in the firing line
La Bibliothèque de Babel
Borges and the cats
Invasion, a film by Hugo Santiago
Spiderweb, a film by Paul Miller
Books Borges never wrote
Borges and I
Borges documentary
Borges in Performance

Weekend links 249

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The Philosophers (Homage to Courbet) by Christopher Ulrich. Another great tip from Full Fathom Five.

• “Mushrooms are the only psychedelic drugs that I take, and I don’t take them very often. But I would trust them. Once you’ve done them a few times it’s very easy to feel a sense of entity. You can feel that there is a characteristic in this level of consciousness which almost seems…playful? Or aware, or sometimes a bit spooky.” Alan Moore discussing art and psychedelics in Mustard magazine. Related: “Psychedelics not linked to mental health problems or suicidal behavior: A population study.”

• “Leonora Carrington transcended her stolid background to become an avant-garde star,” says Boyd Tonkin. At the BBC Chris Long looks at Leonora Carrington’s journey from Lancashire to Mexico. The Carrington exhibition at Tate Liverpool opened on Friday.

A Savoyard’s First Brush with Censorship, Clara Casian’s proposed documentary film about Savoy Books, is looking for Kickstarter funding.

Warner suggests that there are four characteristics that define a veritable fairy tale: first, it should be short; second, it should be (or seem) familiar; third, it should suggest ‘the necessary presence of the past’ through well-known plots and characters; fourth, since fairy tales are told in what Warner aptly calls ‘a symbolic Esperanto’, it should allow horrid deeds and truculent events to be read as matter-of-fact. If, as Warner says, ‘the scope of a fairy tale is made by language’, it is through language that our unconscious world, with its dreams and half-grasped intuitions, comes into being and its phantoms are transformed into comprehensible figures like cannibal giants, wicked parents or friendly beasts.

Alberto Manguel reviewing Once Upon a Time: A Short History of Fairy Tale by Marina Warner

De Natura Sonorum (1976) by Bernard Parmegiani: a free download at AGP of the original vinyl recording, something I overlooked several years ago.

• At Dangerous Minds: Real Horrorshow!: Malcolm McDowell and Anthony Burgess discuss Kubrick and A Clockwork Orange.

Meeting Bernard Szajner, a short film about the French electronic musician by Tom Colvile, Nathan Gibson & Abdullah Al-wali.

• Dismembrance of the Thing’s Past: Dave Tompkins on John Carpenter’s The Thing.

That Battle Is Over, a new song by Jenny Hval.

Mushroom (1971) by Can | The Mushroom Family (2010) by The Time And Space Machine | Growing Mushrooms Of Potency (2012) by Expo ’70

Weekend links 221

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Untitled (Penny Arcade Portrait of Lauren Bacall) (1946) by Joseph Cornell.

• Having been a Bernard Szajner enthusiast for many years it’s good to see his music receiving some belated reappraisal. David McKenna talked to Szajner about his Visions Of Dune album (which is being reissued by InFiné next month), laser harps, The (Hypothetical) Prophets, and working with Howard Devoto.

• Priscilla Frank posts some big views of Marjorie Cameron’s occult paintings as a preview of the forthcoming exhibition at MOCA Pacific Design Center, Los Angeles.

• Fascinating reading in light of the recent kerfuffle over True Detective, Christopher Loring Knowles on the possible sources of HP Lovecraft’s Cthulhu Mythos.

Those who set up oppositions between the electronic technology and that of the printing press perpetuate Frollo’s fallacy. They want us to believe that the book—an instrument as perfect as the wheel or the knife, capable of holding memory and experience, an instrument that is truly interactive, allowing us to begin and end a text wherever we choose, to annotate in the margins, to give its reading a rhythm at will—should be discarded in favor of a newer tool. Such intransigent choices result in technocratic extremism. In an intelligent world, electronic devices and printed books share the space of our work desks and offer each of us different qualities and reading possibilities. Context, whether intellectual or material, matters, as most readers know.

Alberto Manguel, lucid as always, on the act and import of reading.

• “It’s time to give prog rock’s artist-in-residence Roger Dean his due,” says Amber Frost. No argument there, I did my bit in 2010.

• “Why do the covers of so many self-published books look like shit?” asks B. David Zarley.

• Mixes of the week: FACT mix 455 by Airhead, and Secret Thirteen mix 225 by Clock DVA.

• At Core77: Rain Noe chooses favourite skyscraper photos by Russian urban explorers.

