Tuesday, July 15, 2008


I got an uncomfortable feeling of slipperiness about Clive James in his book, Cultural Amnesia. I recalled, aptly, a passage in Borges' A book of Imaginary Beings about the creature, Baldanders (left).

Baldanders first comes to light in C16th Nuremburg. A self-descriptive German play on words ('bald' = soon, 'anders' = another), the creature is a rapid shape-shifter, a constant changeling. In 1668, in Grimelshausen's book Simplicius Simplissimus, Baldanders first appears in a forest as a stone carving of a idol, but then changes into an oak, a sow, a sausage, a meadow covered with clover, a flower; before returning to stone.

There is something similarly shifty in Cultural Amnesia - hindsight. As Borges says, "Baldanders is a successive monster, a monster in time."

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