member of:Observers of the Interdependence of Domestic Objects and Their Influence on Everyday Life


This group has been active for a long time and has already made some remarkable assertions which render life simpler from the practical point of view. For example, I move a pot of green color five centimeters to the right, I push in the thumbtack beside the comb and if Mr. A (another adherent like me) at this moment puts his volume about bee-keeping beside a pattern for cutting out vests, I am sure to meet on the sidewalk of the avenida Madero a woman who intrigues me and whose origin and address I never could have known...
--Remedios Varo


(Artwork by Remedios Varo)
By believing passionately in something that still does not exist, we create it. The nonexistent is whatever we have not sufficiently desired.
--Franz Kafka

Tuesday, September 8, 2009

Mirrors, Ghosts, and the Revolutionary Fish


"The Persistence of Memory"
By Marina Korenfeld


`I was always afraid of mirrors,' Jorge Luis Borges said in 1971. `I had three large mirrors in my room when I was a boy and I felt very acutely afraid of them, because I saw myself in the dim light -- I saw myself thrice over, and I was very afraid of the thought that perhaps the three shapes would begin moving by themselves ... I have always been afraid ... of mahogany, of crystals, even of limpid water.'


MUNDO DE ESPEJOS
(English translation follows)



En aquel tiempo, el mundo de los espejos y el mundo de los hombres no estaban, como ahora, incomunicados. Eran, además, muy diversos; no coincidían ni los seres ni los colores ni las formas. Ambos reinos, el especular y el humano vivían en paz; se entraba y se salía por los espejos. Una noche, la gente del espejo invadió la tierra. Su fuerza era grande, pero al cabo de sangrientas batallas las artes mágicas del Emperador Amarillo prevalecieron. Éste rechazó a los invasores, los encarceló en los espejos y les impuso la tarea de repetir, como en una especie de sueño, todos los actos de los hombres. Los privó de su fuerza y de su figura y los redujo a meros reflejos serviles. Un día, sin embargo, sacudirán ese letargo mágico. El primero que despertará será el Pez. En el fondo del espejo percibiremos una línea muy tenue y el color de esa línea será un color no parecido a ningun otro. Después, irán despertando las otras formas. Gradualmente diferirán de nosotros, gradualmente no nos imitarán. Romperán las barreras de vidrio o de metal y esta vez no serán vencidas.
(Jorge Luis Borges)



The Wind
Marina Korenfeld

English Translation (my translation):


In those days, the world of mirrors and the world of Man were not, as now, isolated from each other. What's more, they were distinct; neither the beings, nor the colors, nor the forms were the same from one world to the other. Both kingdoms, the specular and the human, lived in peace; one could pass through any mirror as a doorway between them. One night, the people of the mirror invaded Earth. Their force was great, but after many bloody battles, the magical arts of the Yellow Emperor prevailed. He pushed back the invaders, imprisoned them in the mirrors, and forced them to repeat, as if sleep-walking, all the acts of Man. He took from them their strength and their form and reduced them to mere servile reflections. Nevertheless, one day they will shake themselves from this magical slumber. The first to awake will be the Fish. In the depths of the mirror, we will note a fragile line, and the color of that line will be one like no other. The other forms will follow. Gradually, they will differ from us; gradually, they will cease to imitate us. They will break the barriers of glass or metal, and this time, they will not be defeated...



"Bahamut"
By Marina Korenfeld
(The fish that supports the world, in Arabian myth and in Borges' Book of Imaginary Beings.)


Piscis-Custos (Fish-Guardian)
Marina Korenfeld

"As a child, Borges had an all consuming fear of mirrors. His sister, Norah, claims that one summer she and her brother hid in the farthest corner of the house from 'a ghost that [they] actually saw reflected in a closet mirror.' Having 'actually' seen something present in the spectral world which was conspicuously absent in the conventional made Borges believe that mirrors possessed volition of their own and, moreover, the power to do away with reality as he knew it. He admits:

'One of my persistent prayers to God...was that I not dream about mirrors. I know I watched them with misgivings. Sometimes I feared that they might deviate from reality; other times I was afraid of seeing there my own face, disfigured by strange calamities.'"
(Source, JAMIE SCHILLING FIELDS)





"In the Style of 'Magic Mirrors'"
by egold on Flickr. Note the fish in the background...
"When you are alone, look at the mirror, any mirror you have in your home. Peer at the mirror deeper and deeper. I'm sure pretty soon you'll understand all magic of this glass, no... not a glass but open window, window to other, different world.
Feel yourself as Alice, talk with your reflection... may be you'll get all the answers to your hidden spirits... It's not about madness, lunacy, or multiple personality... Understand, nobody knows you better than your twin in a mirror... Just do it."(egold)
(I recommend a visit to his page, where as he says, he uses photography to create his own, "second" reality. It's fascinating, full of little jewels, and deserves a separate post...soon).


