nga Flori Bruqi : " DUELI "-Jorge Luis Borges
nga Jorge Luis Borges
Henry James, veprën e të cilit ma zbuloi Zonja Figuera, njëra prej dy heroinave të mia, ndoshta nuk do ta kishte përçmuar këtë histori. Ai do t’i kishte kushtuar më shumë se njëqind faqe ironike e të dhimbsura, të zbukuruara me dialogë të ndërlikuar dhe përpikërisht të dykuptimtë. Ka shumë mundësi që do t’i kishte shtuar edhe një lloj toni melodramatik. Thelbësorja e dekorit nuk do të kishte ndryshuar: Londër ose Boston.
Ngjarjet ndodhën në Buenos Ajres dhe unë do t’i lë po aty. Do të kufizohem vetëm duke bërë një përmbledhje të kësaj historie, ngaqë përshkrimi i evolucionit të saj të ngadaltë dhe të atmosferës së saj mondane nuk ka të bëjë me zhanrin tim letrar. Diktimi i këtij tregimi për mua është një aventurë modeste e dorës së dytë. Më duhet të paralajmëroj lexuesin se episodet kanë më pak rëndësi se situata që i ka krijuar dhe se personazhet.
Klara Figuera – me mbiemër vajzërie Glenkern – ishte e gjatë e kryelartë; kishte një floknajë vezulluese të kuqërreme. Më tepër intuitive se intelektuale, ajo nuk ishte mendjemprehtë, por dinte të çmonte mendjen e miqve e madje edhe të mikeshave të saj. Kishte një shpirt mikpritës. I pëlqente larmia; kjo është ndoshta arsyeja që kishte bërë aq udhëtime. Ajo e dinte se mjedisi ku i qe dhënë të jetonte ishte një përzierje, shpeshherë arbitrare, ritesh dhe ceremonish, por këto rite e zbavitnin dhe ajo i përmbushte me dinjitet.
Prindërit e martuan, ende shumë të re, me avokatin Izidro Figuera, i cili ishte ambasadori ynë në Kanada e që e braktisi më në fund këtë detyrë, me pretekstin se në epokën e telegrafit dhe telefonit, ambasadat ishin një anakronizëm dhe përbënin një shpenzim të kotë. Ky vendim i shkaktoi armiqësinë e gjithë kolegëve të tij; Klarës i pëlqente klima e Otavës – ajo kishte prejardhje skoceze – dhe detyrat e një gruaje ambasadori i përmbushte me dëshirë, megjithatë nuk mendoi të kundërshtonte. Figuera pas pak kohe vdiq; Klara, mbas shumë vitesh pavendosmërie dhe kërkimi të brendshëm, iu përkushtua pikturës, e frymëzuar ndoshta nga shembulli i mikes së saj Marta Pizarro.Fakt karakteristik: nuk flitej kurrë për Marta Pizarron pa saktësuar së ishte motra e të ndriturës Nelida Sara, e cila jetonte e ndarë nga i shoqi.
Gjithçka, e dimë tashmë, fillon njëherë jashtë përpara se të mbërrijë më në fund tek ne. Grupi i piktorëve, sot i harruar kaq padrejtësisht, që u quajtën konkrtetë apo abstraktë, si për të treguar përbuzjen e tyre ndaj logjikës dhe gjuhës, është një shembull mes shumë të tjerëve i kësaj dukurie. Ata vlerësonin, besoj, se ashtu si muzika që ka të drejtë të krijojë universin e vet të tingujve, edhe piktura, motra e saj, mund të provonte ngjyra dhe forma që nuk riprodhonin gjërat që na shohin sytë. Lee Kaplan ka shkruar se tablotë e tij, që indinjonin borgjezët, mbanin parasysh ndalimin biblik, të respektuar nga feja islame, të riprodhimit me duar njerëzore të fytyrave të qenieve të gjalla. Ikonoklastët, argumentonte ai, ishin duke rimëkëmbur traditën autentike të artit plastik, të falsifikuar nga heretikë të tillë si Dürer apo Rembrandt. Këta denigrues e akuzonin se u ishte referuar shembullit që na japin qilimat, kaleidoskopët dhe kravatat. Revolucionet estetike u propozojnë njerëzve tundimin nga papërgjegjshmëria dhe lehtësia; Klara Figuera zgjodhi të bëjë pikturë abstrakte. Ajo gjithmonë e kishte shprehur botërisht kultin e Turner-it; ajo u gatit të pasuronte artin konkret me shkëlqimet e saj të pasakta. Punoi pa u ngutur, rikrijoi apo shkatërroi kompozime të ndryshme dhe, gjatë dimrit të vitit 1954, ekspozoi një seri akuarelesh në një galeri të rrugës Suipacha që ishte e specializuar për veprat që një metaforë ushtarake, atëherë në modë, i quante të avangardës. Një fakt paradoksal ishte se, ndërsa kritika në tërësinë e saj ishte dashamirëse, organi zyrtar i Abstraktëve e qortoi për format e saj anormale që, pa qenë figurative, sugjeronin trazime të një perëndimi dielli, të një pylli apo të detit dhe nuk i nënshtroheshin të qenit vetëm rrathë apo vija të ashpra. E para që vuri buzën në gaz ishte me gjasë Klara Figuera.
