Bovary isn’t Flaubert’s version. Examplesnof this are legion: any translation sharesnthe same characteristic. However, annequally rational challet^ can be mountednagainst those who, say, like their Herodotusnstraight: Who in the late 20th centurynknows the same language thatnHerodotus spoke in 455 B.C.? Or, fornthat matter, which person fluent innFrench—even one who has never leftnRouen—knows the same French thatnFlaubert did? Only a time machine wouldnpermit someone to have the most clearnunderstanding of a text since the passengerncould perceive the book’s place inntime, but even then the time travelernwould not have complete understandingnas he would be nothing more than antourist Environmental conditions changencontinuously—even books written bynAmerican authors of the last century requirenfootnotes for intelligibility. Moreover,nthe perceptions of today are modifiednby new learning. It was easier tonwax eloquent about the moon on thenday before Neil Armstrong stepped on itnthan it will ever be again. Part of this entirensituation is succinctly captured bynBorges in “Pierre Menard, Author of thenQuixote.” In the story, Menard writes,nword for word, “the ninth and thirtyeighthnchapters of the first part of DonnQuixote and a fragment of chapterntwenty-two” during the early part of thisncentury. The narrator’s response tonMenard’s work as compared with Cervantes’snis of interest here. He comments,nfor example, “Menard’s fragmentarynQuixote is more subtle than Cervantes’.nThe latter, in a clumsy feshion, opposesnto the fictions of chivalry the tawdry provincialnreality of his country; Menardnselects as his ‘reality’ the land of Carmennduring the century of Lepanto and Lopende Vega.” Menard uses an “archaic style”;nCervantes “handles with ease the currentnSpanish of his time.” Borges (througjina translator, James E. Irvy) seems to indicatenthat while the texts, the words, ofnMenard and Cervantes are the same, theynare different because time has changednthem—or at least our attitude towardnand interpretation of them.nWhat the rationalist approach doesn’tnrecognize is something that can be called,nfor the sake of simplicity, magic Thisnquality is inherent in great works of artn—^it is missing in railroad trains and familynphotos of Disney World. MJ^C permitsncertain works to transcend the punynlimits erected by men following thenoriginal creator. Regularly, “new, improved”ntranslations of ancient worksnemerge; it is almost as if the texts arenlaundry detergent. If the latest version isnbetter, then the previous one is inferior,nand so on back to the start. But somehownthe original, all bastardized renditionsnnotwithstanding, has a spark that makesnmen want to know whatever they cannabout it This does not mean that it drivesnall readers to learn French or Greek; itndoes mean that the strength of the work,nits magic, transcends clumsy phrasing ornwhatever damage is done to the original.nThis magic that I am talking about isnnot something that simply bowls a personnover. It can be likened to the magicnof a magic carpet Given the proper knowledge,nthe carpet can be made to fly.nOtherwise, it’s a floor covering. Similarly,none must have an understanding of whatnis being presented, a contextual fi”amework.nFor example, a person who hasnread Harlequin romances on an exclusivenbasis might find something by HaroldnRobbins revelatory and Madame Bovaryndull (“All talk and disguised action”).nThat person is employing a context thatndoesn’t support Flaubert’s magic.nPaintings can also have this magic;ngreat ones do. Achieving the proper contextnfor understanding paintings is a difficultnthing for common viewers—^and,nas The Forger’s Art shows in a forceftilnmanner, for learned ones. Part of thenproblem is the limited nature of paintings:nthere is only one Mona Lisa; therenare countless copies of Madame Bovary.nThat’s obvious. There is a more subtiendifference. An intelligent reader canncompare Flaubert and Harold Robbins:nboth are available in large bookstoresnand libraries. Paintings aren’t so readilyncompared. This is not because I discountnnnreproductions—^Malraux’s case for themnmakes sense—but because the paintingsnone tends to see in books or in museumsnare inevitably good or great, all of themntend to have a certain amount of thenquality called magic. The person examiningnthe book of reproductions or seeingnthe real thing will have trouble realizingnwhat is because he won’t witness whatnisn’t With regard to art museums, fornexample, only one I’ve visited makes anstrong impression of magic because ofnits lack of it The museimi, which wasncreated to be a serious, bona fide establishment,nis the Ringling Museum of Artnin Sarasota, Florida. It contains, amongnother things, a large number of worksnfrom “the school of…” various masters.nIt’s not that these paintings are poorlynexecuted, for many are very workmanlikenin their approach; a 17th-centurynItalian Kouwenhoven would have highnblood pressure fi’om the ecstasy he’d experience.nBut they lack that essentialnsomething that, admittedly, cannot benrationally defined.nOne justification—perhaps the onlynone—for critics is that they provide thenproper contexts for understanding. Atnleast this used to be their function: nownthat norms are being discarded in all socialndiscourse, normative criticism isnbeing consigned to thie realm of curios.nBut let’s ignore the new breed. Whatnhappens when a critic is confronted withna forgery? He can reject it or accept itnSuppose he accepts it, only to find outnthat it is a forgery. Then there are problems:ndoes the forgery have any aestheticnvalue? This question was raised by thenwork of Han van Meegeren, who, duringnthe 1930’s, painted works which werenpassed off as being painted by JohannesnVermeer, a 17th-century Dutch painter.nSeveral noted critics went the full distance,neven daiming tihat the ^an Me^erennwork was unparalleled Vermeer. Thenforgeries were not discovered throughnany inherent flaws. But once they werenseen as the work of van Meegeren andnnot of Vermeer (although it must benpointed out that not all could see this;nscientific analysis had to be performed),nOctober 1983n