Mirrors :: J. L. Borges
(Spanish version follows)

I, who felt the horrors of mirrors
Not only in front of the impenetrable crystal
Where there ends and begins, uninhabitable,
An impossible space of reflections,

But of gazing even on water that mimics
The other blue in its depth of sky,
That at times gleams back the illusory flight
Of the inverted bird, or that ripples,

And in front of the silent surface
Of subtle ebony whose polish shows
Like a repeating dream the white
Of something marble or something rose,

Today at the tip of so many and perplexing
Wandering years under the varying moon,
I ask myself what whim of fate
Made me so fearful of a glancing mirror.

Mirrors in metal, and the masked
Mirror of mahogany that in its mist
Of a red twilight hazes
The face that is gazed on as it gazes,

I see them as infinite, elemental
Executors of an ancient pact,
To multiply the world like the act
Of begetting. Sleepless. Bringing doom.

They prolong this hollow, unstable world
In their dizzying spider’s-web;
Sometimes in the afternoon they are blurred
By the breath of a man who is not dead.

The crystal spies on us. If within the four
Walls of a bedroom a mirror stares,
I’m no longer alone. There is someone there.
In the dawn reflections mutely stage a show.

Everything happens and nothing is recorded
In these rooms of the looking glass,
Where, magicked into rabbis, we
Now read the books from right to left.

Claudius, king of an afternoon, a dreaming king,
Did not feel it a dream until that day
When an actor shewed the world his crime
In a tableau, silently in mime.

It is a strange dream, and to have mirrors
Where the commonplace, worn-out repertory
Of every day may include the illusory
Profound globe that reflections scheme.

God (I keep thinking) has taken pains
To design that ungraspable architecture
Reared by every dawn from the gleam
Of a mirror, by darkness from a dream.

God has created nighttime, which he arms
With dreams, and mirrors, to make clear
To man he is a reflection and a mere
Vanity. Therefore these alarms.

[From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Harold Morland]



LOS ESPEJOS

Yo que sentí el horror de los espejos
No sólo ante el cristal impenetrable
Donde acaba y empieza, inhabitable,
un imposible espacio de reflejos

Sino ante el agua especular que imita
El otro azul en su profundo cielo
Que a veces raya el ilusorio vuelo
Del ave inversa o que un temblor agita

Y ante la superficie silenciosa
Del ébano sutil cuya tersura
Repite como un sueño la blancura
De un vago mármol o una vaga rosa,

Hoy, al cabo de tantos y perplejos
Años de errar bajo la varia luna,
Me pregunto qué azar de la fortuna
Hizo que yo temiera los espejos.

Espejos de metal, enmascarado
Espejo de caoba que en la bruma
De su rojo crepúsculo disfuma
Ese rostro que mira y es mirado,

Infinitos los veo, elementales
Ejecutores de un antiguo pacto,
Multiplicar el mundo como el acto
Generativo, insomnes y fatales.

Prolongan este vano mundo incierto
En su vertiginosa telaraña;
A veces en la tarde los empaña
El hálito de un hombre que no ha muerto.

Nos acecha el cristal. Si entre las cuatro
Paredes de la alcoba hay un espejo,
Ya no estoy solo. Hay otro. Hay el reflejo
Que arma en el alba un sigiloso teatro.

Todo acontece y nada se recuerda
En esos gabinetes cristalinos
Donde, como fantásticos rabinos,
Leemos los libros de derecha a izquierda.

Claudio, rey de una tarde, rey soñado,
No sintió que era un sueño hasta aquel día
En que un actor mimó su felonía
Con arte silencioso, en un tablado.

Que haya sueños es raro, que haya espejos,
Que el usual y gastado repertorio
De cada día incluya el ilusorio
Orbe profundo que urden los reflejos.

Dios (he dado en pensar) pone un empeño
En toda esa inasible arquitectura
Que edifica la luz con la terzura
Del cristal y la sombra con el sueño.

Dios ha creado las noches que se arman
De sueños y las formas del espejo
Para que el hombre sienta que es reflejo
Y vanidad. Por eso nos alarman.



Gravity
By Marina Korenfeld

A fan of the work of Borges, Marina Korenfeld is a Russian artist living in New York who draws up on his ideas, those of Castaneda, many religious traditions, and Russian folklore.
"The fish, which is Marina's favorite motif, is an agent of silent and invisible forces; it is omnipresent in all of her work under various guises."(Natalya Sukhonos, Yale Daily News).
You can see more of her artwork here.

3 comments:

  1. It's always a pleasure to navigate through your posts but you know that Borges is my weakness... Your translation is PERFECT. Marina Korenfeld is another incredible pearl--"Gravity" is incredible! Thank you for this delicate treat :-)

    ReplyDelete
  2. sylvia,
    "gravity" was also my personal favorite..it has that sensation of several perspectives that seemed key to all the text...
    thank you so much for your help on the translation! i'm so excited that it was ok! i think i'm still not done with that segment of borges, though--i'll keep you posted :)

    ReplyDelete
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