A List from Borges

I am rereading Jorge Luis Borges’ Collected Fictions,  and he has a lovely list, a literary form that I have grown to appreciate more and more since reading Georges Perec’s Species of Spaces.  The list appears in the story, “The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell”.  I included it here, its spacing slightly rearranged, in its entirely, for your enjoyment.

In 1517, Fray Bartolome de las Casas, feeling great pity for the Indians who grew worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines, proposed to Emperor Charles V that Negroes be brought to the isles of the Caribbean, so that they might grow worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines.  To this odd variant on the species of the philanthropist we owe an infinitude of things:

W. C. Handy’s blues;

The success achieved in Paris by the Uruguayan attorney-painter Pedro Figari;

The fine runaway-slave prose of the likewise Uruguayan Vicente Rossi;

The mythological stature of Abraham Lincoln;

The half-million dead of the War of Succession;

The $3.3 billion spent on military pensions;

The statue of the imaginary semblance of Antonio (Falucho) Ruiz;

The inclusion of the word “lynch” in respectable dictionaries;

The impetuous King Vidor film Hallelujah;

The stout bayonet charge of the regiment of “Black and Tans” (the colour of their skins, not their uniforms) against that famous hill near Montevideo;

The gracefulness of certain elegant young ladies;

The black man who killed Martin Fierro;

That deplorable rumba The Peanut Seller;

The arrested and imprisoned Napoleonism of Toussaint L’Ouverture;

The cross and the serpent in Haiti;

The blood of goats whose throats are slashed by the papaloi’s machete;

The habanera that is the mother pf the tango;

The candombe.


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