[lit-ideas] The Docks: A Literary Guide

  • From: Jlsperanza@xxxxxxx
  • To: lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx
  • Date: Sun, 21 Oct 2007 20:45:36 EDT

We are  comparing Cardiff and Buenos Aires:
J. Evans writes: 
>Buenos  Aires is simply so very much bigger than Cardiff.  
>I've been  investigating Buenos Aires but, because it's so much larger than
Well, writings on the development of the 'harbour area', for what it's  
worth, seem scarce. My favourite is by James R. Scobie, the book called,
                "Buenos Aires: Plaza to Suburb"
                 and covers only the years 1870-1910.
There is a chapter on 'locational forces', and 1/3 of it dedicated to the  
harbour. Some passages follow.


Buenos Aires, Argentina
"Construction of a port at Buenos Aires did not prove easy. There were no  
sheltered bays or protecting hills. ..."
"Eduardo Madero, whose import-export business was directly affeted by the  
costly and dangerous loading and unloading procedures at Buenos Aires, in 1861  
made a proposal that would have required financial assistance from Baring  
Brothers of London." 
"Out of these negotiations emerged a formal proposal, prepared by two  
British engineers and submitted to the national government by the especially  
constituted firm of Madero, Proudfoot and Company to bring British capital and  
expertise to bear on the problem". 
"In the following year, the national governments collaborated in making a  
contract with John F. Bateman, engineer for the London sewer works". 
"Scandals and rumours notwithstanding, the first section of the new port,  
the southern harbour, was inagurated on January 28, 1889, in a colourful ceremy 
presided over by Vice President Pelegrini."
Two of the highlights of the coastline area -- in the southern district --  
are, in my opinion:
-- the nature reserve -- this is quite rich in avian fauna, and was visited  
when Prince Philip, Duke of Edinburgh, was in the city. He is officially  
involved in WildLifeFoundation and seemed interested at looking at the local  
birds -- I mean grebes, storks, gulls, terns, and such, that breed just minutes 
away from the Sheraton Hotel in downtown.
-- the sculpture of Lola Flores. She was educated in Rome, and her  
'sculptoric group' -- a fountain alla Romana, was meant to be placed downtown,  
found 'too erotic' (or pornographic) and displaced to the harbour area  
It is in the baroque style, full of 'nereids' and 'tritons' -- and  quite 
pleasing to the eye.
As for the 'harbour' stories of J. L. Borges, I can quote from "Emma  Zunz":
"Emma lived in Almagro, ... we are certain that in the afternoon she WENT  
DOWN TO THE WATERFROND ('nos consta que esa tarde fue al puerto'). Perhaps on  
the infamous Paseo de Julio she saw herself multiplied in mirrors, ... she  
entered two or three bars... Finally she came across men from the 
One of them, very young, she feared might inspire some tenderness in her and 
she  chose instead another, perhaps shorter than she and coarse... The man, a 
Swede  or Finn, did not speak Spanish". 
Not much of a literary jewel. We read from "A Dictionary of  Borges"
"Paseo de Julio: the former name of the northern section of today's Avenida  
L. N. Alem, a street in Buenos Aires running parallel with the river. It used 
to  be crowded with conventillos (slum dwellings) and houses of ill-repute."
This incidentally reminds me of Isherwood, who used to say he survived in  
Hamsburg, although his German was pretty rudimentary ("The only thing I knew 
 to say in German was, "Hi, Sailor"). I recently heard that expression on  
television, so apparently it is a cliche and was when Isherwood was  writing.
Another literary figure quite related to the docks of Buenos Aires is  Eugene 
O'Neill. There is a two-volume biography of the man. The first volume  deals 
extensively with the very many bars he frequented in the area, and how he  
would quote from Keats to the local sailors. Delightful. 
Perhaps Geary can expand on the Docks.

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