Borges who, as everyone knows, did not pride himself of being condescending, wrote a great praise about Alfonso Reyes; a few verses that could be either the preface or the conclusion of the book recently published by Mexican Hector Perea,* an eager researcher and coordinator for the Philosophical Research Institute’s Literary Studies Center of the National Autonomous University of Mexico (UNAM).

Perea starts his study by introducing references of the admiration aroused by Reyes’ singular doodles in blackboards and notebooks in the Monterrey of the time, which led some to foretell a promising future for the kid as a painter. Perea comments that even though those first signs were not strictly embraced, he never got fully away from them. Thus, later on, Reyes would go back to the plastic arts through the exercise of photography and drawing. But, it was only in his writings where he established a permanent and essential relation, and which –according to Perea–, should be seen as as a painting method using words, with which, we all know, Reyes was able to create peculiar images and colors.

Perea shows an Alfonso Reyes who would categorically state: “I believe in art critics,” and who trusts intrusive (literary) critics, when reviewing the work by an artist, even if –quoting Alfonso Reyes again– “they lack that secondary interest we call technical interest,” or just in the case of those literary pieces in which notes incidentally strengthen an environment or the personality of a character.

The master, indispensable author who influenced literature circles in all Hispano-America, who wrote several genres and excelled for his lucid intelligent essays and incorporated the plastic arts language as a natural element into his work, which was perhaps the key to his success in that uncommon practice of decoding plastic art works into fiction texts.

Hector Perea analyzes that quality of Reyes is several of his texts, of which I would like to highlight one in particular, the article “Vermeer van Delft and Proust’s novel.” Vermeer van Delft not only associated to the characters of Odette and Swann –Perea stresses–, but as a catalyst of atmospheres transferred to or assimilated by the novel as a password of Proust and Reyes himself. Perea says:

Alfonso Reyes considered the possibility that Proust had left us a key when electing Vermeer, “leitmotif” or “rhythmic-mania” in the novel, as Swann’s mute fellow traveler. But at the same time, by choosing both the novelist and the Dutch painter as the main topic of the essay, Reyes, I repeat, was also providing some clues about his own view of literature and essay writing in particular.

Reyes’ Eyes is a book that captures and collects such signs to acknowledge and at the same time teach the readers to appreciate other artists through the work of the author of “Ifigenia cruel” and “Vision de Anáhuac.” In that sense, Perea unveils the transcendence of the polygraph’s thoughts in relation to arts, he puts forward enough arguments as to validate the phrase: “As soon as I set my eyes on an object I can see everything contained in it,” which is rightfully held by the excellent title of the book. It is worth to highlight that Perea’s research goes beyond merely specific facts; it is based on cross reference, re-interpretations, and deep analysis as the subject of study demands. The research pins down and provides examples of Reyes’ facets as a collector, a critic (or rather an art observer as Perea prefers to call him while quoting Raquel Tibol), a thinker and an active player in the artistic field of his epoch as a writer and also as a diplomat, the latter allowing him (in his stays in different countries) to fraternize with artists like Picasso, Portinari, Tarsila do Amaral, Cícero Dias, who (along with fellow countrymen like Diego Rivera, Jose Clemente Orozco, Manuel Rodriguez Lozano, Juan Soriano, Julio Ruelas, and so many others) in turn had the privilege to have their works be watched by him, sometimes to extol virtues, philosophize, discover and transmit codes of an artistic trend or a creative style, or to j, critic and their functions.

I would like to include a fragment of a text that Perea fairly describes as “a prelude to the multimedia performance and the 3D environment enabled today by the digital world.” He refers to the text “Against the Static Museum,” where Reyes, among many other interesting ideas, points out the following: “We want to burn down the museums and found the dynamic museum, the bulk cinema, the three-dimensional film, in which the Chinese embroiderer embroiders Chinese tapestries, and spectators can, if they want to, be a character and perform their multiple abilities of existence.”

This book is an intense dialogue proposing a sort of intelligent note made up of thematic fragments in the Complete Works of Reyes. And, somehow, it raises expectations about the future possibility of having in a single volume the full texts the author refers to in the book so we can fully enjoy them; a work that Perea has very likely considered, being himself a great connoisseur of Reyes’ work and life.

It is very gratifying the fact that this book (and I’m also thinking in that awaited compilation) makes us repeat Borges’ words: “One thing alone I know. That Alfonso Reyes/ (wherever the sea has brought him safe ashore)/ will apply himself happy and watchful/ to other enigmas and to other laws”.