Fiction, fantasy and philosophy – Jorge Louis Borges (Part II)

Spanish books

If you weren’t with me last time, I’m looking at the career of one of the most famous Latin American (if not world) writers.

In the 1950s, Borges became almost totally blind.  The irony of the affliction of blindness on a writer was not lost on him, as the following admirably demonstrates.

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

“No one should read self-pity or reproach

Into this statement of the majesty

Of God; who with such splendid irony,

Granted me books and night at one touch.”

I first became aware of Borges when reading Louis Theroux’s ‘The Old Patagonian Express’, the story of Theroux’s journey by train from Boston in the USA to the far south of Argentina.  When he got to Buenos Aires, Theroux spent much time with Borges, reading to him and discussing literature and favourite writers.

It wasn’t until he was translated into English that Borges’ international reputation was cemented, helped considerably by his being awarded, along with Samuel Beckett, the first Prix International, recognition that stirred great interest in his work. In 1962, two major anthologies of Borges’s writings were published in English: Ficciones and Labyrinths, and these helped develop an interest in his work in North America and Europe.

He was fiercely critical of the extremes of both left and right, especially the Peronists who he – rightly, as history has shown – believed were very bad for Argentina.

You can find Borges in Waterstones and while, like Gabriel García Márquez, he can be difficult to read, the effort is well worth it.  There is also a long and detailed entry in Wikipedia which will give you more information on this exceptionally talented Argentinian writer.

Juan Piedra