Saturday, April 16, 2011

Danielewski's interpretation of Borges' Cervantes

Danielewski, the author of House of Leaves, disconcerted the readers once again by referencing to Borges’ Cervantes. When reading the page 42 of the House of leaves, it seems like the reference to Borges has nothing to do with the context of the book. However, as I read it again and again, I came to realize that a meaning of house and recurring theme of repression are prersent in the footnote and the repeated passage.

First, the passage represents the house. As we saw in Borges’ Cervantes as well, the main passages are repeated. The first impression when reading this page will probably the same as Johnny’s viewpoint; “How the fuck do you write about “exquisite variation” when both passages are exactly the same?” (Danielewski 42). However, I noticed that this passage shares many similarities with the house in the House of Leaves. The house in the book looks fine on the outside, and no one would think that the house itself is haunted. However, when going inside, everyone experiences different situations and different things hunt characters. When it says, “Menaces’ nuance are so fine they are nearly undetectable… you will see how haunted they are by sorrow, accusation, and sarcasm” (42), the nuance is what the house represents. It is not detectable on the outside, but, when actually going deeper inside, people experience different things from the house. In parallel, as readers read deeper and analyze the passage, they find different interpretation to understand this passage.

Secondly, the passage represents the truth about the house. When interpreted in English, the passage that Danielewski uses in the book says, “… truth, whose mother is history, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present, and the future’s counselor” (Borges 94). The important passage is what Borges says after that passage, which is not quoted in Danielewski’s passage. In Borges’ “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”, Borges then goes on and says “historical truth, for Menard, is not ‘what happened’ it is what we believed happened” (94). This quote ties back to the truth about the house. Not everyone knows about the house except few people who actually went into the house, including Johnny. People who may not know about the house may think that things that people who experienced the house are crazy and those people believe what they want to believe. Although people may think that characters like Johnny and Karen are lying about the house, Johnny and Karen’s experiences can be the truth and the history according to Borges. Revealing the truth about the house is what Danielewski wanted to exemplify using Borges’ Cervantes.

Lastly, the layering theme of passage represents different layers of meaning of the house and what the house embodies. As we discussed in class, the Don Quixote is fictional story that layers meaning on top of another meaning. In a way, Danielewski used this layering theme by using Borges’ quotes that is repeated twice. By using the layers of same text, he tries to convey that there are multiple layers of meaning about this passage and different interpretation of the house from each character in general.

In addition, the theme of repression in different levels is portrayed in this page overall. First of all, the footnotes quoting Borges in general seems to repress many symbols and meanings that cannot be easily found. Therefore, I think footnotes itself represents different characters in the book that are repressing different subjects in a personal level. For example, Karen represses her relationship, rape, and commitment, and Navidsons represses an image of Dileal and Vietnam. Also after the footnote, Johnny says, “how the fuck do you write about “exquisite variation” when both passages are exactly the same?” (danielewiski 42) then goes on with his story without trying to figure anything out. Johnny’s ignorant behavior goes back to Delial and ignoring and repressing problems that they face globally.

1 comment:

  1. The observation that the repetition and the footnote within which the repetition happens are like the house, or even represent the house, is a good and improtant one. The failure of Johnny to try to figure things out when he gets frustrated is also a very good and productive moment in this essays.

    What you don't do in any substantial way is apply these thoughts to other areas of the book. If what is important here is Johnny's failure, where else do you see Johnny failing in this way? Or does he change? If the way in which the repetition represents the house is important, where else can we understand the house better on the basis of this observation?

    This is a promising answer to the first part of the prompt, in other words, but you don't capitalize on it by addressing the second part of the prompt.