When he woke up, the fable was still there | Babelia | The USA Print


It is time to dust off the fable as a literary genre and remove it from moralistic school literature. The brevity, the fantasy, the humor and the presence of a final moral – in short, Brevitas, varietas Y true– are the main features of this genre in its classical facet, or at least these were the ones highlighted in the 19th century by the Scottish writer Robert Louis Stevenson, author of twenty memorable fables. When he ventured to imagine the fable of the future, he sensed that his moral side would cease to be obvious and would become interestingly problematic. The book of fables and other fables (Pre-texts, 2022), by the Argentine poet and essayist Daniel Samoilovich, embodies this intuition of Stevenson, since the more than two hundred and thirty fables it contains exude fantasy and humor even in its delicious final moral (“This little fable suggests that the smell of soap is more persistent than dirt itself.”), which corroborates the validity, or rather the immortality, of this brief but forceful literary genre, ideal for carrying out satire.

As is often the case in fable, the book is populated by varied animals, real or mythical (the Patagonian hare, the frog, the crow, the Ave Roc…), accompanied by imaginary beings such as a Havana cigar from the El Rey del Rey brand. world arriving at the New York airport, or Dr. Sigismund Freud of Pfivor himself. All of them provide verve to this literary artifact with the appearance of a precision mechanical toy, brimming with references to the Greco-Latin universe and literary nods such as that of the fable 23, starring some white hens from a famous poem by William Carlos Williams. The book also contains some amusing little taunts directed at the vanity of writers, for example, in fable 64: “A bad writer finished writing a sentence, reached for a little jar of commas that he kept on his desk, took a handful and peppered. The phrase was as bland as at the beginning, but also too salty”.

'When some Persians arrive', illustration from 'The book of fables and other fables'.
‘When some Persians arrive’, illustration from ‘The book of fables and other fables’.

Also, in this fabulary we find a strong link with the most playful of English literature: the limerickthat brief humorous stanza recreated in Spanish by Samoilovich in some fables, and even echoes of Lewis Carroll’s writing Alice in Wonderland. Samoilovich’s talent and good work, along with his tone that sometimes reminds us of Marcos Mundstock’s unforgettable introductions at Les Luthiers shows, make any reader feel part of this literary feast, which is at the same time a celebration of thought and logic.

There is also something very British and charmingly Victorian in the collages that accompany the texts, by the artist Eduardo Stupia, Samoilovich’s ideal dance partner in this book, since his images are as delicate and delusional as the very fables they illustrate. The poetic flash of these collages lies in his ability to exploit the coincidence of what Max Ernst called “realities of a different nature on an apparently inappropriate plane”. With works like this, the paper book has a long life, because the fascination of jumping between its bone-colored pages and returning to previous fables and their well-printed illustrations is only obtained in physical books.

One of the missions of fables is to make us reflect on the social order of humans through animals and other creatures, but our fellow planets are not only present in this literary genre: animals have walked through the literature of all times and formats, from the Metamorphosis from Ovid to the stories of Hebe Uhart and Horacio Quiroga, without forgetting the poems of Emily Dickinson and Marianne Moore. Many of these texts are found together in Zoographies (Adriana Hidalgo, 2021), an anthology of animal literature compiled and prefaced by Mariano García, who from the introduction reminds us that, in literature, animals have been helping humans to reflect on themselves for centuries. That is why this volume is close to six hundred pages, without claiming to be encyclopedic. Every allegorical animal that has been part of a literary text parades through it. Its structural division between taxonomy, uses and forms allows us to investigate how we have related to these living beings in our world and, therefore, in books: from the animal used for hunting to the one that entertains shows or accompanies us in the domestic life.

'A boy fell into a well', illustration from 'The book of fables and other fables'.
‘A boy fell into a well’, illustration from ‘The book of fables and other fables’.

And in relation to the most beloved pet by humans, the dog, we have a literary novelty written by the Frenchman Jean Grenier and entitled About the death of a dog (Peripheral). It is a breviary of intuitions about canine subjectivity and thoughts about our relationship with domesticated beasts (“Most of the time, philosophers use animals as a counterpoint. We would like to talk about them from another point of view and affirm that it is not necessary differential between man and animal, putting conscience and, therefore, anguish on one side, and on the other, innocence and the peace of the unconscious.”).

Another book format linked to the animal is the Bestiary, which comes to us from the Middle Ages. Perhaps we could decree the end of this type of literary compilation that catalogs with naturalistic desire every creature known on earth or invented by the human mind, because at this point we have little left to track. Nicolás Nova and the collective deny it Disnovation.orgcreators of Anthropocene Bestiary (Menguantes Editions, 2021) awarded last week with the first prize of the Ministry for the best published book of 2021. Or are not the plastivorous caterpillars, the tamagotchi or remote-controlled dragonflies, all of them the result of human intervention on the planet? Hybridization is rampant at this time of ours, and the authors of this peculiar volume illustrated with the aesthetics of a field manual attest to it. Therefore, we wish a long literary life for animals and other real and imaginary creatures, extinct and recently created.

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