Ajo kishte dashur të ishte moderne dhe modernët nuk po e pranonin. Krijimi i veprës së saj ishte për të më i rëndësishëm se suksesi dhe ajo vazhdoi punën. E paprekur nga ky episod, piktura po ndiqte shtegun e vet.
Dueli i fshehtë kishte nisur. Marta nuk ishte vetëm një artiste; ajo interesohej gjithë zell për atë që nuk është e padrejtë të quhet ana administrative e artit dhe ajo ishte zëvendës-sekretare e shoqatës së quajtur Rrethi i Giotto-s. Aty nga mesi i vitit 1955 ajo mësoi se emri i Klarës, së pranuar tashmë si anëtare, figuronte në listën e anëtarëve të komitetit. Ky fakt, i rëndomtë në dukje, meriton një analizë. Në të vërtetë, Marta kishte mbështetur kandidaturën e mikes së saj, por dihet mirë, sado e habitshme që mund të duket, se personi që bën një nder, në njëfarë mënyre, ushtron ndikim mbi personin përfitues.
- Mendoj se B. nuk është gjë; në fakt, më duket me keq edhe se Znj. Figuera.
- Do të votonit për të? - tha një tjetër, jo pa njëfarë ligësie.
- Po - iu përgjigj i pari, që po nervozohej.
Atë pasdite, çmimi iu dha njëzëri Klara Figueras. Ajo ishte e shquar, e hirshme, me një moral të pastër dhe, në villën e saj në Pilar, bënte pritje ku revistat më të shtrenjta dërgonin gjithmonë fotografë. Banketi klasik i nderit u organizua dhe u dha nga Marta. Klara e falenderoi me disa fjalë fort të ndiera; ajo vërejti se nuk ka kontradikta midis tradicionales dhe modernes, midis rregullit dhe aventurës, dhe se tradita është bërë prej një vargu shekullor gjërash të guximshme. Në këtë ceremoni qenë të pranishëm shumë njerëz të rretheve mondane, pothuaj gjithë anëtarët e jurisë dhe disa piktorë.
Dy vjet më vonë, në Kartagjenë u mbajt Kongresi i Parë Ndërkombëtar i Arteve Plastike latino-amerikane. Çdo republikë dërgoi përfaqësuesin e saj. Tema e kolokiumit – na qoftë i falur ky zhargon – ishte e një interesi fërgëllues: a mundet artisti të mos mbajë parasysh atë që është autoktone, a mundet ai të heqë ose të zhdukë faunën dhe florën, a mund të jetë i pandjeshëm ndaj problemeve të rendit shoqëror, a mund të mos bashkojë zërin e vet me zërin e gjithë atyre që luftojnë imperializmin anglo-sakson, etj.? Para se të ishte ambasador në Kanada, Izidro Figuera kishte kryer në Kartagjenë një mision diplomatik; Klara, paksa e krenuar prej çmimit që kish marrë, tani deshi të rikthehej atje si artiste. Shpresa e saj u zhgënjye; nga qeveria u caktua Marta Pizarro. Ndërhyrjet e saj (ndonëse jo gjithmonë bindëse) qenë herëpashere të shkëlqyera, sipas dëshmisë së paanshme të korrespondentëve të shtypit të Buenos Ajresit.
Jeta nuk mund të jetë e përjashtuar nga pasionet.
Dy gratë e gjetën tek piktura ose, më saktë, tek lidhjet që kjo e fundit vendosi midis tyre. Klara Figuera pikturonte kundër Martës dhe në njëfarë mënyre për Martën; secila ishte gjykatësja e kundërshtares së vet dhe publiku i vetëm i tjetrës. Në tablotë e tyre, që askush nuk i shikonte më, besoj se vërej, siç mund të parashikohej, një ndikim të ndërsjelltë. Është e rëndësishme të mos harrohet se ato e donin sho-shoqen dhe se gjatë këtij dueli intim ato vepruan me një ndershmëri të përsosur.
Pikërisht në këtë kohë Marta, që nuk ishte më e re, refuzoi një propozim për martesë: i interesonte vetëm beteja e vet.
Më 2 shkurt 1964, Klara Figuera vdiq nga një anevrizëm. Kolonat e gazetave i kushtuan artikuj të gjatë nekrologjikë, siç shkruhen akoma në vendin tonë ku femra është një specimen i llojit, dhe jo një individ. Përveç disa aludimeve të shkurtra për talentin e saj pikturor dhe shijen e saj të hollë, i lëvduan ndjenjat fetare, mirësinë, filantropinë e përhershme e pothuaj anonime, familjen atërore – i ati, gjenerali Glenkern, kishte marrë pjesë në fushatën e Brazilit – dhe vendin që ajo zinte në sferat më të larta të shoqërisë. Marta atëherë kuptoi që jeta e saj nuk kishte më asnjë kuptim. Nuk ishte ndier kurrë më e panevojshme se tani. Kujtoi përpjekjet e saj të para, të largëta tashmë, dhe ekspozoi në Sallonin Kombëtar një portret të përkorë të Klarës, sipas mënyrës së atyre mjeshtrave anglezë që i kishin adhuruar aq shumë që të dyja. Dikush gjykoi se ai portret ishte kryevepra e saj. Ajo nuk pikturoi më kurrë.
