Featured Post

Aspiring to mediocrity

What I mean by this is that we need to achieve competence. For example, I would like to play jazz piano that sounds like generic playing tha...

Wednesday, February 6, 2013

Borges on Castro

One of the most delightful take-downs of Américo Castro is by Borges. Castro had criticized the Spanish of Argentina. Borges starts by saying that talking about something as a "problem" is insidiously question begging. "The Jewish problem," etc... Secondly he points out that misidentifying a problem might lead to false solutions.

Castro's first mistake is to take fragments of Gaucho literature as representative of Argentine Spanish, without realizing these are caricatures.

The accusation of archaism is also easy to refutre: "El doctor Castro nos imputa arcaísmos. Su método es curioso: descubre que las personas más cultas de San Mamed de Puga, en Orense, han olvidado tal o cual acepción de tal o cual palabra; inmediatamente resuelve que los argentinos deben olvidarla también" In other words, because a word (or a particular meaning of a word) no longer exists in the Spanish of Spain, does not mean that it is archaic in America. Why should be pace of linguistic change be the same everywhere?

Borges points out that a difference from peninsular Spanish is not necessarily a flaw. It might be simply a difference. Why prefer an ugly locution like "tomadura de pelo" simply because it is acceptable on the Iberian peninsula?

He ends up contrasting Castro's own style with that of Martín Fierro. Castro writes like this: "“El pensamiento y el arte rioplatense son antenas valiosas para cuanto en el mundo significa valía y esfuerzo, actitud intensamente receptiva que no ha de tardar en convertirse en fuerza creadora, si el destino no tuerce el rumbo de las señales propicias. La poesía, la novela y el ensayo lograron allá más de un 'goal' pefecto. La ciencia y el pensar filosófico cuentan entre sus cultivadores nombres de suma distinción." The "typically Argentine" poetry of the epic poem sounds much cleaner and more elegant.

Despite the fact that Castro lists Borges himself as a good writer, Borges still feels that he has some expertise in this area. "En la página 122, el doctor Castro ha enumerado algunos escritores cuyo estilo es correcto; a pesar de la inclusión de mi nombre en ese catálogo, no me creo del todo incapacitado para hablar de estilística."

This game is called being more castizo than the casticistas. You repeat the word "doctor" every time you mention the name of the person you're criticizing.

No comments: