Strange Forces (Argentina)

Wine and Olives Rating: 0000000000! If the wine is Maddog 20/20 and the olives are a trippy but oddly appealing tapenade.

Who is GG?: The Translation and Foreword by the flowery Gilbert Alter-Gilbert were two of the best things about this late 1800’s / early 1900’s horror-science fiction collection.

Says Gilbert: “Leopoldo Lugones was the Literary Lion of Latin American Letters.”

Also says Gilbert: “LL had the air of a particularly priggish schoolmaster [but was in fact a] culteral crusader and political paladin always at war with prevailing orthodoxy.”

LL once picked a fight with the young poet Jorge Luis Borges and challenged him to a duel. Upon learning that Borges was blind, LL said, “In that case, please be so kind as to inform that lackey Borges that he would do well not to make unsubstantiated assertions in the newspapers which he is not prepared to defend with his person.”

Overarching Thought: This is a wierd little collection.

My original interest: Written at a time of gaslights and ghosts, in which there were only 14 known scientific elements in the periodic table (Think of the Tom Lehrer song with 100 words missing), I wondered whether this early collection of sci-fi would prove to have predicted some of the science of the following century. That turned out to be less interesting than the writing style:

The afternoon light “takes on a liliaceous hue.”

The killing of a bloat-toad causes one character to remark, “Did you think you were going to have a new batrachiomachia on your hands?” If Argentine women of her social class spoke that way then, they were far more literate than we ever will be.

The owner of a certain residence retains a touch of the mystic due to his “superciliary protuberances” and it goes without saying that the narrator is never asked questions–his speaking partners are “interlocutors.”

One of the main surprises of the collection is that it starts with the story of a firestorm, told from the point of view of a disembodied spirit of Gomorrah, and after some unrelated stories you get the Spirit of the Flood, told by someone whose race used to dominate Earth but was decimated by climate change. This narrator turns out to be a giant mollusk. An evil mollusk–I *think*–it kind of devolved into a light-sucking-spider/Darwinian siren, but nonetheless.

I got almost no sense of Argentina from this book, but I did get the sense of one really bizarre writer dude.

Perhaps I will have to read something by that lackey Borges after all.

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