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (August 24, 1899 – June 14, 1986), best known as Jorge Luis Borges (pronounced /ˈhɔr.heɪ luˈiːs ˈbɔr.hɛz/; Spanish pronunciation: [ˈxorxe ˈlwis ˈborxes]), was an Argentine writer, essayist, and poet born in Buenos Aires. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school and traveled to Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in surrealist literary journals. He also worked as a librarian and public lecturer. In 1955 he was appointed director of the National Public Library (Biblioteca Nacional) and professor of Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1961 he came to international attention when he received the first International Publishers' Prize, the Prix Formentor. His work was translated and published widely in the United States and in Europe. Borges himself was fluent in several languages. He died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986.
Jorge Luis Borges
His work embraces the "chaos that rules the world and the character of unreality in all literature." His most famous books, Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (1949), are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes: dreams, labyrinths, libraries, fictional writers and works, religion, God. His works have contributed significantly to the genre of fantasy literature. Scholars have noted that Borges's progressive blindness helped him to create innovative literary symbols through imagination since "poets, like the blind, can see in the dark". The poems of his late period dialogue with such cultural figures as Spinoza, Luís de Camões, and Virgil.
Early life and education
Jorge Luis Borges was born to an educated middle-class family. Borges's mother, Leonor Acevedo Suárez, came from a traditional Uruguayan family. His 1929 book Cuaderno San Martín included a poem "Isidoro Acevedo," commemorating his maternal grandfather, Isidoro de Acevedo Laprida, a soldier of the Buenos Aires Army who stood against dictator Juan Manuel de Rosas. A descendant of the Argentine lawyer and politician Francisco Narciso de Laprida, Acevedo fought in the battles of Cepeda in 1859, Pavón in 1861, and Los Corrales in 1880. Isidoro de Acevedo Laprida died of pulmonary congestion in the house where his grandson Jorge Luis Borges was born.
Borges's father, Jorge Guillermo Borges Haslam, was a lawyer and psychology teacher with literary aspirations. ("...he tried to become a writer and failed in the attempt," Borges once said, "...[but] composed some very good sonnets"). His father was part Spanish, part Portuguese, and half English; his paternal grandmother was English and maintained a strong spirit of English culture in Borges's home. In this home, both Spanish and English were spoken. From earliest childhood Borges was bilingual, reading Shakespeare in English at the age of twelve. The family lived in a large house with an English library of over one thousand volumes. Borges would later remark that "if I were asked to name the chief event in my life, I should say my father's library". They were in comfortable circumstances; but not being wealthy enough to live in downtown Buenos Aires, they resided in Palermo, then a poorer suburb of the city.
His father was forced to give up practicing law due to the failing eyesight that would eventually afflict his son. In 1914 the family moved to Geneva, Switzerland. Borges senior was treated by a Geneva eye specialist, while his son and daughter Norah attended school, where Borges junior learned French and taught himself German. He received his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The Borges family decided that, due to political unrest in Argentina, they would remain in Switzerland. This lasted until 1921 when, after World War I, the family spent three years living in various cities: Lugano, Barcelona, Majorca, Seville, and Madrid.
At that time Borges discovered the writing of Arthur Schopenhauer and Gustav Meyrink's The Golem (1915) which became influential to his work. In Spain, Borges became a member of the avant-garde Ultraist literary movement (anti-Modernism, which ended in 1922 with the cessation of the journal Ultra). His first poem, "Hymn to the Sea", written in the style of Walt Whitman, was published in the magazine Grecia.While in Spain, he met noted Spanish writers, including Rafael Cansinos Assens and Ramón Gómez de la Serna.
Early writing career
In 1921 Borges returned with his family to Buenos Aires, where he imported the doctrine of Ultraism and launched his career, publishing surreal poems and essays in literary journals. In 1930 Nestor Ibarra called Borges the "Great Apostle of Criollismo." His first published collection of poetry was Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923). He contributed to the avant-garde review Martín Fierro (whose "art for art's sake" approach contrasted to that of the more politically involved Boedo group). Borges co-founded the journals Prisma, a broadsheet distributed largely by pasting copies to walls in Buenos Aires, and Proa. Later in life Borges regretted some of these early publications, and attempted to purchase all known copies to ensure their destruction.
By the mid-1930s, he began to explore existential questions. He also worked in a style that Ana María Barrenechea has called "irreality." Borges was not alone in this task. Many other Latin American writers, such as Juan Rulfo, Juan José Arreola, and Alejo Carpentier, investigated these themes, influenced by the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger or the existentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre. Even though existentialism saw its apogee during the years of Borges's greatest artistic production, it can be argued that his choice of topics largely ignored existentialism's central tenets. To that point, critic Paul de Man wrote:
"Whatever Borges's existential anxieties may be, they have little in common with Sartre's robustly prosaic view of literature, with the earnestness of Camus' moralism, or with the weighty profundity of German existential thought. Rather, they are the consistent expansion of a purely poetic consciousness to its furthest limits."
