Monday, 19 December 2011

The Meaning of Fife

The Dumfries-based landscape artist Charles Jencks has designed a massive land art installation for a disused quarry in Fife, entitled The Meaning of Fife. Rightly or wrongly, I tend to disapprove of feeble puns, especially if they are attached to colossal works of public art. The piece itself - details are in the public domain - maps the Scottish diaspora in Canada, the USA, Australia, China, south America and so on. There are interesting meditations on maps in the essays of Jorge Luis Borges the blind anglophile Argentinian writer of genius. According to Wikipedia: His work embraces the "character of unreality in all literature".[3] His most famous books, Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (1949), are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, animals, fictional writers, religion and God. His works have contributed to the genre of science fiction as well as the genre of magic realism, a genre that reacted against the realism/naturalism of the nineteenth century.[4][5][6] In fact, critic Angel Flores, the first to use the term, set the beginning of this movement with Borges's Historia universal de la infamia (A Universal History of Infamy) (1935).[7] Scholars also have suggested that Borges's progressive blindness helped him to create innovative literary symbols through imagination.[8] His late poems dialogue with such cultural figures as Spinoza, Camões, and Virgil. When my library is unpacked, which I hope will be early in 2012, I will track down the conceit in which Borges imagines a map-maker who eventually devises a map that is the same size as the territory it seeks to record.

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