Monthly Archives: July 2016

Sarmiento du jour

Ricardo Piglia once pointed out that the apocryphal quotation at the beginning of Domingo Sarmiento’s Facundo (1845) — the French sentence “on ne tue point les idées,” written by Sarmiento on a wall after being attacked by a federalist gang — can be taken as an emblem of Argentine literature in its foundational moment. Not simply in its banal content, but primarily in its form and in the discursive economy that presides over its historical inscription. By relating how Rosas’s dictatorship, “after sending a committee in charge of deciphering the hieroglyph,” (Sarmiento 5) must have wondered what in the world it could mean, Sarmiento draws the line between civilization and barbarism with a mere epigraph: barbarians are, of course, those unable to read the sentence. More than in the utopian vision it voices, “the sentence’s political content resides in the use of the French language” (Piglia 15). A voracious student of foreign languages, Sarmiento located in the transculturation of European sources a sine qua non condition for the construction of a modern civilized Argentine nation. Transculturation is, however, always already torn apart by aporias, not the least of which plagues the authorship of Sarmiento’s epigraph. Sarmiento attributes it to Fortoul, but Groussac later argued that it was in fact taken from Volney, only to be contradicted by Verdevoye, who noted that it does not appear either in Fortoul or Volney, but in Diderot. The exercise in tracking down sources naturally does not matter in itself, but as an emblem of the predicament of an entire national literature. Designed to found a nation by alienating, domesticating, and eventually transculturating that nation’s originary barbarism, the letrado’s civilizing gesture is from the beginning contaminated by a savage, barbaric relationship with its sources, emblematized in recurrent erroneous and second-hand attributions. (– I. A.)


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Filed under Bibliography, Race book, Resources, Teaching

Andrei Zvyagintsev

Everyone liked this film, Elena, but I found it entirely too bleak. Had I seen it in Moscow and in Russian, in some art house after reading the papers for several weeks and observing life, I would have found it interesting and stimulating. I would have walked along the street afterwards thinking of the market society. But the film is grim.


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Filed under Arts


The work I am doing is not mine, and this greatly irritates me.


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Filed under Banes, Working

Luxe, calme, et volupté

Review of Stanford University

It is the most opulent university I have ever visited or expect to visit. It is so beautiful that the mind clears upon entering campus. All the chairs and tables are at a good height, and every room has a view. It has really good scanning and copying services.

It also has very many books, journals, and archives, but that is why one has come. Unhappy souls, they who claim none of these things should matter.


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Filed under Working

Message to the DNC

“If fear of Trump is justified, and I believe it is, can someone please explain to me why the geniuses on the Democratic Platform Committee thought it was so god-damned important to play slippery games with the TPP plank? You all saw how Trump wielded that particular knife last night. Do you remember how we handed it to him? Dems voted it down last year, Obama put on enough pressure to get it through with mostly GOP votes.

“So why the HELL should Democrats own the TPP? To hell with Obama on this. Hillary says she opposes it. Why NOT put an exclamation point on it and adopt the Sanders plank on TPP? It’s not too late. And as an added bonus Pence voted for it.

“This isn’t about Hillary vs. Bernie. It’s about Hillary vs. Trump.”


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Filed under Movement, News

Hermanos Zaizar

I am in deepest California, which is Mexico, so we will sing. This is the Corrido del norte, in which Mexicanness is asserted:

Nací en la frontera, de acá de este lado,
de acá de este lado puro mexicano,
por más que la gente me juzgue Texano,
yo les aseguro que soy mexicano,
de acá de este lado….


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Filed under Songs

Santa Cruz, Calif.

You lusciously unreconstructed tacky beach town delicious summer


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Filed under Poetry

I hate composting (original text)

Another thing I hate is composting. It is one thing to do it outside but I hate kitchens with a nasty tub of compost by the sink and another nasty fermenting compost pail. People wonder why I do not cook and eat out but it is because I do not like the smell of this stuff. In addition, usually the houses in which composting is done are also dusty and cluttered, and their inhabitants, self-righteous and moralistic. It is such an awful atmosphere, composting, and I am not a hippie. Down with farmers’ markets, down with yoga, down with bicycles and Caltrain, down with sensible shoes, I hate them all, and I-280, and women who don’t wear makeup, and chlorinated pools.



Filed under Banes, Poetry

On considering suicide

It is a response to mistreatment I do not think I should recognize as such, but cannot help feeling is mistreatment. I try to convince myself that the mis-treater, so to speak, is justified, or that I should be tolerant, or that they have done the best they can, and I fail.

Then I think the next option is suicide. It is not legitimate to be angry or disappointed, or to notice mistreatment. Since I have failed to talk myself out of these perceptions and attitudes, my only option is suicide.

Exactly how this conclusion is reached, it would be interesting to understand. One element in the morass that I really would rather die (or perhaps kill) than act under pressure or against my better judgment.

Another element has to do with serving others. I should serve others, without desires of my own, not just eight hours a day but in every aspect of life, or I should die, I appear to have learned.

A different way of looking at it is to consider how deeply angry I have been since early childhood. I am angry enough to reject someone, or to kill them if I am not allowed to reject them. Since those things are not possible, I would prefer to die.



Filed under Questions

On language and race

La opción filológica de Henríquez Ureña se debía en parte a esta alternativa: mientras que los científicos se habían equivocado al argumentar a base de hechos empíricos, tales como la mezcla racial, los filólogos tenían una base empírica mucho más precisa en la lengua. La herencia del Imperio español en las Américas era haber dejado una lengua que unificaba a los grupos diversos que habían formado una gran comunidad gracias a ella.

“From that Ortiz article” said the label on the relevant scrap of paper, and now I must find “that Ortiz article.”


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Filed under Race book