From the first issue, Borges was a regular contributor to Sur, founded in 1931 by Victoria Ocampo. It was then Argentina's most important literary journal. Ocampo introduced Borges to Adolfo Bioy Casares, another well-known figure of Argentine literature, who was to become a frequent collaborator and dear friend. Together they wrote a number of works, some under the nom de plume H. Bustos Domecq, including a parody detective series and fantasy stories. During these years a family friend Macedonio Fernández became a major influence on Borges. The two would preside over discussions in cafés, country retreats, or Fernández' tiny apartment in the Balvanera district.
In 1937, Borges found work as first assistant at the Miguel Cané branch of the Buenos Aires Municipal Library. His fellow employees forbade him from cataloguing more than one hundred books per day, a task which took him about an hour. The rest of his time he spent in the basement of the library, writing articles and short stories.
Borges's urbane character allowed him to free himself from the trap of local color. The varying genealogies of characters, settings, and themes in his stories, such as "La muerte y la brújula", used Argentine models without pandering to his readers. In his essay "El escritor argentino y la tradición", Borges notes that the very absence of camels in the Qu'ran was proof enough that it was an Arabian work. He suggested that only someone trying to write an "Arab" work would purposefully include a camel. He uses this example to illustrate how his dialogue with universal existential concerns was just as Argentine as writing about gauchos and tangos (subjects he himself used).
Borges's father died in 1938, a tragedy for the writer, as father and son were very devoted to each other. On Christmas Eve of the same year, Borges suffered a severe head wound; during treatment, he nearly died of septicemia. While recovering from the accident, Borges began tinkering with a new style of writing, for which he would become famous. The first story penned after his accident was "Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote" in May 1939. In this story, he examined the relationship between father and son and the nature of authorship.
His first collection of short stories, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths) appeared in 1941, composed mostly of works previously published in Sur. Though generally well received, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan failed to garner for him the literary prizes many in his circle expected. Ocampo dedicated a large portion of the July 1941 issue of Sur to a "Reparation for Borges"; numerous leading writers and critics from Argentina and throughout the Spanish-speaking world contributed writings to the "reparation" project. The title story is about a Chinese professor in England named Dr. Yu Tsun who spies for Germany during World War I in an attempt to prove to the authorities that an Asian person is able to obtain the information that they seek.
When Juan Perón became President in 1946, Borges was dismissed from the library and "promoted" to the position of poultry inspector for the Buenos Aires municipal market. (He immediately resigned; he always referred to this post as "Poultry and Rabbit Inspector"). His offenses against the Peronistas up to that time consisted of little more than adding his signature to pro-democracy petitions. Shortly after his resignation, Borges addressed the Argentine Society of Letters saying, in his characteristic style, "Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy."
With his vision beginning to fade in his early thirties and unable to support himself as a writer, Borges began a new career as a public lecturer. Despite a certain degree of political persecution, he was reasonably successful. Borges became an increasingly public figure, obtaining appointments as President of the Argentine Society of Writers, and as Professor of English and American Literature at the Argentine Association of English Culture. His short story "Emma Zunz" was turned into a film (under the name of Días de odio (English title: Days of Hate), directed in 1954 by the Argentine director Leopoldo Torre Nilsson). Around this time, Borges also began writing screenplays.
In 1955 after the initiative of Ocampo, the new anti-Peronist military government appointed Borges head of the National Library. By that time, he had become completely blind, like one of his best known predecessors, Paul Groussac, for whom Borges wrote an obituary. Neither coincidence nor the irony escaped Borges and he commented on them in his work:
Nadie rebaje a lágrima o reproche
esta declaración de la maestría
de Dios, que con magnífica ironía
me dio a la vez los libros y la noche.
Let neither tear nor reproach besmirch
this declaration of the mastery
of God who, with magnificent irony,
granted me both the gift of books and the night.
The following year Borges was awarded the National Prize for Literature from the University of Cuyo, and the first of many honorary doctorates. From 1956 to 1970, Borges also held a position as a professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires, while frequently holding temporary appointments at other universities.
As his eyesight deteriorated, Borges relied increasingly on his mother's help. When he was not able to read and write anymore (he never learned to read Braille), his mother, to whom he had always been devoted, became his personal secretary.
Later personal life
When Perón returned from exile and was re-elected president in 1973, Borges immediately resigned as director of the National Library. In 1967 Borges married the recently widowed Elsa Astete Millán. Friends believed that his mother, who was 90 and anticipating her own death, wanted to find someone to care for her blind son. The marriage lasted less than three years. After a legal separation, Borges moved back in with his mother, with whom he lived until her death at age 99.Thereafter, he lived alone in the small flat he had shared with her, cared for by Fanny, their housekeeper of many decades. From 1975 until the time of his death, Borges traveled all over the world. He was often accompanied in these travels by his personal assistant María Kodama, an Argentine woman of Japanese and German ancestry. In April 1986, a few months before his death, he married her via an attorney in Paraguay.
Jorge Luis Borges died of liver cancer in 1986 in Geneva. He was buried in the Cimetière des Rois (Plainpalais). After years of legal wrangling about the legality of the marriage, Kodama, as sole inheritor of a significant annual income, gained control over his works. Her administration of his estate has bothered some scholars; she has been denounced by the French publisher Gallimard, by Le Nouvel Observateur, and by intellectuals such as Beatriz Sarlo, as an obstacle to the serious reading of Borges's works. Under Kodama, the Borges estate rescinded all publishing rights for existing collections of his work in English (including the translations by Norman Thomas di Giovanni, in which Borges himself cooperated—and from which di Giovanni received fifty percent of the royalties) and commissioned new translations by Andrew Hurley.
