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Analogous to nervous cluelessness is something we might call “anxious gatekeeping.”   This is desire to police the borders of poetry, or of...

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

Beckett vs. Juan Ramón

I kind of hate Juan Ramón Jiménez. I know he is very very good and all, in the way that all the critics describe and I could too if I were to explain all that, but I hate him. Compare "El nombre conseguido de los nombres" with Beckett's "fail better." These are two late modernisms, one conceived of as a struggle you will never win, the other as a battle you've already won definitively. Beckett and Vallejo and Lorca are in one category; Juan Ramón Jiménez in the other. Or so I'd like to argue. It may be a kind of caricature. I don't really care because I cannot read Jiménez without that caricature being shoved in my face.

So that explains a lot. You could react against the aestheticism of Juan Ramón and look really good if you were politically engaged. Or you could write really bad "essentialist" poetry like Juan Ramón's, but worse, and sound very acceptable, because that is sort of normal cursi-sounding Spanish poetry. So JRJ was the model for everyone. What was missing from the Machado / Jiménez dialectic was the poetry of fractured subjectivity, like that of Vallejo, Lorca, or Beckett.

8 comments:

Thomas said...

Juan Ramón was an "Apollonian" artist, perhaps?

Professor Zero said...

I suppose, if one believes in the birth of tragedy. I OD'd on it because it was the Bible of one of my graduate programs in Brazil the way Auerbach's Mimesis was at Berkeley. Everything avant-garde, and almost everything "truly" Brazilian, was carnavalesque (Bakhtin) and also Dionysian.

I cannot stand JRJ, either. He has to be replaced with Lugones or somebody like that, infinitely more interesting.

Thomas said...

I was thinking of Auden's distinction between the lyres of Apollo and Hermes. But it's probably true that Beckett was thinking of Apollo/Dionysus.

Professor Zero said...

@Thomas, I had to Google this, and I learned. I should pay more attention to Auden because every time someone quotes him it leads to me learning shocking and useful facts. I will have to post on this.

Jonathan said...

Thou shalt not do as the dean pleases,
Thou shalt not write thy doctor’s thesis
On education,
Thou shalt not worship projects nor
Shalt thou or thine bow down before
Administration.

Thou shalt not answer questionnaires
Or quizzes upon World-Affairs,
Nor with compliance
Take any test. Thou shalt not sit
With statisticians nor commit
A social science.

Thomas said...

It is a very, very prescient poem. Disturbing really.

@Prof. Zero: I did actually try to indicate my meaning by making "Apollonian" a link to my post on the subject (in my first comment).

I feel the same way about Auden, by the way.

Jonathan said...

How did you know in 2011 that I would need to know about Auden's Apollo / Hermes distinction in 2013? That's amazing.

I knew parts of the poem, the part about social science, but had forgotten the Nietzschean parallel.

Professor Zero said...

Thanks for re-pointing out the link, Thomas, I think I was reading in the dark and did not realize there was one. It's a great post and I've linked to it now.

(OT: say godt nytaar to Copenhagen, one of my cities!!! I am a fan from back to exchange student days, in the family of Gylendaal reader, poet and bard Regin Dahl, b. Torshávn, RIP.)