This is the website of Jonathan Pritchard-Barrett, a copywriter and content manager. Here I’m gradually posting various things I’ve written. In a while I might add a blog too.
What’s all this ‘Ecstatic Gaucho’ business then?
This particular gaucho is found in the Jorge Luis Borges story The South (El Sur, in Spanish) which itself is in the short story collection Fictions (Ficciones). Borges thought the story was ‘perhaps’ his best, and it is certainly a good place to start for anyone unfamiliar with his really exceptional writing. You can read a version here.
The South tells the story of an Argentinian library administrator, Juan Dahlmann, who gets ill and on recovering takes the train to visit the dilapidated family farm in the vast empty south of the country. Alighting at a small rural station, he is challenged to a knife fight by some local toughs. As he is unarmed, a wizened old local – the ecstatic gaucho, in fact – throws him a knife. He picks it up, knowing that this action means he – a weedy book lover – has accepted the challenge and will most probably die in the fight; this fact does not perturb Dahlmann however. In fact, the opposite is the case.
“They went out and if Dahlmann was without hope, he was also without fear. As he crossed the threshold, he felt that to die in a knife fight, under the open sky, and going forward to the attack, would have been a liberation, a joy, and a festive occasion, on the first night in the sanitarium, when they stuck him with the needle. He felt that if he had been able to choose, then, or to dream his death, this would have been the death he would have chosen or dreamt.”
I suppose, those three sentences struck some sort of a cord. Not of course that I am planning on walking out to my doom any time soon, or even considering getting into a knife fight. It’s just that I like the paragraph as a motto for the living, for life.
What is the gaucho so happy about then?
He’s not happy, he’s ecstatic. The two are different. Borges describes him as being small, desiccated and insignificant to the point of being absent from the world. The gaucho like a sage – in but not of the world.
Borges also describes the gaucho as being a “cipher of the South (his [Dahlmann’s] South)”. So, what is the South, or at least Dahlmann’s notions of it? It is the place where his ancestors lived and came to stand for romantic ideals of courage and romantic death. But most importantly he is an agent of fate – the man that gives Dahlmann the dagger that ensures his end.
Why did I buy this domain name?
Well, it was 16 years ago and I liked it. I hope that is clear.
To make his horror complete, Caesar, pressed to the foot of a statue by the impatient daggers of his friends, discovers among the blades and faces the face of Marcus Junius Brutus, his protégé, perhaps his son, and ceasing to defend himself he exclaims: “You too, my son!” Shakespeare and Quevedo revive the pathetic cry.Destiny takes pleasure in repetition, variants, symmetries: nineteen centuries later, in the south of the Province of Buenos Aires, a gaucho is attacked by other gauchos. As he falls he recognizes an adopted son of his and says to him with gentle reproof and slow surprise (these words must be heard, not read), “Pero che!” He is being killed, and he does not know he is dying so that a scene may be repeated.
26th March, 1870TWO ENGLISHMEN MURDERED IN BUENOS AYRES. Particulars have been received of the death of Mr. Robert Bald, B. A., Cambridge, second son of Mr. John Bald, Wells, Roxburghshire. The deceased was cruelly murdered, on the 22nd of January, at his estancia, about twelve miles from Rosario, Santa Fe, Buenos Ayres. On the evening of that day two natives arrived and purchased 150 sheep, when it was arranged that they should remain over the night and remove the sheep next day. On the following day Mr. Bald was found murdered in his house, his body pierced with many wounds. Henry Tait, a boy of fourteen, who was in his service, shared the same fate, having been in bed in an adjoining room. It is believed that the crime was perpetrated between nine and eleven o’clock, and that Mr. Bald was treacherously stabbed while sitting at his table, on which a book was found lying open. He appears to have sprung up in order to defend himself, as the room gave all the indications of a violent struggle, and there were numerous wounds in his arms. Two boxes were ransacked, and several articles, including Mr. Bald’s watch and revolver, were stolen. This diabolical crime has caused a most painful sensation throughout the province, and the President of the Argentine Republic immediately offered a reward of 5,000 dols. (£1,000) for the capture of the murderers. One has been taken, and has confessed his guilt, but refuses to give any information as to his accomplice. Mr. Edward Bald, a younger brother of the deceased, and who had only been a couple of months in the country, was at Rosario on the day of the murder. He has travelled over a great part of the country since, in search of the other assassin, who has hitherto escaped detection. The lamentable event has been reported to the Earl of Clarendon, who immediately forwarded instructions to her Majesty’s Charge d’Affaires at Buenos Ayres to afford every assistance in his power in bringing the murderers to justice. Mr. Bald was a young man of high principle, of a frank and genial nature, and of an accomplished mind. His many amiable qualities endeared him to his own family and a large circle of friends, by whom his untimely fate is deeply deplored.
“the murder of Mr Robert Bald… whose death was noticed in our obituary last week… appears that two gauchos called on the 22d January at the estancia of Mr Bald…”