Saucers of Mud

May 29, 2011

A Note on the A Bao A Qu

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 10:59 am

Dear Wikipedia, Element Encyclopedia of Magical Creatures, person who runs Virginia Astley’s website, and basically everyone else:

Stop saying that the A Bao A Qu is a Malaysian myth. It is not a Malaysian myth. Borges made it up.

Borges says of the story of the A Bao A Qu, “This legend is recorded by C.C. Iturvuru in an appendix to his classic treatise On Malay Witchcraft (1937).” I have looked a little for this classic treatise (that was how I discovered the world’s greatest origin myth), and I have found no trace of it, which seems odd for a book published as recently as 1937. In fact, it doesn’t look like anyone on the internet has recorded any trace of the existence of C.C. Iturvuru except in connection with “On Malay Witchcraft.”

Now, I did discover the existence of one Cayetano Cordoba Iturburu, a journalist and poet who was “one of the deans of art criticism in Argentina.” There is no indication that Cordoba Iturburu was interested in Malaysia, and On Malay Witchcraft does not appear as one of his works. So, there are three options:

a. Cordoba Iturburu wrote On Malay Witchcraft, but it somehow failed to be recorded in his Wikipedia article or indeed anywhere else other than Borges’s story, and Borges for some reason called him “C.C. Iturvuru,” as a gringo would, rather than “C. Cordoba Iturburu,” as (if I’m not mistaken) any Spanish speaker would.
b. A classic treatise on Malay witchcraft was written by someone with a name remarkably similar to that of a prominent figure in Argentine letters, though no one has ever heard of that person or that treatise independently of the work of Borges.
c. Borges made everything up.

Which seems most likely?

(I’ve seen this; I think the most likely explanation is that “A Bao A Qu” sounds a little like a phrase in that particular language. The only other person who seems to be on the case is one of the editors of French Wikipedia, who with the help of Google Translate contributes my new favorite sentence: “To put it bluntly: he smoked the carpet.”)

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May 27, 2011

Today’s Insight

Filed under: Uncategorized — matt w @ 11:32 am

“Knock Three Times” is about de Clérambault’s Syndrome.

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