Being, through the Archive
Why does it disquiet us to know that Don Quixote is a reader of the
Quixote, and Hamlet is a spectator of Hamlet? I believe I have found
the answer: those inversions suggest that if the characters in a story
can be readers or spectators, then we, their readers or spectators, can
be fictitious. In 1833 Carlyle observed that universal history is an in-
finite sacred book that all men and read and try to understand,
and in which they are written.
Jorge Luis “Partial Enchantments of the Quixote”
ccording officials in Salvador, capital of the northeastern state of
Bahia, Brazil’s history and the world’s cultural heritage faced grave
threats at the turn the millennium. Each year, during the May
through August rainy colonial mansions in the city’s impos-
ing Pe lourinho Historical Center would collapse, sometimes with
losses of life. People’s deaths, like the disintegration of architectural
treasures, lent direction to accounts of national belonging and ur-
gency to the efforts of the Institute of Artistic and Cultural Patrimony
(ipac) and the Bahian Regional Development Company (conder),
the state institutions responsible for the neighborhood’s develop-
ment as a unesco World Heritage Site.1 Meanwhile, the buildings’
working- class and mostly Afro- Brazilian occupants listened for snap-
ping beams, gauged tremors that might indicate a need to flee, and
perfected techniques for propping up the often crumbling, Baroque
and Neoclassical structures that they had come to occupy across the
twentieth century. In spite of such attention to objects and phenom-
ena construed by the Bahian state as icons of a shared attachment
to the nation, but which their inhabitants cared for as a matter of
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