This will be a short post, alas, since I must go to work soon â€“ classes will start next Monday here in SÃ£o Paulo, so I will go to a teacherÂ´s meeting this morning. (That doesnÂ´t mean I canÂ´t write another post later, but first things first.)
Two years ago, I began writing a short story about a person (gender not clear) who would start republishing books of other authors with his/her name. I called this person a â€œRemakerâ€ â€“ that would be also the title of the story, based on a story by Jorge Luis Borges, The Maker (El Hacedor). But, after a few pages, I simply reached a dead end, and couldnÂ´t bring myself to pick it up again to finish it.
Then, less than two months ago, I read a very interesting post in LarryÂ´s blog on another BorgesÂ´s story: Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote. Menard is a ficticious author who has published a revered academic work, but who also has an underground production that not everyone isÂ awareÂ of. In his story, an eulogy for the recently dead scholar, Borges points out the rewriting of parts of Miguel de CervantesÂ´s Don Quixote by Menard. The rewriting wasnÂ´t “merely” an updated version, or an original work inspiredÂ by Cervantes. Not at all: what Menard did was to rewrite the Quixote word for word, as if he was Cervantes himself. Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote is a brilliant, witty criticism ofÂ sorts on the Modernist movement.
Is this post, Larry posed the following question: “What would a 21st century Menard look like, not merely copying Don Quijote but instead (re)creating it for the 21st century?” And he goes further:
“Would this 21st century Menard conclude that his Don Quijote would be a mostly indecipherable text whose audience would consist solely of those fellow anachronistic aficionados who would be most apt to rebel against the reigning “transparent prose” movement?
Something to consider. If I had any real combination of chutzpah and writing talent, I would attempt writing a story that would reflect this. But I do not, so I’m just leaving this thought trail for others to consider and to do with as they please.”
Then I remembered my forgotten story, and finally discovered what I was doing wrong: I had chosen the wrong BorgesÂ´s story! IÂ´ve been rewriting it sinceÂ then, having accepted LarryÂ´s challenge, and exchanging e-mails with him in order to clear up some questions. He even got me an English translation of BorgesÂ´sÂ story (thanks again, Larry!), since I only had the Spanish original and the Brazilian Portuguese translation.
I must say thatÂ´s a hell of a challenge, and I hope IÂ´m up to it. IÂ´m almost finishing it (6000 words until today; probably itÂ´ll end up with 8000 words approximately). ItÂ´s been fun, anyway.
IÂ´m interested to know what you think about it. Have any of you ever tried to write an â€œupdateâ€ to a classic story? If so, what were the major problems you faced upon writing it?