By Jackson Pietsch
Column Editor: Samantha Martin
This month’s Wordslingin’ brings you the continuation of the series “Separated Whole,” where expatriates talk about the experience of having lived in a more than one country and how it affects them. Our writer in this issue brings up a valid, if not a bit fragmented, point that I think we all need to hear.
Jorge Luis Borges wrote a story called “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.” It’s freely available here, it’s funny, it’s absurd, I recommend it. The thrust of it: the author (Borges) is memorializing a recently deceased French author, Pierre Menard (fictional, as best I can tell–probably not based on this guy). Menard’s most astounding work, in Borges’ estimation, is that he took it upon himself to write–not rewrite, write–Miguel de Cervantes’s The Ingenious Gentleman Don Quixote of La Mancha. As in, not to copy the book, not to recreate it in a new image, but to write that same Quixote that de Cervantes wrote, as a product of Menard’s own self, surroundings, and experiences; to have it spring from who he (Menard) was. The book would be the same, yet completely different. Is it obvious where I’m going with this?
Yes, I AM saying that each of us are replaced with new Japan-grown pod people, memories either fully transferred from our old brains* or artificially constructed, on the first night we sleep during Tokyo Orientation.** And yet we end up exactly the same as our old selves! Damn, science! You did it again!
Ha ha. Whew.
Yeah, I don’t know how it was for you. Do you feel like just being displaced to anywhere else changed you? Gave you clarity looking back on your old context that you couldn’t have from inside? Made you see things about yourself that you wanted to change?*** Do you feel like this place, in particular, has changed (or will change) you in its image? That you find things emerging in you that you want to keep, but worry you might lose if you leave? Or, on the flip side, do you feel something missing that you haven’t replaced yet? That you worry you can’t?****
I don’t have much of a point to get to*****, but in the meantime: as a reminder of something you probably all know full well already, let me borrow the title of Sam’s last (and great) column in Separated Whole
: it IS like teleportation. When you come here, you get ripped apart into little baby bits like Mike Teavee
******. The difference, though, is that you get to choose how you’re put back together.
*”Old” brains?! More like “inferior!” Hah! Can you imagine what it would be like to go back to being a regular old human again? I can’t. I’m actually incapable.
***For me, yes. I could be mean, I rarely pushed myself, I behaved toward people in ways they didn’t deserve, whether they were my friends or not. I’m working on all those, I swear, but there is so much good TV in the world right now…
****Wouldn’t be unusual. Of his seminal work, Pierre Menard completed only “the ninth and thirty-eighth chapters of the first part of Don Quixote and a fragment of chapter twenty-two” (“such are the capacities of man!” Borges laments).
*****Borges usually does. You should probably read his stuff, not mine.
******This is a scientifically proven fact; come at me, I will fight you
Do you write? Prose, poetry, rants, advice or blog posts? Or would you like to submit a story for the series “Separated Whole?” We wanna read it! Send it our way at firstname.lastname@example.org