In a pseudo-essay ironically titled “Kafka and His Precursors”, Jorge Luis Borges argues that every writer not only creates his successors but also, and primarily, his precursors. That is, after reading Franz Kafka or Lewis Carroll, we look back for earlier works that show a slight influence, a gentle touch typical of their style. Felipe Alfau (b. 1902, Barcelona), who after a brief critical success in the late 1930s vanished into oblivion, to be resurrected in the late 1980s, turns Borges’s dictum upside down. Although it’s easy to locate Alfau’s precursors—say, Laurence Sterne or Diderot—looking for his successors is where one is likely to get into trouble. Since very few read him between the end of the Second World War and the late eighties, how could we recognize his style in, say, John Barth, Robert Coover, or Thomas Pynchon? And yet, how could we not?
KeywordsLate Eighty Literary Movement Senior Editor Gentle Touch Arabian Night
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