Eight of Borges's poems appear in the authoritative 1943 anthology of Spanish American Poets by H. R. Hays. One of Borges's stories was first translated into English in the August 1948 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine; the story was "The Garden of Forking Paths", the translator Anthony Boucher. Though several other Borges translations appeared in literary magazines and anthologies during the 1950s, his international fame dates from the early 1960s. In 1961 he received the first International Publishers' Prize, the Prix Formentor, which he shared with Samuel Beckett. While Beckett had garnered a distinguished reputation in Europe and America, Borges was unknown and untranslated in the English-speaking world and the prize stirred interest in his work. The Italian government named Borges Commendatore and the University of Texas at Austin appointed him for one year to the Tinker Chair. This led to his first lecture tour in the United States. In 1962 two major anthologies of Borges's writings were published in English by New York presses: Ficciones and Labyrinths. In that year, Borges began lecture tours of Europe. In 1980 he was awarded the Balzan Prize (for Philology, Linguistics and literary Criticism) and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca; numerous other honors were to accumulate over the years, such as the French Legion of Honour in 1983, the Cervantes Prize, and even a Special Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America, "for distinguished contribution to the mystery genre".
In 1967 Borges began a five-year period of collaboration with the American translator Norman Thomas di Giovanni, thanks to whom he became better known in the English-speaking world. He also continued to publish books, among them El libro de los seres imaginarios (The Book of Imaginary Beings, (1967, co-written with Margarita Guerrero), El informe de Brodie (Dr. Brodie's Report, 1970), and El libro de arena (The Book of Sand, 1975). He also lectured prolifically. Many of these lectures were anthologized in volumes such as Siete noches (Seven Nights) and Nueve ensayos dantescos (Nine Dantesque Essays).
In The New Media Reader, editors Wardrip-Fruin and Montfort argued that Borges "may have been the most important figure in Spanish-language literature since Cervantes. But whatever his particular literary rank, he was clearly of tremendous influence, writing intricate poems, short stories, and essays that instantiated concepts of dizzying power." According to the editors, Borges represented the humanist view of digital media that stressed the social aspect of art driven by emotion. If art represented the tool, then humanists like Borges were more interested about how the tool could be used to relate to people rather than how it could help future generations. For engineers like Vannevar Bush, bettering the future was considered a more scientific view of digital media.
Borges's change in style from criollismo to a more cosmopolitan style brought him much criticism from journals such as Contorno, a left-of-center, Sartre-influenced publication founded by the Viñas brothers (Ismael & David), Noé Jitrik, Adolfo Prieto, and other intellectuals. Contorno "met with wide approval among the youth [...] for taking the older writers of the country to task on account of [their] presumed inauthenticity and their legacy of formal experimentation at the expense of responsibility and seriousness in the face of society's problems" (Katra:1988:56).
Borges and Eduardo Mallea were criticized for being "doctors of technique"; their writing presumably "lacked substance due to their lack of interaction with the reality [...] that they inhabited", an existential critique of their refusal to embrace existence and reality in their artwork.
Nobel Prize omission
Borges was never awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature, something which continually distressed the writer. He was one of several distinguished authors who never received the honor. Some observers speculated that Borges did not receive the award because of his conservative political views more specifically, that he accepted an honor from dictator Augusto Pinochet.
In addition to his short stories for which he is most famous, Borges also wrote poetry, essays, several screenplays, and a considerable volume of literary criticism, prologues, and reviews, edited numerous anthologies, and was a prominent translator of English-, French- and German-language literature into Spanish (and of Old English and Norse works as well). His blindness (which, like his father's, developed in adulthood) strongly influenced his later writing. Paramount among his intellectual interests are elements of mythology, mathematics, theology, and, as a personal integration of these, Borges's sense of literature as recreation—all of these disciplines are sometimes treated as a writer's playthings and at other times treated very seriously.
Since Borges lived through most of the 20th century, he was rooted in the Modernist period of culture and literature, especially Symbolism.
His fiction is profoundly learned, and always concise. Like his contemporary Vladimir Nabokov and the older James Joyce, he combined an interest in his native land with far broader perspectives. He also shared their multilingualism and their playfulness with language—and, coincidentally, being buried in Switzerland—but while Nabokov and Joyce tended—as their lives went on—toward progressively larger works, Borges remained a miniaturist. Also in contrast to Joyce and Nabokov, Borges's work progressed away from what he referred to as "the baroque," while theirs moved towards it: Borges's later writing style is far more transparent and naturalistic than his earlier works.
