Floored Genius

From high-minded to hype-crazed, book fairs have a rich tradition of coaxing out reclusive authors. New Times was fortunate to get a rare audience with the person redefining writing, M.M. Pascal-Paul.

There are no permanent works, because works produced during times of realignment and restructuring are shifting and unsettled in their very essence; there are no established paths. The new altars, vast and open as forests, have only just been glimpsed. The mind solicits diverse ideas from everywhere, and those ideas are like coral and like starlight and like the waves of the sea. There is a constant yearning for some knowledge that will confirm current beliefs and a fear of learning something that will alter them. The formation of new social conditions makes the struggle to earn a living uncertain and hampers the fulfillment of daily duties that, not finding broad roads, change form and direction at every instant, spurred on by the fear that arises from the probability or proximity of poverty.... Only in an era of stable elements, a general and established literary type, and well-known and established channels, when individual tranquillity is possible, is it easy to produce those massive works of ingenuity that, without exception, require such a conjunction of favorable conditions. Hatred, which hoards and concentrates, may still be able to produce this kind of work, but love brims over and flows out all around, and these are times of love, even for those who hate. Love intones fleeting songs, but because it is a vehement and climactic emotion whose tension is wearying and overwhelming, it does not produce works of unhurried inspiration and painstaking labor....

Before, ideas stood silently in the mind like fortified towers, and when they arose, they were seen from afar. Today they emerge in clusters from the lips, like golden seeds that fall on seething ground; they break open, radiate, evaporate, come to nothing — oh, beautiful sacrifice! — for the one who creates them; they dissolve into glowing sparks; they crumble. And hence the small, shimmering works of our time and the absence of those great, culminating works that are intense, sustained, and majestic.

Editor's NoteOwing to technical requirements of the editorial process, New Timeswas unable to note earlier that the above passage was, in fact, not written by M.M. Pascal-Paul. Rather it is an excerpt from Esther Allen's translation of Prologue to Juan Antonio Pérez Bonalde's Poem of Niagara by José Martí (ca. 1880). See José Martí: Selected Writings (Penguin, 2002). Like her book Dictation, author M.M. Pascal-Paul is fictitious. The Don Pan French Combo, the quote from Martí's Tributes to Karl Marx, Who Has Died, and the embargo of Esther Allen's translation of an essay about architecture by the late Cuban author Alejo Carpentier are real.

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