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bentley
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The Epigraph: Jorge Luis Borge's poem "Boast of Quietness"

Boast of Quietness

Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigious than
meteors.
The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.
Sure of my life and death, I observe the ambitious and would
like to understand them.
Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.
Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.
They speak of humanity.
My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of that same poverty.
They speak of homeland.
My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old
sword, the willow grove’s visible prayer as evening falls.
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous
multitude.
They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn’t
expect to arrive.

- Jorge Luis Borge

I just love this poem and was struck by the powerful themes that Desai is weaving through the pages of this novel. I am just beginning to read the book and discovered some great discussion questions at the back of the book. If there is interest, I can post them.

The first discussion question deals with the epigraph.

THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS is preceded by a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Given what you know of Borges, why do you think Kiran Desai chose his work as an epigraph? Who are "the ambitious...the loftily covetous multitude"? Why are they "worthy of tomorrow"? Who is "I"?
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bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: The Epigraph: Jorge Luis Borge's poem "Boast of Quietness"


bentley wrote:
Boast of Quietness

Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigious than
meteors.
The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.
Sure of my life and death, I observe the ambitious and would
like to understand them.
Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.
Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.
They speak of humanity.
My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of that same poverty.
They speak of homeland.
My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old
sword, the willow grove’s visible prayer as evening falls.
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous
multitude.
They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn’t
expect to arrive.

- Jorge Luis Borge

I just love this poem and was struck by the powerful themes that Desai is weaving through the pages of this novel. I am just beginning to read the book and discovered some great discussion questions at the back of the book. If there is interest, I can post them.

The first discussion question deals with the epigraph.

THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS is preceded by a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Given what you know of Borges, why do you think Kiran Desai chose his work as an epigraph? Who are "the ambitious...the loftily covetous multitude"? Why are they "worthy of tomorrow"? Who is "I"?





Borges knew when he was younger that he would inherit his father's blindness. He did eventually and he went blind. To a large extent, I believe that he is talking about his own blindness against the masses who can see....or maybe those who are too blind to see.

I think this an ode or song to the powerlessness of the poor and those treated inhumanely; it speaks of those Indians who are going back and forth between cultures and homelands as some of the characters did like the Judge (India and England) and many Indians like the cook's son to America. There were two castes: those who were very rich and who could work the system and those who were powerless and poor who found themselves worked by the system. The latter arrived illegally and went from one awful job to another.

All of the characters so far seem powerless in many ways and discontented, depressed with their lot. Many are seeking so much outside of their country and the poem wonders if they will ever arrive to whatever destination they think they seek. There is a real fragility I think of trying to live with one foot in each culture; you can be loyal to neither.

The poem sounds very Whitmanesque and reminiscent of Leaves of Grass to me. Wanderings, returns, family core values, loss and ambitious undertakings all seem to be themes which I think we find in this poem and/or in the novel.

I already see in the novel signs of miscommunication, misunderstandings, people with no self worth. These human beings feel that they have no power. With the uprisings, there is most likely hate based upon dissatisfaction. There are so many parallels which I can see playing out in the novel which are also part of this poem. The longings for another culture other than their own makes them feel discontented at some level when they have returned.

Kirin Desai talked of the effects of globalization in her interviews, multiculturalism and the economic inequality so evident even in THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS. And this same futility which causes people to look for their fortune far away from their own culture; also simultaneously causes them to discover when they return home that they do not belong to either world/country.

Anyways, I think the poem is very beautiful and I read that Desai kept this poem beside her every day when she worked on this novel. I would love to hear from anyone who has read the poem and would like to discuss it. I am sure that there are many elements that I missed and/or maybe did not understand the significance.

Bentley
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bentley
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Re: The Epigraph: Jorge Luis Borge's poem "Boast of Quietness"


bentley wrote:
Boast of Quietness

Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigious than
meteors.
The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.
Sure of my life and death, I observe the ambitious and would
like to understand them.
Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.
Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.
They speak of humanity.
My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of that same poverty.
They speak of homeland.
My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old
sword, the willow grove’s visible prayer as evening falls.
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous
multitude.
They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn’t
expect to arrive.

- Jorge Luis Borge

I just love this poem and was struck by the powerful themes that Desai is weaving through the pages of this novel. I am just beginning to read the book and discovered some great discussion questions at the back of the book. If there is interest, I can post them.

The first discussion question deals with the epigraph.

THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS is preceded by a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Given what you know of Borges, why do you think Kiran Desai chose his work as an epigraph? Who are "the ambitious...the loftily covetous multitude"? Why are they "worthy of tomorrow"? Who is "I"?





I noticed something else about this poem in terms of the title. If you are great, you certainly do not need to boast about it. Great is great and does not need to be enhanced. Boasting and Greatness seem at odds with each other; almost an oxymoron.

