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402Philosophy and Literature another: the essays in the volume all relate to Borges and the Kabbalah in that they investigate the "mechanics" of his writing, vindicating in him what he vindicated in Jewish mysticism—its technical-exegetical methodology, not the teaching or its historical context. But taking the troping one step further, it is clear that in his continuing rereading of the Borges text Alazraki has now unraveled still one more layer: the "cut-offness" from the world of experience to which Borges's self-contained form leads. In his preface and epilogue, the latterdescribing Borges's lonelydeath in self-exile from a tormented Argentina, Alazraki proceeds to rewrite Borges (and thus himself) by noting how LatinAmerican intellectuals, children ofan abused continent, have absorbed Borges's lessons but have integrated them with "commitments to history." He concludes: "Borges was for them a father figure they had to assume and kill at the same time" (p. xv). In the final analysis, this may be the real Kabbalism and the real difference in Borges and the Kabbalah: a dialectical stance towards tradition wherein revisionism respects yet reinterprets canonical texts. Marymount Manhattan CollegeEdna Aizenberg Thresholds £sf Testimonies: Recovering Order in Literature and Criticism, by Frederic Will; xii & 187 pp. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1988, $24.95. In this first volume of a promised trilogy, Frederic Will claims to "lean to that order of things the great religions affirm" (p. ix). He says that he finds such "order" in the "testimonies" that arise at the thresholds of communication, between texts from "discrepant scientific and poetic ways of accounting for experience" or between different languages. Eight essays follow, on translation, ontological aesthetics, how consciousness works and what its limits are, and the genre of the essay. Of the two longer central essays, the first discusses texts from religion, science, and literature which concern water; the second contrasts two accounts of the imagination, by Coleridge and by "certain recent language analysts." So far the ground is familiar. Will is doing an "after Steiner" version ofAfter Babel, and his book would seem to share the merits and demerits of Steiner's multi-linguistic, international approach, namely, that by taking a large sample of writers from vasdy different historical, cultural, and linguistic contexts, a provocative assemblage of perceptions, suggestive configurations, and relationships can be seen. If there are specific errors in particular cases, and if the breadth of the material is so great that generalizations of mind-numbing obviousness are sometimes forced upon you, these things are less important than the stirring being done, the thresholds crossed by the material itself. This would be a fair account—except that Will lacks both the excitement and the restraint Reviews403 to be found in Steiner. He is imprecise when dealing with details and he is banal when sweepingly contemplating "that bridge from the organic back, that threshold to the inorganic over which we can walk across lichen-backed escarpments into our preconscious and stand as close as a planet to God" (p. 162). Will is self-reflective in a way Steiner is not, as though looking into the book one sees a series of mirrors reflecting only Will. This is despite frequent long quotations and such an interesting crew of authorities as Eliot, Joyce, Adrian Stokes, Gary Snyder, Montaigne, Villon, Pater, and Tom Wolfe. Will quotes these and other authors, but he exhibits an uncanny talent for short-circuiting the complexities latent in the questions they raise. He compares himself to Derrida (pp. 110-11) and dismisses Marxist historiography (p. 182) in ways that are simply inept. He casts upon the waters but the spirits do not rise. Will discusses the task of the translator as if Walter Benjamin had never written. He claims that untranslatability can never be proven, then despite himself goes on to prove that translations can at least be hopelessly inadequate. He considers that the peculiar quality of "utterance in the poetic mode" (he never defines the term) is "its ikonic, self-referential character" (p. 84). He clearly wishes his book to be read as just such an utterance. He is ostensibly ambitious, but effectively reductive. This is most evident in his style. He quotes Genesis...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 402-403
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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