(Translated from the Spanish by Peter Robertson*)
I was standing outside, looking up at the balcony. From where I was, I could see that the two glass doors had been flung open and were facing each other diametrically, inside the room. Marisa was standing there too, her back almost grazing one of the glass doors. But, all of a sudden, someone called her from within and she left the scene. No sooner had she gone than I sensed that her departure had failed to evoke any intimation of absence. Indeed, I grew conscious of the fact that, all the while, the two glass doors had been looking at each other intently, that she had been a trespasser. She had encroached on the sanctity of that mute, immutable thing: the two doors staring at each other.
It did not take me long to discover the only thing that engaged me about the two glass doors: the pleasure I derived from their inviolate positions; and the anguish that invaded me when these were transgressed. The positions that gave me pleasure were only two: when the glass doors faced each other, in sullen collusion; and when they were shut together and therefore at one. If Marisa pulled the doors back and they passed, even by a fraction, the precise point where they faced each other, I could not stop my jaw from clenching, my body from seizing up. At moments like this I would make a preternatural physical effort, willing the doors to revert to their perfect symmetry. Were this to be prevented, I had no doubt that the two glass doors would incubate a rancorous hatred whose outcome we could not predict.
The most sacrilegious assaults on one of the two positions that gave me pleasure would occur in the evening, as Marisa and I wished each other goodnight.
On these occasions she would hesitate as she closed the two doors, leaving an invidious gap between them. I could tell that she was blind to the need of the two glass doors to be fused together forthwith, in implacable union.
In the dark space that remained between the two doors, there was scarcely enough room for Marisa's head. She looked nonchalant as she smiled at me, clearly reluctant to say goodbye. I could tell that she was oblivious to that intangible, yet menacing, force born of her delay in closing the two glass doors.
One evening, Marisa invited me inside and I felt elated. Later, she asked me to stand with her on the balcony. To get there, we had to negotiate the space between the two glass doors. Surveying them, I was bemused by their inscrutability: it seemed that, before we passed, they had been thinking one thing; and, after we passed, quite another. In any case, we walked through the gap that separated them. After Marisa and I had been talking for a while, and I had started to forget about the glass doors, I could feel them touching my back in hypnotic movements. And, turning round, I saw that the doors were right up against my face. In fact, they had succeeded in pushing Marisa and me to the very edge of the balcony. My instinct was to jump off there and then, taking Marisa with me.
One morning I was ecstatic because we had just got married. But when Marisa opened a wardrobe, I felt as perturbed as I had been by the glass doors, by this excessive aperture. One evening, while she was away, I went to take something out of the wardrobe. Although I felt like a desecrator, I opened it nonetheless. Spell-bound, I stood there inert. My head was motionless also, as were the contents of the wardrobe, and one of Marisa's white dresses which looked just like her without arms, without legs, with no head.
Inspired on the text by Felisberto Hernández “False Explanation of My Stories”, BURNING WORDS is an audiovisual poem which questions the inevitable and undefinable aspects of artistic creation.
Moving Pictures Festival. November 2005,
Festival Montréal en Lumières, Espace Tangente. Montréal 2005
With: David Kilburn
A Film By: Pablo Diconca
Text: “False Explanation of My Stories”by Felisberto Hernández
Music: Kalimba, de Rainer Wiens
The stone age, de David Kilburn
Voice: David Kilburn
Written, Edited and Directed by: Pablo Diconca
“A vision of such startling beauty that it flares up like an old-fashioned phosphorous match and illuminates our whole lives.” —Francine Prose
“Excellent... miraculously alive ... wonderful.” —The N. Y. Times Book Review
“Poetry that transforms the ordinary into the uncanny.” —Bookforum
“The voice is unlike anything one has come across anywhere in literature— in touch with profound chambers of the mind.” —Ilan Stavans, The Nation
At the time of his death in poverty in 1964, the Uruguayan writer Felisberto Hernández was a relatively obscure and unread figure. His strange, seemingly careless stories attracted a small, dedicated following, but they were generally dismissed, misunderstood by critics, and marginalized by the swell of the more immediately appealing literature of the Latin American “boom” that followed.
In the past twenty years Hernández's work has steadily grown toward the recognition and stature that it deserves, with recent editions in Spanish, English, Italian, and French. Homage paid to Hernández by the internationally prominent writers who succeeded him—Julio Cortázar and Gabriel García Márquez, for example—has assisted in the general reassessment, but Hernández clearly stands on his own merits as a master of fantastic literature, an innovator of autobiographical fiction, and a pioneer of metafiction.
The Lust of Seeing, which is the first book in English on Hernández, is the product of four years of research and writing. Extended work in archival sources during a 1991 Fulbright residency in Montevideo, Uruguay, were complemented by constant, careful reading of Hernández's fictions and by research in a vast interdisciplinary body of secondary literature. Works of theory, anthropology, psychoanalysis, and clinical psychology reinforce Frank Graziano’s perceptive reading of Hernández. His methodologically innovative exploration of themes such as narcissism, the mirror, projection, the double, ritualized sexuality, fragmentation, erotic and aggressive uses of the eye, Pygmalion poetics, and the maternal body situates Hernández's fictions in the broad cultural context that affords them their most resonant meaning.
The Lust of Seeing is the most comprehensive work on Hernández to date, elucidating aspects of Hernández's life and writing that have remained untreated or undertreated by previous criticism. The book's theoretical and comparative discussions also make The Lust of Seeing relevant reading well beyond Hernández studies, particularly for readers interested in psychoanalysis, myth and ritual, fantastic literature, women's studies, film studies, and textual theory.