Accidental Indies

Accidental Indies

Copyright Date: 2000
Pages: 128
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  • Book Info
    Accidental Indies
    Book Description:

    It is a journey through wondrous words that begins with Columbus's earliest explorations when he first "tests the heft and roundness of this earth against his infant head" by stepping from the edge of his rocking cradle to come up short on the boards of the nursery floor. Finley charts a course for us through the days at sea, through the voyage itself, its records and commentaries, into the fraught territory of Columbus' imaginary "Indies" and the representation of this New World on his return to Spain. This incisive and luminescent story, scrupulously grounded in sixteenth-century sources, illuminates the power that "naming" has to create a world - in this case a world still haunted by being the accidental Indies. It is a book about how we perceive and represent the world around us, about the creative and destructive power of language. Through its elaboration of the rich and lively ironies of the Columbus story, The Accidental Indies looks at the nature of storytelling itself.

    eISBN: 978-0-7735-6817-4
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. [i]-[vi])
    (pp. 3-26)

    ... A hill there was, and on the hill a wide extending plain, green with luxuriant grass; but the place was devoid of shade. When here the heaven-descended bard sat down and smote his sounding lyre, shade came to the place. There came the Chaonian oak, the grove of the Heliades, the oak with its deep foliage, the soft lin- den, the beech, the virgin laurel tree, the brittle hazel, the ash, suitable for spear shafts, the smooth silver-fir, the ilex tree bending with acorns, the pleasant plane, the many-coloured maple, river haunting willows, the lotus, lover of pools, the...

    (pp. 29-74)

    Bartholomew: Have you ever been to China?

    Alonso: I don’t know.

    Here Christopher would surely say: “You don’t

    know? Have you any reason to believe that you

    might have been there at some time?”

    Alonso: (Silence)

    Bartholomew: Were you, for example, ever near to

    the Chinese border, or were your parents there at

    the time when you were born?

    Alonso: (Silence)

    Christopher: Normally Europeans know whether

    they have been to China or not!

    And so it is that, many years later, in their apart-

    ments in the city of Lisbon, Columbus and his

    brother Bartholomew mete out the thin soup...

    (pp. 77-96)

    This voyage is made under the sign of Roman Janus, two-faced god of beginnings, quadropticon, tollkeeper of the tongued gate on this half-built bridge between worlds, circumspect patron of the drafty doorway in which these sailors hesitate, Janus of the threshold who is always coming and going, prince of paradoxes, the proprietor of pauses, god of the in-between, singularly sighted Janus, who looks both ways at once: forward and backward, past and future, east and west, recto and verso – all simple in his double sight. And looking thus, what does Janus see? The scope of his authority is as wide...

  5. NOTES
    (pp. 97-100)
    (pp. 101-102)