From “Prologue to the Never-Seen”

by Macedonio Fernández

This is a novel that was and will be futuristic until it’s written, just as its author is, until today he had yet to write a single future page, although he has left futurism until the future, as a proof of his enthusiasm, and doing so brilliantly from there on—without falling into the trap of being a consecutive futurist, like those who have adopted futurism, without understanding it, in the present. And, for that reason, they have declared much to come for the novelist, who has everything in front of him, including his own genial sense of haste, which arises from having thought that with the speed of progress, posterity has been left behind; each day comes quicker, almost completely forgotten, a series of contemporaneous events that exist in the last journalistic edition of the day it appears, and that’s it. We all die already judged immediately, book and author, made classics or corpses in a day, and meanwhile they recommend us to posterity and complain about the present. And today, all of this is done with sufficient justice in 24 hours. The old posterity, with all the time it took to think about it, consecrated a multitude of nonentities as glorious artists; there’s more equity and common sense in today’s reporter: vacuous solemnity and moralisms were posterity’s cheap and effective bribe, born until yesterday. I will look, trusting, for posterity’s universal judgment of my novel in the 30th of September 1929 edition of Critique and Reason, the day the novel will appear, a date which could not have been postponed, since all the postponements had already been used up in promises, with the most literary postponements having been used for prologues.

For the consecrated future literati that does not believe in, nor is able to estimate, posterity beyond each day’s night; it won’t make sense for authors to feel a sense of urgency to write promptly for a prompt posterior judgment: with the speeds that posterity can reach today, the artist will outlive his posterity and will know the next day whether he should or should not write better, or if he has already written so well that he should content himself by contemplating the perfection of his writing. Or if he has no literary accolades left to seek, other than the one that’s most difficult to find—the reader’s. The actual ease of writing makes the legible scarce, and it has reached the point of superseding the injurious necessity of having readers in the first place: writing is for the fruition of art and at best is for knowing the critic’s opinion. In all sincerity, this change is lovely; it’s art for art's sake and art for the critics’ sake, which is art for art’s sake all over again.

Horrible art and the accumulated glories of the past, which have always existed, are a result of the following: the sonorousness of language and the existence of an audience; without this sonorousness, only thinking and creating would remain; without a clamoring public, art would not be drowned. Under these conditions, Literature would be pure art, and there would be many more beautiful works than there are at present: there would be three or four Cervantes, the Cervantes of the Quixote, without the stories, Quevedo the humorist and poet of passion, without the moralizing orator, various Gómez de la Sernas. We’ll be liberated from the likes of Calderón, the Prince of falsetto, from lack of feeling, which is poor taste itself; from the likes of Góngora, at least from time to time, with his exclamations of “Ay Fabio, o sorrow!” We'd have three Heines, each of sarcasm and sadness, or D’Annunzios to limitlessly versify passion. Happily, we would have only the first act of Faust, and in compensation various Poes, and various Bovaries—with their sad affliction of loveless appetite, despicable and bloody—and this other, lacerating absurdity: Hamlet’s lyric of sorrow, which convinces and breeds sympathy, despite the false psychologism of its source. We’ll be free of the scientific realism of Ibsen, one of Zola’s victims, and this magnificent artist for his part will be dismantled by sociology and theory of heresy and pathology, and instead of a dozen master works we’ll possess a hundred, of true, intrinsic artistic worth, not mere copies of reality. These works will be typically literary, works of Prose, not of didactics, without any musical language (meter, rhyme, sonorousness) or paintings with words, that is, descriptions.


With this I’m publishing a prologue of such a novel, since I hope to guarantee that in special rehearsals its characters, events, and jokes will all prove its utter seriousness; and even publishing it is a rehearsal, anterior to the reader. But only the prologues after this one!

I’ll rehearse the upcoming prologue instead. Also, there’s a new German word in Spanish that I consulted with Xul Solar about in his workshop: “Languages in repair.” It's an amended adjective, but new, not like mended boots.


The “for-all-of-us-artists-gifted-with-daydreams” Reader.

