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As far as I'm aware, El "Martín Fierro" is unavailable in English translation. And I confess to have never read Hernández' "Martín Fierro". But the remarks in "The Argentine Writer and Tradition" seem to be important.
No idea on a translation: I've got it in the original Spanish, that's what I worked from in writing this article. -- Jmabel 00:51, Aug 6, 2004 (UTC)
English translation of Martin Fierro by Fran G. Carrino, Alberto J. Carlos, and Norman Mangouni. The Gaucho Martin Fierro. State University of New York Press, Albany,1974. --13 Jan 2006
Can anyone verify there was/is a tradition of improvised singing or poetry in the Argentine countryside?! (As Borges alludes "The Argentine Writer and Tradition".) Any other references on that?
Verify in what sense? The tradition of payadas is well known, not at all a controversial assertion. Google "payada" or "payadas", you'll probably find plenty (though mostly in Spanish). -- Jmabel 00:51, Aug 6, 2004 (UTC)
Shazam! So if everybody in Argentina knows that, no wonder Borges didn't bother to explain. Would have been nice if the footnoters of the various English-language editions had pointed that out. --munge 22 August 2004
What do you think of Borges' reasoning—namely, that the song competition about universal themes reflects the real Argentine tradition, and that Hernández knew this very well and deliberately inserted it so as to pay tribute to the authentic tradition, as distinct from the supposedly artificial gauchesque style that was, according to Borges, really more of an urban fashion statement?
I think he's probably right: that plus a bit of showing off, that he could work in the pure payada form as well as the more artificial gauchesco. Hernández was pretty much the only author of gauchesque poetry who had actually been a gaucho. -- Jmabel 00:51, Aug 6, 2004 (UTC)
It may be worth while to add some remarks to this article about Borges short story take-off on Martín Fierro called "The End" (first published in English in Ficciones?) In that story, I take it that Martín Fierro and El Moreno have a further encounter.
Yes, probably worth a mention here. -- Jmabel 00:51, Aug 6, 2004 (UTC)
Borges contributed to a few avant garde publications in the early 1920s, including one called Martín Fierro, named after the major work of nineteenth-century Argentine literature, Martín Fierro, a gauchesque poem by José Hernández, published in two parts, in 1872 and 1880. Initially, along with other young writers of his generation, Borges rallied around the fictional Martín Fierro as the symbol of a characteristic Argentine sensibility, not tied to European values. As Borges matured, he came to a more nuanced attitude toward the poem. Hernández' central character, Martín Fierro, is a gaucho, a free, poor, pampas-dweller, who is illegally drafted to serve at a border fort to defend against the Indians; he ultimately deserts and becomes a gaucho matrero, the Argentinian equivalent of a North American western outlaw. Borges' 1953 book of essays on the poem, El "Martín Fierro", separates his great admiration for the aesthetic virtues of the work from his rather mixed opinion of the moral virtues of its protagonist. He uses the occasion to tweak the noses of arch-nationalist interpreters of the poem, but disdains those (such as Eleuterio Tiscornia) who he sees as failing to understand its specifically Argentinian character.
In "The Argentine Writer and Tradition", Borges celebrates how Hernández expresses that character in the crucial scene in which Martin Fierro and El Moreno compete by improvising songs about universal themes such as time, night, and the sea. The scene clearly reflects the real-world gaucho tradition of payadas, improvised musical dialogues on philosophical themes—as distinct from the type of slang that Hernández uses in the main body of Martín Fierro. Borges points out that therefore, Hernández evidently knew the difference between actual gaucho tradition of composing poetry on universal themes, versus the "gauchesque" fashion among Buenos Aires literati. Borges goes on to deny the possibility that Argentine literature could distinguish itself by making reference to "local color", nor does it need to remain true to the heritage of the literature of Spain, nor to define itself as a rejection of the literature of its colonial founders, nor follow in the footsteps of European literature. He asserts that Argentine writers need to be free to define Argentine literature anew, writing about Argentina and the world from the point of view of someone who has inherited the whole of world literature.