Las máquinas ficcionales de Ricardo Piglia. Edited by Julia G. Romero. Buenos Aires (Argentina): Corregidor Editions, 2015.
Orlando Luis Pardo Lazo
TUESDAY, MARCH 13, 2018
Julia G. Romero, a researcher of the Instituto de Investigaciones en Humanidades y Ciencias Sociales (IdIHCS/CONICET) from the National University of La Plata, has compiled nine essays in Spanish about “narrative machines” and other literary concepts displayed in the fiction works and, in most cases, developed in the essays of the Argentinean writer Ricardo Piglia (1941-2017). This 2015 volume includes a Preface by Gonzalo Oyola, as well as the reflections On Interpretation, Notes for a Conference, by Ricardo Piglia, in lieu of an epilogue to this 204-page book.
In her brief introductory text, Romero explains that the essays collected in Las máquinas ficcionales… were the result of a homage paid to Ricardo Piglia, which took place in November 2011 in La Plata, Argentine. While in his summarizing prologue, Oyola stresses the notion that “the writing of Piglia is a subversive machine that works by undermining the places where literature is established as institution,” and this is so because of Piglia´s “re-cognition of literature in his literature” through the paradoxical gestures of “theft, plagiarism, falsification,” as opposed to the “regime of bourgeois mentality and literary minions (the property, the original, the tradition turned into canon).” Thus, for Oyola, Piglia understands and executes his literature out of its “pure use value,” through the “hard core of one practice: reading.”
Three of the essays focusing more specifically on the narrative machines in Ricardo Piglia´s fictional writings are Notes on a Literary Project by Adriana Rodríguez Pérsico, Capturing the look: the graphic body of La Ciudad Ausente by Piglia, Scafati and De Santis, by Elena Vinelli; and A Story-Transforming Machine, by Sergio Waisman.
Rodríguez Pérsico approaches Piglia as a product of passion, where his literature functions as a replication and duplication machine that reveals itself both as an archive, which is the material basis of memory as a shortcut to access traces of the historical truth, and as a displaced space to recover/restore all sorts of anachronisms and ruins. This machine that recombines aesthetics and politics is not exempt of nostalgic temptations, but at least it lacks the ominous obsession with one and only one original text, so that the duplicates in Piglia´s fictions turn objects into life, rather than provoke an uncanny effect in the reader: the missing text is also present and in fact it completes our reading/research experience. In definitive, Rodríguez Pérsico believes that “Piglia considers literature as a private utopia, the real of liberty,” where “heterogeneity solves the paradoxes and establishes meaning in a transient manner.”
Vinelli explores the bridges, disconnections, and “imperfections” in the process of transposition of Piglia´s novel La ciudad ausente into a graphic novel, which was composed in 2008 by Luis Scafati, Pablo De Santis and Piglia himself. Vinelli proposes such notion of sketched literature as a space of resistance and subversion within the social narratives, where each story is to be re-narrated in other formats, genres, tempos, and even material supports. These “discursive translations” are then analyzed in their thematic and formal aspects, from the “mnemonic space” of the written novel to its reproduction and persistence as “graphic body” in the image/text. Vinelli concludes that the characters of the graphic La ciudad ausente wander around a network of “machine-events” that accumulates enough experience as to be acted (both realization/unrealization) at the same time as they are being sketched/narrated, preserving the elements of the detective “noir genre” more like in Piglia´s definition of “paranoid fiction,” which is a “criminal synecdoche of the political order; a panopticon-city.”
Waisman prefers to assemble a sort of critical machine in order to retell his experience as translator of Ricardo Piglia into English, confessing not only his theoretical approach but his limitations to remain faithful to the original, given the complexities of dealing with a narrative universe whose poetics relies precisely on the fallacy of fidelity. Waisman engages with his own predispositions and dispositions out of his “theory of (bad)translation from the margins,” following here some of the more provocative notions approached by the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges: “the original is unfaithful to the translator” and “the concept of a definitive text corresponds only to religion or tiredness.” In the case of Piglia´s La ciudad ausente, for example, Waisman´s The Absent City could be conceived as a “natural extension” of the Spanish original, as “another story of the machine itself” created by Piglia, in one of the many other plausible languages but within the same “logic of reproduction and circulation of texts.” That is what it means, according to Waisman, to “set the stories in movement,” to let them “find their own echoes but also to gain new meanings” in a diverse array of “networks of linguistic and cultural associations.”
Besides the short essay by Julia G. Romero on Piglia´s Perpetual Fiction, a Poetics, which includes the reproduction of the original facsimile of Piglia´s short-story “El laucha Benítez cantaba boleros”, the other essayists included in Las máquinas ficcionales de Ricardo Piglia are (all quotes and translations of titles are by the author of this review): Laura Demaría (To Read Ricardo Piglia, Once More, With Passion), Silvia Hueso and José Amícola (Queer Performance in Plata Quemada), Edgardo Berg (A Singular Optic Machine: Brief Notes on El Último Lector by Ricardo Piglia), Jorge Bracamonte (Blanco Nocturno Thirty Years Later: Otherness, Experimentation, Story), and Arcardio Díaz Quiñones (Ricardo Piglia, His Years at Princeton).
In his minimalist reflections On Interpretation, Notes for a Conference, included by the editors as epilogue to this 2015 volume on Ricardo Piglia´s narrative conceptions, Piglia himself acknowledges that “wrong interpretations are more present in our culture―and in our personal life―than what we might be willing to admit.” For him, this is part of modernity´s “bewilderment” and “search” for “meaning” in a “world deserted by its gods.”
Las máquinas ficcionales de Ricardo Piglia, edited by Julia G. Romero for Corregidor Editions in Buenos Aires (Argentina), handles this interpretative risk throughout a multiplicity of strategies which cover most of the fundamental ideas brought into light by Piglia´s literary works. The result is a 204-page critical monument to the narrative of Ricardo Piglia, one of the most creative and active contemporary authors in the context of Latin American and Hispanic literatures, who managed to position his poetics at the crossroads of fiction and reflections about fiction in the same text.
Las máquinas ficcionales de Ricardo Piglia is also a book that hasn´t become obsolete at all, despite the fact that the nine critical contributions included were written seven years ago, on the occasion of the homage paid to Piglia in a colloquium held at Teatro Argentino on November 18th, 2011, in La Plata (Argentina). This critical endurance predicts good luck for this 2015 book, at least in the near future, when the volume has become now by force also one the first farewells to Ricardo Piglia (1941-2017), the magician of all those miraculous machines where fiction is not indistinguishable from faith, but, in practice, it fosters faith in fiction itself.