Comienzos para una estética anarquista by Luis Othoniel Rosa (review)
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Reviewed by
Othoniel Rosa, Luis. Comienzos para una estética anarquista. Santiago: Editorial Cuarto Propio, 2016. 235 pp.

Just as Macedonio Fernández wrote hundreds of prologues and beginnings to postpone his "first good novel," Luis Othoniel Rosas's book is conceived as a series of beginnings for what he calls an "anarchist aesthetic." If Macedonio [End Page 725] proclaimed a "beginning" after declaring that all has been written, said and done, Othoniel is faithful to this principle by opening new readings where the excessive bibliography on Macedonio and Borges seems to have said it all. In this sense, this book illuminates the relation—invisibilized until now for political and historical reasons—between anarchism and certain aesthetic principles derived from the works of Macedonio and Borges.

The main argument of Comienzos para una estética anarquista is that the parallelism or analogy between anarchist precepts and the aesthetic projects of Borges and Macedonio resides in their opposition to any kind of representative and representational mechanisms. Othoniel claims that there are three concepts that these authors reject within the aesthetic sphere which are also the same notions that anarchism criticizes: the idea of representation, the individual, and private property. The alternatives to these instances are what Othoniel elaborates in the three main chapters of his book.

The first chapter, "Los estados de la literatura," argues that for Borges and Macedonio literature is an act. Instead of conceiving literature as a readily consumable product that accumulates cultural and economic capital in its discourse, they envisage it as a direct practice in action. In Macedonio's historical context in Argentina, populism defined the role of the intellectual as the national representative, and in Borges's time the problem was the same one but in the background of Peronism, thus becoming a matter of representing those that were left out of the representative regime of the state. In the first case, Macedonio managed to traverse the threshold of this kind of representative—political and realist—regime by proposing himself as president and having his novel walk out in the streets, whereas Borges regarded representations as monstrous and instead envisaged creating his fictions on a scale of 1:1 to reality.

The second and most fascinating chapter of Comienzos dismantles the idea of an "I," the core component both of psychologism and of liberal individualism. Othoniel proposes that Borges and his precursor's work operate in two ways: first, by rejecting the idea of the individual and, second, by overthrowing the figure of the author. In their writing and in their relation to one another, Macedonio and Borges become atemporal and decontextualized aesthetic figures and not authors, authorities or proprietors of their discourse—they are the result of their prose and not the other way around. Subjectivity in the work of Macedonio—his anecdotes, self-portraits or "poses"—is conceived only as a product of sensibility in a given moment, and thus outside of it there is only "sensibilidad ayoica" (132). For Borges, on the other hand, the metaliterature referring to the mode of literary production as a conflict with the plot turns the creating subject into part of the work of art (146). This means that in both the Borgean and Macedonian literary endeavors individuality is not merely decentered, but it turns out to be irrelevant because there is no "I" and, therefore, there is no origin of the literary discourse—which is related to the anarchists' "direct action", a direct political act of intervention where no mediation is necessary.

"Las posesiones de la literatura," the third chapter of Comienzos, suggests that literature is a possession and not private property. As opposed to the abstract [End Page 726] legal power of property, a possession is a fact and an act that has a dynamic relationship with time and space. Othoniel links this model of goods and products with intellectual property. He provides us with a fascinating metaphor: an author is a landowner that rents his land to others. But in the case of the analyzed figures, if, as said before, there is no "I," then there is neither an author nor a property, but rather a transitory use and...


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