Friday, June 20, 2008

Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote -- kindred spirit, ridiculous fictional brother, friend:

"Two texts of unequal value inspired [his] undertaking. One is that philological fragment by Novalis--the one numbered 2005 in the Dresden edition--which outlines the theme of a total identification with a given author. The other is one of those parasitic books which situate Christ on a boulevard, Hamlet on La Cannebière or Don Quixote on Wall Street. Like all men of good taste, Menard abhorred these useless carnivals, fit only-- as he would say--to produce the plebeian pleasure of anachronism or (what is worse) to enthrall us with the elementary idea that all epochs are the same or are different. More interesting, though contradictory and superficial of execution, seemed to him the famous plan of Daudet: to conjoin the Ingenious Gentleman and his squire in one figure, which was Tartarin . . . Those who have insinuated that Menard dedicated his life to writing a contemporary Quixote calumniate his illustrious memory.

He did not want to compose another Quixote -- which is easy -- but the Quixote itself . Needless to say, he never contemplated a mechanical transcription of the original; he did not propose to copy it. His admirable intention was to produce a few pages which would coincide -- word for word and line for line -- with those of Miguel de Cervantes.

'My intent is no more than astonishing,' he wrote me the 30th of September, 1934, from Bayonne. 'The final term in a theological or metaphysical demonstration--the objective world, God, causality, the forms of the universe -- is no less previous and common than my famed novel. The only difference is that the philosophers publish the intermediary stages of their labor in pleasant volumes and I have resolved to do away with those stages.' In truth, not one worksheet remains to bear witness to his years of effort."

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