domingo, 6 de septiembre de 2009

Un asunto cansador, insípido y letárgico

At first Bartleby did an extraordinary quantity of writing. As if long famishing for something to copy, he seemed to gorge himself on my documents. There was no pause for digestion. He ran a day and night line, copying by sun-light and by candle-light. I should have been quite delighted with his application, had he been cheerfully industrious. But he wrote on silently, palely, mechanically.
It is, of course, an indispensable part of a scrivener's business to verify the accuracy of his copy, word by word. Where there are two or more scriveners in an office, they assist each other in this examination, one reading from the copy, the other holding the original. It is a very dull, wearisome, and lethargic affair. I can readily imagine that to some sanguine temperaments it would be altogether intolerable. For example, I cannot credit that the mettlesome poet Byron would have contentedly sat down with Bartleby to examine a law document of, say five hundred pages, closely written in a crimpy hand.
Now and then, in the haste of business, it had been my habit to assist in comparing some brief document myself, calling Turkey or Nippers for this purpose. One object I had in placing Bartleby so handy to me behind the screen, was to avail myself of his services on such trivial occasions. It was on the third day, I think, of his being with me, and before any necessity had arisen for having his own writing examined, that, being much hurried to complete a small affair I had in hand, I abruptly called to Bartleby. In my haste and natural expectancy of instant compliance, I sat with my head bent over the original on my desk, and my right hand sideways, and somewhat nervously extended with the copy, so that immediately upon emerging from his retreat, Bartleby might snatch it and proceed to business without the least delay.
In this very attitude did I sit when I called to him, rapidly stating what it was I wanted him to do—namely, to examine a small paper with me. Imagine my surprise, nay, my consternation, when without moving from his privacy, Bartleby in a singularly mild, firm voice, replied, “I would prefer not to.”
******

Al principio, Bartleby escribió extraordinariamente. Como si hubiera padecido un ayuno de algo que copiar, parecía hartarse con mis documentos. No se detenía para la digestión. Trabajaba día y noche, copiando, a la luz del día y a la luz de las velas. Yo, encantado con su aplicación, me hubiera encantado aún más si él hubiera sido un trabajador alegre. Pero escribía silenciosa, pálida, mecánicamente.
Una de las indispensables tareas del escribiente es verificar la fidelidad de la copia, palabra por palabra. Cuando hay dos o más amanuenses en una oficina, se ayudan mutuamente en este examen, uno leyendo la copia, el otro siguiendo el original. Es un asunto cansador, insípido y letárgico. Comprendo que para temperamentos sanguíneos, resultaría intolerable. Por ejemplo, no me imagino al ardoroso Byron, sentado junto a Bartleby, resignado a cotejar un expediente de quinientas páginas, escritas con letra apretada.
Yo ayudaba en persona a confrontar algún documento breve, llamando a Turkey o a Nippers con este propósito. Uno de mis fines al colocar a Bartleby tan a mano, detrás del biombo, era aprovechar sus servicios en estas ocasiones triviales. Al tercer día de su estada, y antes de que fuera necesario examinar lo escrito por él, la prisa por completar un trabajito que tenía entre manos, me hizo llamar súbitamente a Bartleby. En el apuro y en la justificada expectativa de una obediencia inmediata, yo estaba en el escritorio con la cabeza inclinada sobre el original y con la copia en la mano derecha algo nerviosamente extendida, de modo que, al surgir de su retiro, Bartleby pudiera tomarla y seguir el trabajo sin dilaciones.
En esta actitud estaba cuando le dije lo que debía hacer, esto es, examinar un breve escrito conmigo. Imaginen mi sorpresa, mi consternación, cuando sin moverse de su ángulo, Bartleby, con una voz singularmente suave y firme, replicó:
-Preferiría no hacerlo.
******
Bartleby, el escribiente
(Traducción Jorge Luis Borges)
(Sobre la traducción de Borges)
(Sobre Bartleby, el escribiente)
Herman Melville