• “O, Excellent Air Bag”: Mike Jay on the nitrous oxide fad of the early 19th century.

Nick Carr goes in search of Manhattan’s last remaining skybridges.

Lauren Bacall at Pinterest.

• Shaï Hulud (1979) by Zed (Bernard Szajner) | Welcome (To Death Row) (1980) by Bernard Szajner | Person To Person (1982) by The (Hypothetical) Prophets

Weekend links 151

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Untitled art by Yang Yongliang. There’s more at But Does It Float.

• “Newly unearthed ITV play could be first ever gay television drama“. Writer Gerald Savory, incidentally, also adapted Dracula for the BBC in 1977, still the version that’s closest to the novel.

Craig Redman and Karl Maier‘s poster designs for the Bavarian State Opera.

Lustmord: ambient’s dark star, and The Strange World of Scanner.

The cats are tapping the old man for psychic sap, milking him, stalking through rubbled dreams of the coming Land of the Dead. On subsequent US visits – to Bastrop in Texas and Phoenix, Arizona – I learned about the fellowship of those internal exiles, the hardcore writers: Michael Moorcock, Jim Sallis. Like Burroughs, they kept cats and guns (Mike’s was a replica). Cats infiltrate mystery fiction: men with coffee habits, ex-drinkers, post-traumatic spooks solving crimes the hard way. Moorcock uses cats like a scarf, like Peter Sellers in The Wrong Box; their claws scratch runes into his easy chair.

Iain Sinclair remembers visiting William Burroughs. I remember meeting those Moorcock moggies; not as interesting to reminisce about, however.

The Ghosts of Antarctica: Abandoned Stations and Huts.

• A Masterpiece of the Ridiculous by Jocelyn Brooke.

• “Chance is a good librarian,” says Alberto Manguel.

• Mix of the week: dub from Bristol duo Zhou.

The Aleph: Infinite Wonder / Infinite Pity.

Sarah Lee‘s underwater photography.

Arthur #34 is out!

Underwater (1979) by Harry Thumann | Underwater Church (1992) by Conrad Schnitzler | Underwater Flowers (2003) by John Foxx & Harold Budd

Weekend links 112

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“Venus moves across the Sun in this image captured by Japan’s satellite Hinode, on June 6, 2012.” Via.

The imagery in Ah Pook covered a wide range of ideas. A train full of Mayan Gods for instance travelled through various time zones to end up alongside a carnival in a red brick town outside St Louis. Then they got out…out of the books Mr. Hart was reading on the train. Fact also alternated with fiction. We could be chugging along with Lizard boys in a Mayan City one moment then switch to a history of Immigration Laws in the US or the development of tape recorders and Speech Scramblers. Then switch to a bright red Shrew boy with a hard-on on a bicycle in Palm Beach at the end of the world. Time was what the book was about: defining it, controlling it and moving back and forth within it.

Malcolm McNeill

Malcolm McNeill talks to The White Review about working with William Burroughs on Ah Pook Is Here. Related: Jan Herman as Publisher of Nova Broadcast Press. Reality Studio has all the Nova Broadcast publications as downloadable PDFs.

• More Graphic Canon news: design historian Steven Heller reports on the project while at Nashville Scene editor Russ Kick talks to Joe Nolan about the books.

• There’s still a couple of days left to hear Martyn Wade’s Blue Veils and Golden Sands, a BBC radio drama about electronic composer Delia Derbyshire.

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“Venus in silhouette, seen between the Earth and Sun, from NASA’s orbiting Solar Dynamics Observatory, on June 5, 2012.” Via.

• From 2010: Video of an hour-long lecture by Alberto Manguel at Yale University on “Borges and the Impossibility of Writing”.

• Bauhaus reflections: Frank Whitford on the design school and the exhibition currently running at the Barbican, London.

• “It’s easier to be gay in the US army than it is to be gay in hip-hop.” Zebra Katz, Mykki Blanco and the rise of queer rap.

• Back at the event site: Another extract from M. John Harrison’s forthcoming novel Empty Space.

• Rare 1959 audio: Flannery O’Connor reads A Good Man is Hard to Find.

Venus Transit 2012 – Ultra-high Definition View (NASA/ESA).

• The kitties just don’t care: Indifferent cats in amateur porn.

What happened to Dorothy Parker’s ashes?

Space Teriyaki 5 at 50 Watts.

Venus/Upper Egypt (1991) by Sonny Sharrock | Venus (1996) by Funki Porcini | Venus (2003) by Air