In 1968, the Argentinian author Julio Cortázar was left astonished by Maharajah Jai Singh II’s astronomical observatories at Jaipur and New Delhi in India. While visiting them he took about 300 photographs of these mammoth structures built early in the 18th century; four years later he returned to the photographs to write the essayistic prose poem, From the Observatory. The book has now been rendered into English for the first time in a stunning translation by the talented Anne McLean, a two-time recipient of the prestigious Independent Foreign Fiction Prize for Translated Literature. From the Observatory brings to mind Friedrich Nietzsche’s declaration that the cosmos is “the primordial poem of mankind”. Nietzsche’s statement reflects the idea that culture is humanity’s “reading” of this primordial poem, as well as that the reality of the cosmos is something we must seek out. Both of these ideas are central to what Cortázar sets out to explore through his churning sentences.
more from Scott Esposito at The National here.