Monday, January 15, 2018

Encounters with Rousseau and Borges in Geneva

I was recently on vacation, in Lyon and Burgundy, a food-and-wine vacation, of little literary interest.  Well, try the Memoirs of Phillippe de Commines for some firsthand Burgundy history.  The Duchy, not the wine, I mean.

Aside from that, we ended up, briefly, in Geneva, where we visited the birthplace of Jean-Jacques Rousseau, the upstairs of which is now, how to describe it, a narrated, illustrated encyclopedia entry.  How fun does that sound.  Not worth visiting except as a pilgrimage, and an excuse to think about this complex, and, to me, confusing figure.  So, put that way, worth visiting, absolutely.

A bit down the street, this tribute to Jorge Luis Borges:

“Of all the cities in the world,
of all the intimate homelands
that a man searches for (to deserve)
in the course of his travels,
Geneva seems to me
the most propitious
to happiness.”  (translation mine, obviously; third line a puzzler)

Geneva has no place at all in my idea of Borges, but my idea is wrong.  He went to John Calvin High School, for pity’s sake.  That is a true Genevan credential.