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Two or three friends are waiting at the airport when I arrive, and after safr formalities of customs and greetings, we undertake the car ride from the airport into the city. My trips home almost always take place around the same time of year, and so the same clear spring morning, under a blue sky in which not a single cloud can be seen, sparkles in the deserted plain that extends from either edge of the road to the horizon.
Both are absolutely true, as I have had the opportunity to confirm in a single sojourn, and even in a single afternoon. For years they have housed me during my stays in Buenos Aires. They are both from Rosario, but inrepeated threats from paramilitary groups forced them to lose themselves in the capital, until they eventually found anchor in that magical house, now filled with the canvases of Renzi and other Argentine painters.
Friends start to drop in, while the asado crackles on the grill in the patio. The night before, in mid-flight, a friend who happened to be on the plane with me warned me darkly: In Buenos Aires, during the welcome party, several guests presented me with anecdotes, references, and theories, as one would present useful tools to a traveler who is about to set out on a long, difficult voyage.
In this case, Heraclitus’s notion that “You can never step into the same river twice,” and the even more radical variant by one of his disciples, “You cannot step into the same river even once,” might admit a more particular variation: Yes; the Arabs call the young palm tree al-yatit, al-wadi, al-hira, al-fasil, al-asa, al-kafur, al-damd, and al-igrid; when the date appears they call it al-sayad, and when it turns green, before kose becomes hard, they call it al yadal; when it grows large, they call it al-busr; when the skin becomes grooved they call it al mujattam; when its color changes from green to reddish, they call it suqja; when it turns completely red, it becomes al-zahw; when it begins to ripen and to be covered in spots it becomes busra muwakketa; when it is time to harvest it, it becomes al-inad; when the peduncle begins to darken it becomes mudanniba; when half of it is ripe, it has two names: This is just a small sample, a single drop from our oceans, adds the poet Ibn Burd, compounding his boastfulness.
Many words to name the same thing, or a specific word for siin of the infinite aspects of the infinity of things—such are the difficulties that arise in the act of writing, difficulties which some, with unexpected childishness, like Ibn Burd, take pride in.
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orilllas Its history, dark and marginal in comparison xin the great accomplishments of the Orient and the Occident, teems with heroes, wise men, and tyrants. In the abstract geography of the plain, in the infinite emptiness of the desert, certain human acts, individual or collective, certain fugitive presences, have acquired the massive permanence of the pyramids and the cathedrals of Europe.
And if these acts seem to float, light in the transparent air of the plain, revealing its miragelike quality, we must not forget that, from a certain point of view, cathedrals and pyramids are no different. Be that as it may, the day after my arrival, I began in earnest my campaign to gather the indispensable materials for my task. In accordance with one of the two invariable and contradictory observations of the many travelers who have come to this part of the world, it was a glorious morning, sunny, warm, and without a cloud in the entire sky, which, as is well known, is more visible in the plain than in areas with more varied terrain.
from The Boundless River – Words Without Borders
The neighborhood of Caballito, half an hour from downtown, on the Avenida Rivadavia, the longest avenue in the world, as the Argentines never cease to remind us whenever they can, perhaps in order to console themselves with this record—which can be ascribed to chance rather than to the merit of any one person—for their many diffuse and tenacious doubts and frustrations. The only urbanistic harmony of Buenos Aires lies in the fact that, like most of the cities in the Americas, it is set on a grid, and for this reason its straight streets, interrupted every hundred meters, carry on—even if sometimes their name changes at the intersection with an avenue—without any curves from where one stands until they are lost in the horizon.
The rest of the urban cityscape is typified by variety and whim, and, why not say it, chaos. In its architecture, what attracts the eye is the surprising and the unexpected.
The River Without a Shore
The gray uniformity of Paris, on the other hand, offers up to the viewer structures that are balanced by a stylistic will, regulated by the coexistence of different periods of architecture. Even the more recent exceptions to this uniformity I am not speaking of the marginal neighborhoods that resulted from the real estate speculation of the sixties and seventies are calculated: In Buenos Aires, incongruity is the norm. Even in the middle of downtown, though to a lesser degree, architectural anarchy is the norm.
The straightness of the streets is the only rigor that contains this vertiginous variety, as a square mold holds in an amorphous substance.
And if, to be generous, the whole lacks interest, its details surprise, delight, and even dazzle at each step. That morning, my intention was to drive beyond the city center in order to inaugurate my stay with a visit to the river; descending the Avenida Belgrano, the taxi turned north onto the Avenida 9 de Julio.
This is a tree whose flowering pattern I have not yet been able to deduce from saerr observation, as I have seen specimens blooming at different times of sarr, alongside their completely bare brethren, as if there were such a thing as individualism in the vegetable kingdom. This observation is confirmed by an earlier jotting in my notebook: Palos borrachos in bloom pink, white, ivory. Acacias or tipas still quite green. The beauty of this spectacle is so extreme that even the most insensitive josf can perceive it, and in the years of the military dictatorship, from to —the bloodiest of any of the bloody dictatorships we have endured—the regime’s propaganda tried to hide the horrendous crimes it committed every day behind a curtain, not of smoke, but of ephemeral pink, yellow, and lilac-colored flowers, a fact that should remind us that in authoritarian societies, everything can be subjugated.
For that reason, an anonymous opposer of the tyranny invented two disparaging neologisms— lapachiento jos jacarandoso— to describe the image of the country that the usurpers in power attempted to exhibit to the outside world. By arrangement with the author. Like what you read?
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