Did anybody else have any opinions concerning the poem or the title. It was an exceptional poem to use to portray the major messages of the book. I wonder if the book sometimes was not "overwritten"; everything had to be perfect and mesh with everything else. I do find that her writing (Desai's) is quite beautiful even though the images and symbolism cited in the book are devastating and sordid. I can understand how some folks feel this is a tough read; but I think it is an excellent one nonetheless so I will make the investment in terms of my time.

Bentley
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bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: The Epigraph: Jorge Luis Borge's poem "Boast of Quietness"

[ Edited ]

bentley wrote:

bentley wrote:
Boast of Quietness

Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigious than
meteors.
The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.
Sure of my life and death, I observe the ambitious and would
like to understand them.
Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.
Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.
They speak of humanity.
My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of that same poverty.
They speak of homeland.
My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old
sword, the willow grove’s visible prayer as evening falls.
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous
multitude.
They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn’t
expect to arrive.

- Jorge Luis Borge

I just love this poem and was struck by the powerful themes that Desai is weaving through the pages of this novel. I am just beginning to read the book and discovered some great discussion questions at the back of the book. If there is interest, I can post them.

The first discussion question deals with the epigraph.

THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS is preceded by a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Given what you know of Borges, why do you think Kiran Desai chose his work as an epigraph? Who are "the ambitious...the loftily covetous multitude"? Why are they "worthy of tomorrow"? Who is "I"?





I noticed something else about this poem in terms of the title. If you are great, you certainly do not need to boast about it. Great is great and does not need to be enhanced. Boasting and Greatness seem at odds with each other; almost an oxymoron.

Did anybody else have any opinions concerning the poem or the title. It was an exceptional poem to use to portray the major messages of the book. I wonder if the book sometimes was not "overwritten"; everything had to be perfect and mesh with everything else. I do find that her writing (Desai's) is quite beautiful even though the images and symbolism cited in the book are devastating and sordid. I can understand how some folks feel this is a tough read; but I think it is an excellent one nonetheless so I will make the investment in terms of my time.

Bentley




I just had a good laugh; I was typing greatness when I should have been typing quietness. That is what happens when you are going back and forth between forums. Boasting in of itself implies that you think you are great (and seems to mean to me a lot of noise) whereas if you are great; you can be really quiet and still your voice will be heard. Quiet is really a synonym for silence and of course, there is not a very lot of noise there. Noise and silence are at odds with themselves like boasting and quietness, Anyways..I guess you know what I meant even though I did not say it last time. smile

Bentley

Message Edited by bentley on 01-21-2008 12:41 PM
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IBIS
Posts: 1,735
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Re: The Epigraph: Jorge Luis Borge's poem "Boast of Quietness"

[ Edited ]
Bentley, I did understand that you meant quietness and NOT greatness. Not to worry.

You're absolutely right, in Borges' poem, boasting and quietness are oxymorons... his poetry is full of metaphors... he creates images that are richly layered with meanings... especially his last line... traveling from far away, but walking slowly as if not expecting to get there. That paradoxical push-pull of human ambitions.

In her writing, Desai uses the multi-leveled meanings of metaphors to capture the essentials of her characters' inner thoughts and feelings. There is a psychic quietness required to hear oneself... but others as well. It's necessary to reflect on what one hears to interpret personal communication, that of others, of a nation, of a culture... especially if one is being displaced. Like the Judge or Biju... the noises of something "other" can be especially distracting.

For example, her descriptions of landscapes and physical settings mirror the emotional landscapes of her characters. The dirty, littered sidewalk of Manhattan, or the unhygienic depressed kitchens where Biju works become physical reflections of his interior, emotional life.

There is poetry in her prose.

Borges' Boast of Quietness deals with the universality, and timelessness of the human condition. Whereas INHERITANCE focuses on a more specific people living within specific historic circumstances.

IBIS

Message Edited by IBIS on 01-23-2008 10:31 AM
IBIS

"I am a part of everything that I have read."
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bentley
Posts: 2,509
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Re: The Epigraph: Jorge Luis Borge's poem "Boast of Quietness"



IBIS wrote:
Bentley, I did understand that you meant quietness and NOT greatness. Not to worry.

You're absolutely right, in Borges' poem, boasting and quietness are oxymorons... his poetry is full of metaphors... he creates images that are richly layered with meanings... especially his last line... traveling from far away, but walking slowly as if not expecting to get there. That paradoxical push-pull of human ambitions.

In her writing, Desai uses the multi-leveled meanings of metaphors to capture the essentials of her characters' inner thoughts and feelings. There is a psychic quietness required to hear oneself... but others as well. It's necessary to reflect on what one hears to interpret personal communication, that of others, of a nation, of a culture... especially if one is being displaced. Like the Judge or Biju... the noises of something "other" can be especially distracting.