Many of his most popular stories concern the nature of time, infinity, mirrors, labyrinths, reality, philosophy, and identity. A number of stories focus on fantastic themes, such as a library containing every possible 410-page text ("The Library of Babel"), a man who forgets nothing he experiences ("Funes, the Memorious"), an artifact through which the user can see everything in the universe ("The Aleph"), and a year of time standing still, given to a man standing before a firing squad ("The Secret Miracle"). The same Borges told more and less realistic stories of South American life, stories of folk heroes, streetfighters, soldiers, gauchos, detectives, historical figures. He mixed the real and the fantastic: fact with fiction. On several occasions, especially early in his career, these mixtures sometimes crossed the line into the realm of hoax or literary forgery
Borges's abundant nonfiction includes astute film and book reviews, short biographies, and longer philosophical musings on topics such as the nature of dialogue, language, and thought, and the relationships between them. In this respect, and regarding Borges's personal pantheon, he considered the Mexican essayist of similar topics Alfonso Reyes "the best prose-writer in the Spanish language of any time." (In: Siete Noches, p. 156). His non-fiction also explores many of the themes found in his fiction. Essays such as "The History of the Tango" or his writings on the epic poem Martín Fierro explore specifically Argentine themes, such as the identity of the Argentine people and of various Argentine subcultures. His interest in fantasy, philosophy, and the art of translation are evident in articles such as "The Translators of The Thousand and One Nights", while The Book of Imaginary Beings is a thoroughly (and obscurely) researched bestiary of mythical creatures, in the preface of which Borges wrote, "There is a kind of lazy pleasure in useless and out-of-the-way erudition." Borges's interest in fantasy was shared by Adolfo Bioy Casares, with whom Borges coauthored several collections of tales between 1942 and 1967, sometimes under different pseudonyms including H. Bustos Domecq.
As already mentioned, Borges was notable as a translator. He translated Oscar Wilde's story The Happy Prince into Spanish when he was nine, perhaps an early indication of his literary talent. At the end of his life he produced a Spanish-language version of the Prose Edda. He also translated (while simultaneously subtly transforming) the works of, among others, Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse, Rudyard Kipling, Herman Melville, André Gide, William Faulkner, Walt Whitman, Virginia Woolf, Sir Thomas Browne, and G. K. Chesterton. In a number of essays and lectures, Borges assessed the art of translation, and articulated his own view at the same time. He held the view that a translation may improve upon the original, may even be unfaithful to it, and that alternative and potentially contradictory renderings of the same work can be equally valid. Borges also employed two very unusual literary forms: the literary forgery and the review of an imaginary work. Both constitute a form of modern pseudo-epigrapha.
At times, confronted with an idea for a work that bordered on the conceptual, rather than write a piece that fulfilled the concept, he wrote a review of a nonexistent work, as if it had already been created by some other person. The most famous example of this is "Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote", which imagines a twentieth-century Frenchman who tries to write Miguel de Cervantes' Don Quixote verbatim---not by having memorized Cervantes' work, but as an "original" narrative of his own invention. Initially he tries to immerse himself in sixteenth-century Spain, but dismisses the method as too easy, instead trying to reach Don Quixote through his own experiences. He finally manages to (re)create "the ninth and thirty-eighth chapters of the first part of Don Quixote and a fragment of chapter twenty-two." Borges's "review" of the work of the fictional Menard uses tongue-in-cheek comparisons to discuss the resonances that Don Quixote has picked up over the centuries since it was written, by way of overtly discussing how much "richer" Menard's work is than that of Cervantes, even though the actual words are exactly the same.
While Borges was certainly the great popularizer of the review of an imaginary work, it was not his own invention. Borges was already familiar with the idea from Thomas Carlyle's Sartor Resartus, a book-length review of a non-existent German transcendentalist philosophical work, and the biography of its equally non-existent author. This Craft of Verse (p. 104) records Borges as saying that in 1916 in Geneva he "discovered -- and was overwhelmed by -- Thomas Carlyle. I read Sartor Resartus, and I can recall many of its pages; I know them by heart." In the introduction to his first published volume of fiction, The Garden of Forking Paths, Borges remarks, "It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the madness of composing vast books -- setting out in five hundred pages an idea that can be perfectly related orally in five minutes. The better way to go about it is to pretend that those books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them." He then cites both Sartor Resartus and Samuel Butler's The Fair Haven, remarking, however, that "those works suffer under the imperfection that they themselves are books, and not a whit less tautological than the others. A more reasonable, more inept, and more lazy man, I have chosen to write notes on imaginary books." [Collected Fictions, p. 67]
Borges's work maintained a universal perspective that reflected a multi-ethnic Argentina, exposure from an early age to his father's substantial collection of world literature, and lifelong travel experience. As a young man, he visited the frontier pampas where the boundaries of Argentina, Uruguay, and Brazil blurred. He also lived and studied in Switzerland and Spain as a young student. As Borges matured, he traveled through Argentina as a lecturer and, internationally, as a visiting professor; he continued to tour the world as he grew older, ending his life in Geneva where he had attended high school (he never went to university). Drawing on influences of many times and places, Borges's work belittled nationalism and racism.
Multicultural influences on his writing
Borges's Argentina is a multi-ethnic country, and Buenos Aires, the capital, a cosmopolitan city. At the time of Argentine independence in 1816, the population was predominantly criollo, which in Argentine usage generally means people of Spanish ancestry, although it can allow for a small admixture of other origins. The Argentine national identity diversified, forming over a period of decades after the Argentine Declaration of Independence. During that period, substantial immigration came from Italy, Spain, France, Germany, Japan, Russia, Syria and Lebanon (then parts of the Ottoman Empire), the United Kingdom, Austria-Hungary, Portugal, Poland, Switzerland, Yugoslavia, Belgium, Denmark, the Netherlands, and Sweden, with the Italians and Spanish forming the largest influx. Therefore, Borges grew acquainted with the literature from Argentine, Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, and Northern European/Icelandic sources, including those of Anglo-Saxon and Old Norse. He also read many translations of Near Eastern and Far Eastern works.
