My adventure in Spanish started a couple of years ago with a promise I threw out to the audience at the Universidad de Cartagena. Feeling elated that so many students had come to my talk, I vowed—via the interpreter—that the next time I came to Colombia, I would speak to them in Spanish.
What was more dazzling, my view of the Bosphorus with the Aghia Sophia and the Blue Mosque or the conversation? In Istanbul last month I rediscovered what I treasure whenever I go abroad: the well-roundedness and cosmopolitanism of intellectuals in comparison with whom we here appear narrow and specialized.
Did they or didn’t they? Only Homer knows for sure.
My livelihood depends on fiction. To this end I have published a book arguing for the importance of literature in life. I have posted personal blogs that combine internal reflection with cultural commentary. In short, I see the absolute importance of narrative in life and work. Yet, I also realize that stories can get in the way of understanding life.
Is it possible to fail aesthetically but succeed ethically? I thought of this question as I read Mario Vargas Llosa’s recent The Dream of the Celt, published in 2010, the year he won the Nobel Prize for literature, and now available in English.
I got a new lesson on the force of narrative during the blackout that affected much of the mid-west and east coast in early July. It was the third time our own neighborhood had experienced an extended power outage in four years. This time, however, the temperatures soared to the 100F mark for eight powerless days.
Literature seems to be everywhere in Cartagena and not just because Gabriel García Márquez still has a house there.
The President’s sudden conversion to the cause of gay marriage has brought the topic again to public consciousness. However welcome this may be, what is strange is how confining the conversation still is about this subject. In the public domain, at least, identity seems to possess a thick, unchanging essence.
We too find ourselves in a modernidad tardía. That is what my audience reported to me at the Universidad del Rosario in Bogota where I had come to present a series of seminars on Greek culture through the support of the Alexander S. Onassis Public Benefit Foundation.
Many travelers still seek solitude among the tourists, the luxury to communicate personally with the ruins. They long to leave their minds on idle, while they enter the vista before them, undisturbed by the other souls striving for the same illusion. I often feel this contradiction of being alone with others when I travel.
Gregory Jusdanis teaches Modern Greek literature and culture at The Ohio State University. He is the author of The Poetics of Cavafy: Eroticism, Textuality, History (1987), Belated Modernity and Aesthetic Culture: Inventing National Literature (1991), The Necessary Nation (2001), and Fiction Agonistes: In Defense of Literature (2010), A Tremendous Thing. Friendship from the Iliad to the Internet (2014). He is currently working on a biography of C. P. Cavafy.