For example, her descriptions of landscapes and physical settings mirror the emotional landscapes of her characters. The dirty, littered sidewalk of Manhattan, or the unhygienic depressed kitchens where Biju works become physical reflections of his interior, emotional life.

There is poetry in her prose.

Borges' Boast of Quietness deals with the universality, and timelessness of the human condition. Whereas INHERITANCE focuses on a more specific people living within specific historic circumstances.

IBIS

Message Edited by IBIS on 01-23-2008 10:31 AM





IBIS..as always extremely well put. You know it is funny; but your home and where you spend your time does often I think also reflect your soul. They become visible reflections of what is going on inside your mind. What you value most and what you hold dear.

The judge had let everything decay around him including his relationships.

I really liked your interpretation of this beautiful poem. I can see why Desai had this poem with her every day that she worked on this novel. The "timelessness of the human condition" should affect us all no matter where we call home. And I can see where this universal theme was carried over into the much more defined scope of the novel.

Bentley

PS: IBIS, yours was an exceptional explanation. Thank you.
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Rachel-K
Posts: 1,495
Registered: ‎10-19-2006
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Re: The Epigraph: Jorge Luis Borge's poem "Boast of Quietness"

Oh, thanks Bentley and Ibis, for starting this thread!

I also read some of the literal aspects of the novel behind the figures of the poem, too. Manhattan, as the tall unknowable city--(don't we learn along the way that Biju lives always at the bottom of it, in the shadow of it, barely looking up?)--the whole force of progress and prosperity raging in it, and then we have the side of an ancient mountain covered in mists. That stillness, that isolation and timelessness.

Do you remember the note about the tourists who shout like they've seen a celebrity when they look at the mountain top?

Is poverty given a kind of nobility in this poem or in the novel? And, what is the difference between the "native" poverty in India and the immigrant poverty of Biju in Manhattan?
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flyjo9
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Re: The Epigraph: Jorge Luis Borge's poem "Boast of Quietness"



bentley wrote:
Boast of Quietness

Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigious than
meteors.
The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.
Sure of my life and death, I observe the ambitious and would
like to understand them.
Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.
Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.
They speak of humanity.
My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of that same poverty.
They speak of homeland.
My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old
sword, the willow grove’s visible prayer as evening falls.
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous
multitude.
They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn’t
expect to arrive.

- Jorge Luis Borge

I just love this poem and was struck by the powerful themes that Desai is weaving through the pages of this novel. I am just beginning to read the book and discovered some great discussion questions at the back of the book. If there is interest, I can post them.

The first discussion question deals with the epigraph.

THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS is preceded by a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Given what you know of Borges, why do you think Kiran Desai chose his work as an epigraph? Who are "the ambitious...the loftily covetous multitude"? Why are they "worthy of tomorrow"? Who is "I"?



Oh, This is pitiful-I am so out of touch-This was a Januaary selection! Alas, but I will look into those questions and do them anyway, at leasst at home. LOL Joan
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bentley
Posts: 2,509
Registered: ‎01-31-2007
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Re: The Epigraph: Jorge Luis Borge's poem "Boast of Quietness"



flyjo9 wrote:


bentley wrote:
Boast of Quietness

Writings of light assault the darkness, more prodigious than
meteors.
The tall unknowable city takes over the countryside.
Sure of my life and death, I observe the ambitious and would
like to understand them.
Their day is greedy as a lariat in the air.
Their night is a rest from the rage within steel, quick to attack.
They speak of humanity.
My humanity is in feeling we are all voices of that same poverty.
They speak of homeland.
My homeland is the rhythm of a guitar, a few portraits, an old
sword, the willow grove’s visible prayer as evening falls.
Time is living me.
More silent than my shadow, I pass through the loftily covetous
multitude.
They are indispensable, singular, worthy of tomorrow.
My name is someone and anyone.
I walk slowly, like one who comes from so far away he doesn’t
expect to arrive.

- Jorge Luis Borge

I just love this poem and was struck by the powerful themes that Desai is weaving through the pages of this novel. I am just beginning to read the book and discovered some great discussion questions at the back of the book. If there is interest, I can post them.

The first discussion question deals with the epigraph.

THE INHERITANCE OF LOSS is preceded by a poem by Jorge Luis Borges. Given what you know of Borges, why do you think Kiran Desai chose his work as an epigraph? Who are "the ambitious...the loftily covetous multitude"? Why are they "worthy of tomorrow"? Who is "I"?



Oh, This is pitiful-I am so out of touch-This was a Januaary selection! Alas, but I will look into those questions and do them anyway, at leasst at home. LOL Joan




Joan, I drop in periodically and would still like to discuss. A lot of us are around.
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