The universalism that made him interested in world literature reflected an attitude that was not congruent with the Perón government's extreme nationalism. That government's meddling with Borges's job fueled his skepticism of government (he labeled himself a Spencerian anarchist in the blurb of Atlas). When extreme Argentine nationalists sympathetic to the Nazis asserted Borges was Jewish (the implication being that his Argentine identity was inadequate), Borges responded in "Yo Judío" ("I, a Jew"), where he said, while he would be proud to be a Jew, he presented his actual Christian genealogy, along with a backhanded reminder that any "pure" Castilian just might likely have a Jew in their ancestry, stemming from a millennium back.
If Borges often focused on universal themes, he no less composed a substantial body of literature on themes from Argentine folklore, history, and current concerns. Borges's first book, the poetry collection Fervor de Buenos Aires (Passion for Buenos Aires), appeared in 1923. Considering Borges's thorough attention to all things Argentine — ranging from Argentine culture ("History of the Tango"; "Inscriptions on Horse Wagons"), folklore ("Juan Muraña", "Night of the Gifts"), literature ("The Argentine Writer and Tradition", "Almafuerte"; "Evaristo Carriego") and current concerns ("Celebration of The Monster", "Hurry, Hurry", "The Mountebank", "Pedro Salvadores") — it is ironic indeed that ultra-nationalists would have questioned his Argentine identity.
Borges's interest in Argentine themes reflects in part the inspiration of his family tree. Borges had an English paternal grandmother who, around 1870, married the criollo Francisco Borges, a man with a military command and a historic role in the civil wars in what is now Argentina and Uruguay. Spurred by pride in his family's heritage, Borges often used those civil wars as settings in fiction and quasi-fiction (for example, "The Life of Tadeo Isidoro Cruz," "The Dead Man," "Avelino Arredondo") as well as poetry ("General Quiroga Rides to His Death in a Carriage"). Borges's maternal great-grandfather, Manuel Isidoro Suárez , was another military hero, whom Borges immortalized in the poem "A Page to Commemorate Colonel Suárez, Victor at Junín." The city of Coronel Suárez in the south of Buenos Aires Province is named after him.
Collaboration with Adolfo Bioy Casares
The diversity of coexisting cultures characteristic of the Argentine lifestyles is especially pronounced in Six Problems for Don Isidoro Parodi, co-authored with Adolfo Bioy Casares, and in the unnamed multi-ethnic city that's the setting for "Death and the Compass", which may or may not be Buenos Aires.
Martín Fierro and Argentine tradition
Borges contributed to a few avant garde publications in the early 1920s, including one called Martín Fierro, named after the major work of 19th century Argentine literature, Martín Fierro, a gauchesque poem by José Hernández, published in two parts, in 1872 and 1880. Initially, along with other young writers of his generation, Borges rallied around the fictional Martín Fierro as the symbol of a characteristic Argentine sensibility, not tied to European values. As Borges matured, he came to a more nuanced attitude toward the poem. Hernández's central character, Martín Fierro, is a gaucho, a free, poor, pampas-dweller, who is illegally drafted to serve at a border fort to defend against the Indians; he ultimately deserts and becomes a gaucho matrero, the Argentine equivalent of a North American western outlaw. Borges's 1953 book of essays on the poem, El "Martín Fierro", separates his great admiration for the aesthetic virtues of the work from his rather mixed opinion of the moral virtues of its protagonist. He uses the occasion to tweak the noses of arch-nationalist interpreters of the poem, but disdains those (such as Eleuterio Tiscornia) whom he sees as failing to understand its specifically Argentine character.
Borges points out that therefore, Hernández evidently knew the difference between actual gaucho tradition of composing poetry on universal themes, versus the "gauchesque" fashion among Buenos Aires literati. Borges goes on to deny the possibility that Argentine literature could distinguish itself by making reference to "local color", nor does it need to remain true to the heritage of the literature of Spain, nor to define itself as a rejection of the literature of its colonial founders, nor follow in the footsteps of European literature. He asserts that Argentine writers need to be free to define Argentine literature anew, writing about Argentina and the world from the point of view of someone who has inherited the whole of world literature.
Borges uses Martín Fierro and El Moreno's competition as a theme once again in "El Fin" ("The End"), a story that first appeared in his short story collection Artificios (1944). "El Fin" is a sort of mini-sequel or conclusion to Martín Fierro. In his prologue to Artificios, Borges says of "El Fin," "Everything in the story is implicit in a famous book [Martín Fierro] and I have been the first to decipher it, or at least, to declare it."
Borges's writing is also steeped by influences and informed by scholarship of Christian, Buddhist, Islamic, and Jewish faiths, including mainline religious figures, heretics, and mystics. Heretical forms of Christianity, for example, make a dominant appearance in the short story Three Versions of Judas, in which a maverick theologian decides that Judas Iscariot was the Messiah, as the greatest sacrifice for God would not be to sacrifice his son's body, but his son's soul. This curious inversion of mainstream Christian concepts of redemption is characteristic of Borges' approach to theology in his literature.
