Wednesday, May 21, 2014

Major Traditionalist novel now in English

An English translation has just been published of what may be the most important Soft Traditionalist novel ever written, Adam Buenosayres (Adán Buenosayres, 1948) by Leopoldo Marechal (1900-70).

The Argentinian novelist Marechal is little known abroad, certainly in comparison to his one-time friend Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) or perhaps even in comparison to Ernesto Sabato, but his work is appreciated within Argentina and by critics everywhere. Adam Buenosayres is promoted in the blurb for its English translation as "Argentina's Ulysses" and as "one of the most outstanding anomalies of Argentinian literature," and was recently described in the literary section of La Gaceta as "a key novel of Argentinian literature." Marechal is also known for two other novels, The Banquet of the Archangel Severus (El banquete de Severo Arcángelo, 1965) and Megaphone, or War (Megafón, o la guerra, 1970), and for numerous essays and short stories.

Marechal spent time in Paris during the 1920s, establishing connections in literary and artistic circles there that presumably led to his discovery of Guénon. Three Traditionalist themes are found repeatedly in his writing: the idea of the Kali Yuga, anti-modernism, and initiation (Adam Buenosayres might almost be described as an initiatic novel). All these themes and understandings are clearly taken from Guénon, whom Marechal cites as "a certain Gallic metaphysician."  Marechal also follows closely Guénon's understanding of Dante, and even copies some quirks of Guénon's style. But he does not simply repeat Guénon. In the view of Norman Cheadle of Canada's Laurentian University,
None of this is to say that Leopoldo Marechal the novelist adopts Guénon’s ideology uncritically and gives it expression in Adán Buenosayres. He borrows Guénon’s apocalyptic doctrine of metahistory and, deploying it through his characters, parodies it… giv[ing] a new set of functions to the parodied material…. Guénon’s metahistory is parodied as a way of problematizing a metadiscursive cycle (Ironic Apocalypse, p. 45).
I am not sure about the metadiscursive cycle, but once again we see that true art cannot be merely didactic or purely imitative. Marechal draws inspiration from Guénon, and writes his own novels. He is a Soft Traditionalist, not a Hard Traditionalist.

In his private life, Marechal was a Catholic. Politically, he was a Peronist, which is apparently what led to his break with Borges.

Further reading:
  • Norman Cheadle, The Ironic Apocalypse in the Novels of Leopoldo Marechal (London: Tamesis, 2000). 
  • Graciela Coulson, Marechal: La pasión metafísica (Buenos Aires, Fernando García Cambeiro, 1974).

1 comment:

ibn Salama said...

Is Dave Sim, the comic book writer, a traditionalist?