A THOUSAND WORDS - Alex Waterhouse-Hayward's blog on pictures, plants, politics and whatever else is on his mind.


Of Bats & Cockroaches
Sunday, November 29, 2009

Informe Sobre Ciegos

¡Oh, dioses de la noche!
¡Oh, dioses de las tinieblas, del incesto y del crimen,
de la melancolía y del suicidio!
¡Oh, dioses de las ratas y de las cavernas,
de los murciélagos, de las cucarachas!
¡Oh, violentos, inescrutables dioses
del sueño y de la muerte!

¿Cuándo empezó esto que ahora va a terminar con mi asesinato?

Informe Sobre Ciegos, Sobre Héroes y Tumbas
Ernesto Sábato, 1961

Argentina is lucky in having more than one definitive Argentine novel. My favourite is Ernesto Sábato's Sobre Héroes y Tumbas , 1961 (On Heroes and Tombs, 1961) which I read in 1964. It left me shattered with its beauty and melancholy. By 1964 the section Informe Sobre Ciegos (Report on the Blind) was famous in all Argentina. This chapter of the novel almost stands alone because of its independence and starkness. It has something to do with a secret society that involves the blind beggars who sell stuff (in my day little ballenitas or plastic stiffeners for dress shirt collars) in Buenos Aires subways and trains. It is staged in a fantastic underworld that coexists with the "real and normal" world.

It was in 1965 when I first heard Astor Piazzolla live at the Teatro Florida and fell in love with Susy. I then bought every record of Piazzolla's that I could get my hands on. My favourite has always been Tango Contemporáneo - Astor Piazzolla y Su Nuevo Octeto. It was in this recording that I heard Ernesto Sábato himself read that first incredible paragraph from El Informe de los Ciegos. His voice is strangely pitched and eerily monotone. I replaced the virtually unplayable record with a CD just a few years ago. Even today is sounds avant-garde and fresh.

Report on the Blind

Oh gods of the night!
Oh gods of darkness, incest and crime
of melancholy and suicide!
Oh gods of of rats and caverns,
of bats and cockroaches!
Oh violent and inscrutable gods
of dreams and death!

When did this begin which will end with my assassination?

Introduction to Report on the Blind from Sobre Héroes y Tumbas, Ernesto Sábato (my translation)

You can listen to Ernesto Sábato read that if you wait (be patient!) until the end of this striking composition by Astor Piazzolla here.

Why is Rebecca's photograph here? The moody look of the picture with all the skulls and the candles simply brought to mind this book and also of one of the last books that Sábato may have written (he is alive and 98) Antes Del Fin (Before the End) which is an extremely depressing, but wonderful work of essays on death and the author's reminiscences on his life. The melancholy of the rainy and dark afternoon as I took Rebecca's picture also reminded me of late wintery afternoons in Buenos Aires with my friend Felipe Occhiuzzi. We would sit down on a bench at Parque Lezama and try to imagine two men, one with glasses the other a blind man with a cane, walking, slowly, arm in arm, chatting about novels and writing. The one with the glasses would have been Sábato and the blind man with the cane, Borges.


Previous Posts
The Littlest Heathen

Tittymouse & A Perception Of Distances

A Splendid Lapse

The Bloedel Conservatory - A Botanical Tower of Ba...

Chopper Smarts & A Dry Martini

That Ingenious Hidalgo - Monsignor Quixote


We Would Rather Not Smile

The Colour Of Money Is Blue

Argentine Nostalgia

January 2006

February 2006

March 2006

April 2006

May 2006

June 2006

July 2006

August 2006

September 2006

October 2006

November 2006

December 2006

January 2007

February 2007

March 2007

April 2007

May 2007

June 2007

July 2007

August 2007

September 2007

October 2007

November 2007

December 2007

January 2008

February 2008

March 2008

April 2008

May 2008

June 2008

July 2008

August 2008

September 2008

October 2008

November 2008

December 2008

January 2009

February 2009

March 2009

April 2009

May 2009

June 2009

July 2009

August 2009

September 2009

October 2009

November 2009

December 2009

January 2010

February 2010

March 2010