A book by Argentina mathematician and writer, Guillermo Martínez, was published in 2003, collecting the transcript of a series of talks given by him in the MALBA auditorium, concerning how Borges used concepts from mathematics in his work. Martínez believes that Borges had at the very least a superficial knowledge of set theory and several other topics, as he seems to handle them with great elegance in his stories; an example of this would be Borges's "The Book of Sand", which always has a page in between the others, thus making it infinite, and its pages infinitely thin; this being a very clear nod to Cantor's Set Theory.
Borges in 1951, by Grete Stern
Due to the praise of "The Garden of Forking Paths", the term "Borgesian" has been coined to fulfill the meaning of non-linearity within the world of digital media. This 1941 short story presents the idea that there are forking paths through networks of time — none of which are the same, all of which are equal. In regards to the organization of information, Borges imagines "a labyrinth that folds back upon itself in infinite regression" making the reader of his Garden of Forking Paths "become aware of all the possible choices we might make."
Borges used the story to show his philosophy of life. The "forking paths" has a recurring circular labyrinth with separate "branches" to represent the user's choices and decisions in their lives that ultimately lead to different endings. Borges saw man's search for meaning in a seemingly infinite universe as fruitless and instead uses the maze as a riddle for time, not space. The story remains relevant well into today, utilized mostly in new media art. In this form of art, the user has control over the piece and the result by selecting different branches that lead the user down different paths.
Jorge Luis Borges in 1940s, photograph taken from the book "Historia de la Literatura Argentina Vol II" (1968) edited by Centro Editor de América Latina.
There has been discussion of Borges's attitudes towards sex and women. It is undeniable that, with a few notable exceptions, women are almost entirely absent from the majority of his fictional output. For instance, the plot of La Intrusa was based on a true story of two friends, but Borges made their fictional counterparts brothers, excluding the possibility of a homosexual relationship. Borges dismissed these suggestions.
Borges in 1976. With his progressive blindness, he had to use a cane and live with the help of another person to take him to places.
There are, however, instances in Borges's writings of heterosexual love and attraction. The story "Ulrikke" from The Book of Sand tells a romantic tale of heterosexual desire, love, trust and sex. The protagonist of "El muerto" clearly relishes and lusts after the "splendid, contemptuous, red-haired woman" of Azevedo Bandeira. Later he "sleeps with the woman with shining hair". "El muerto" ("The Dead Man") contains two separate examples of definitive gaucho heterosexual lust.
Quotation by Borges at Buenos Aires Madrid Metro station: "It smacks of fiction that Buenos Aires was ever founded. I judge her to be as eternal as the sea and the wind."
The 1970 film Performance, directed by Donald Cammell and starring Mick Jagger and James Fox, is replete with Borgesian references. A photograph of Borges is briefly displayed during a montage sequence, a mirror is destroyed when shot with a gun, and the character played by Mick Jagger mentions the magicians of Orbis Tertius and also reads aloud a short passage from the short story "El sur."
In the film Alphaville by Jean-Luc Godard, there are several instances where Borges texts are said, notably by Alpha 60 (the computer that rules Alphaville) in its final moments.
- Poem of Jorge Luis Borges in Buenos Aires, Argentina, about the 'soul' and the mythical foundation his beloved city
- Norman Thomas di Giovanni's website which includes unpublished Borges material and Borges in conversation with Osvaldo Ferrari
- English translation of Dreamtigers (a.k.a. El Hacedor), now freely available online in its entirety.
- English translation of Rain
- English translation of Ewigkeit
- English translation of Mis libros
- International Jose Guillermo Carrillo Foundation
- The Borgesian Cyclopaedia. "Being a Virtual Reference to the World of Jorge Luis Borges".
- Fundación San Telmo's Jorge Luis Borges Collection
- The Norton Lectures, delivered at Harvard University in the fall of 1967, by Borges
- "El Tango" on audio MP3 (in Spanish)
- Hallucinating Spaces, or the Aleph An essay from Borgesland by Susana Medina
- Interview with Borges at the University of Buenos Aires from Habitus: A Diaspora Journal
- BBC Radio 4: In Our Time Archive page for edition about Borges in a series on the 'History of Ideas'. Includes link to streaming audio.
- Borges Center, University of Pittsburgh: important internet resources including bibliographies, chronologies, full text articles and books, and information on the journal Variaciones Borges
- The Modern Word: The Garden of Forking Paths. A comprehensive Web site dedicated to exploring Borges and his work, including pages that discuss writers that Borges influenced.
- Borges' Bad Politics Slate.com presents a revisionist essay by Clive James arguing that Borges could have done more to engage with Argentina's political situation
- Rend(er)ing L.C.: Susan Daitch Meets Borges & Borges, Delacroix, Marx, Derrida, Daumier, and Other Textualized Bodies William A. Nericcio (1993); pdf full-text
- The Friends of Jorge Luis Borges Worldwide Society & Associates A non-Governmental and not for profit organization with four distinctive entities that aim to promote artistic and intellectual talents along with civic virtues in new generations of mankind. Borges' works ("a writer of writers" for his extensive and insightful readings) are celebrated as a thread of Ariadne to walk the labyrinths of Philosophy and Literature and all fields of knowledge in quest of wisdom.