The “often-dreamed-of” Reader; The “who-the-author-dreams-is-reading-his-dreams” Reader.

The “who-the-art-of-writing-wants-to-be-real-more-than-merely-real-reader-of-dreams” Reader.

The "only-real-that-art-recognizes" reader of dreams.

The “less-real, he-who-dreams-the-dreams-of-the-other,-and-stronger-in-reality,-since-he-does-not-lose-it-although-they-won’t-let-him-dream-them-but-only-re-dream” Reader.

I believe I have identified the reader who addresses himself to me, and I have obtained the proper adjectivalization of his entire being, after so much fragmentation and some false adjectives. “Dear” reader does not modify the reader but the author, et cetera.

The adjectivalization read above—conveniently, I speak before the novel of that which is not read that the book contains; but the rest, here, is before everything and I leave only a little of it; by means of prologues I have the refinement to privilege the readers who know the entire book, something only my readers have found in an abnegated author—I give the book to the public just to turn around and put it through the linguistic workshop of that singular artist, Xul Solar, who will make it into one, definitive word. And, already in its fourth edition, my salutation to the reader, which you’ll have to pardon me, will today be served decaffeinated.

To your health, reader. How sad we are in our books, and how distant. I, the most often mentioned and identified of the unknowns, find myself in a predicament with my Complete Works, to start with, in such a way that the entire future, my whole literary career, will be posterior, in my case, to the aforementioned Complete Works; only because the public has not stopped to wait for me and hasn’t given me the name of a great unknown. So now I am obliged to deserve it, composing myself a past as an author in one fell swoop, so that later I’ll be able to write. This is a new situation in the life of writers, and isn’t it adverse to success?

For those who have read me before I began to write, if you have a problem like mine, by now I won’t have it any more. I’ve finished my Complete Works. In my satisfaction, monumentally incapable of understanding difficulty, I can give you a distillation of long experience in art, collected in the present Complete Work.

Let art be limitless and free and all that is intrinsic to it—its handwriting, its titles, the life of its exponents. Tragedy or Humorism or Fantasy should never have to suffer a Past director, nor should they have to copy a Present Reality, and all should incessantly be judged, abolished.

It’s an axiomatic error to define art by copies: I understand life without getting a copy of it first; if copies were necessary, each new situation, each new character that we encountered would be eternally incomprehensible. The effectiveness of the author derives solely from his Invention.


I leave only the title finished, since:

A prologue that starts right away is really sloppy: it loses the perfume of its preceding, just as I said that the only genuine way to practice futurism is to put it off for later.

I will also have said, earlier, that this is one of the twenty-nine prologues of a novel that’s impossible to prologue, as a critic, who surely born in that tranquil country of “ask questions later,” has recently predicted; there’s another, more sympathetic, book, that is, one that’s more given to length and limited in prologues—which can still be remedied—which was going to be called “The Man Who Would Be President But Wasn’t.” [1]


1. This “Man Who Would Be President” (in the novel) and who wasn’t (in history, where who would want to be?) is connected to a possible political-fantastical action alluded to in the notes to “Towards A Theory of the State,” in Teorías. (Editor's Note—Adolfo de Obieta)


SOURCE: Fernández, Macedonio. The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel), translated from the Spanish with an introduction by Margaret Schwartz, preface by Adam Thirlwell (Rochester, NY: Open Letter, 2010), pp. 38-41.


Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Study Materials on the Web

History of the Professional Writer & Reading Public / Audiences
—The Romantic Era / The Working Class Reader / Literary Form / Division of Labor

Esperanto & Interlinguistics Study Guide / Retgvidilo pri Esperanto & Interlingvistiko

Offsite:

Xul Solar @ Ĝirafo


Home Page | Site Map | What's New | Coming Attractions | Book News
Bibliography | Mini-Bibliographies | Study Guides | Special Sections
My Writings | Other Authors' Texts | Philosophical Quotations
Blogs | Images & Sounds | External Links

CONTACT Ralph Dumain

Uploaded 14 May 2013

Site ©1999-2013 Ralph Dumain