Jorge Luis Borges
Overview
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986), known as Jorge Luis Borges (ˈxorxe ˈlwis ˈβorxes), was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family travelled widely in Europe, including stays in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in surrealist literary journals.
Quotations

If the pages of this book contain some successful verse, the reader must excuse me the discourtesy of having usurped it first. Our nothingness differs little; it is a trivial and chance circumstance that you should be the reader of these exercises and I their author.

"To the Reader" ["A quien leyere"], preface to Fervor of Buenos Aires [Fervor de Buenos Aires] (1923)

That one individual should awaken in another memories that belong to still a third is an obvious paradox.

Evaristo Carriego (1930) Ch. 2

Reading ... is an activity subsequent to writing: more resigned, more civil, more intellectual.

Universal History of Infamy [Historia universal de la infamia] (1935) Preface

Mir Bahadur Ali is, as we have seen, incapable of evading the most vulgar of art's temptations: that of being a genius.

"The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim" (1935)

The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings.

"The Library of Babel" ["La Biblioteca de Babel"] (1941) First lines

Encyclopedia
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986), known as Jorge Luis Borges (ˈxorxe ˈlwis ˈβorxes), was an Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

. In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland
Switzerland
Switzerland name of one of the Swiss cantons. ; ; ; or ), in its full name the Swiss Confederation , is a federal republic consisting of 26 cantons, with Bern as the seat of the federal authorities. The country is situated in Western Europe,Or Central Europe depending on the definition....

 where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family travelled widely in Europe, including stays in Spain
Spain
Spain , officially the Kingdom of Spain languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Spain's official name is as follows:;;;;;;), is a country and member state of the European Union located in southwestern Europe on the Iberian Peninsula...

. 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
University of Buenos Aires
The University of Buenos Aires is the largest university in Argentina and the largest university by enrollment in Latin America. Founded on August 12, 1821 in the city of Buenos Aires, it consists of 13 faculties, 6 hospitals, 10 museums and is linked to 4 high schools: Colegio Nacional de Buenos...

. In 1961 he came to international attention when he received the first ever Prix International
Prix Formentor
The Prix Formentor was an international literary prize awarded between 1961 and 1967. The Formentor Group offered two prizes, the Prix Formentor and the Prix International, . The Prix Formentor was given to previously unpublished work and the the Prix International was given to work already in...

, sharing the award with Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.Beckett is widely regarded as among the most...

. In 1971 he won the Jerusalem Prize
Jerusalem Prize
The Jerusalem Prize for the Freedom of the Individual in Society is a biennial literary award given to writers whose works have dealt with themes of human freedom in society. It is awarded at the Jerusalem International Book Fair, and the recipient usually delivers an address when accepting the award...

. His work was translated and published widely in the United States and in Europe. Borges himself was fluent in several languages. Borges had dedicated his final work, Los Conjurados (The Conspirators), to the city of Geneva, Switzerland, and it was there, in 1986, that he chose to die.

His work embraces the "character of unreality in all literature". His most famous books, Ficciones
Ficciones
Ficciones is the most popular anthology of short stories by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges, often considered the best introduction to his work. Ficciones should not be confused with Labyrinths, although they have much in common. Labyrinths is a separate translation of Borges' material,...

 (1944) and The Aleph (1949), are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, animals, fictional writers, religion and God. His works have contributed to the genre of science fiction as well as the genre of magic realism
Magic realism
Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the "real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of...

, a genre that reacted against the realism/naturalism of the nineteenth century. In fact, critic Angel Flores, the first to use the term, set the beginning of this movement with Borges's Historia universal de la infamia (A Universal History of Infamy
A Universal History of Infamy
A Universal History of Infamy, or A Universal History of Iniquity , is a collection of short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, first published in 1935, and revised by the author in 1954. Most were published individually in the newspaper Critica between 1933 and 1934...

) (1935
1935 in literature
The year 1935 in literature involved some significant events and new books.-Events:* June 15 - W. H. Auden enters a marriage of convenience with Erika Mann.* July 30 - Allen Lane founds Penguin Books to publish the first mass market paperbacks in Britain....

). Scholars also have suggested that Borges's progressive blindness helped him to create innovative literary symbols through imagination. His late poems dialogue with such cultural figures as Spinoza, Camões
Luís de Camões
Luís Vaz de Camões is considered Portugal's and the Portuguese language's greatest poet. His mastery of verse has been compared to that of Shakespeare, Vondel, Homer, Virgil and Dante. He wrote a considerable amount of lyrical poetry and drama but is best remembered for his epic work Os Lusíadas...

, and Virgil
Virgil
Publius Vergilius Maro, usually called Virgil or Vergil in English , was an ancient Roman poet of the Augustan period. He is known for three major works of Latin literature, the Eclogues , the Georgics, and the epic Aeneid...

.

His international fame was consolidated in the 1960s, aided by the "Latin American Boom
Latin American Boom
The Latin American Boom was a literary movement of the 1960s and 1970s when the work of a group of relatively young Latin American novelists became widely circulated in Europe and throughout the world...

" and the success of Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel García Márquez
Gabriel José de la Concordia García Márquez is a Colombian novelist, short-story writer, screenwriter and journalist, known affectionately as Gabo throughout Latin America. He is considered one of the most significant authors of the 20th century. He was awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature in...

's Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude
One Hundred Years of Solitude
One Hundred Years of Solitude , by Gabriel García Márquez, is a novel which tells the multi-generational story of the Buendía family, whose patriarch, José Arcadio Buendía, founds the town of Macondo, the metaphoric Colombia...

). Writer and essayist J. M. Coetzee said of him: "He, more than anyone, renovated the language of fiction and thus opened the way to a remarkable generation of Spanish American novelists."

Early life and education

Jorge Luis Borges was born in an educated middle-class family in August 1899. They were in comfortable circumstances but not wealthy enough to live in downtown Buenos Aires. They resided in Palermo
Palermo, Buenos Aires
Palermo is a neighborhood, or barrio of the Argentine capital, Buenos Aires. It is located in the northeast of the city, bordering the barrios of Belgrano to the north, Almagro and Recoleta to the south, Villa Crespo and Colegiales to the west and the Río de la Plata river to the east. With a total...

, then a poorer suburb of the city. Borges's mother, Leonor Acevedo Suárez, came from a traditional Uruguay
Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

an family of "pure" criollo
Criollo people
The Criollo class ranked below that of the Iberian Peninsulares, the high-born permanent residence colonists born in Spain. But Criollos were higher status/rank than all other castes—people of mixed descent, Amerindians, and enslaved Africans...

 (Spanish) descent. Her family had been much involved in the European settling of South America, and she spoke often of their heroic actions. Borges's 1929 book Cuaderno San Martín includes the poem "Isidoro Acevedo," commemorating his grandfather, Isidoro de Acevedo Laprida, a soldier of the Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

 Army. A descendant of the Argentine lawyer and politician Francisco Narciso de Laprida
Francisco Narciso de Laprida
Francisco Narciso de Laprida was an Argentine lawyer and politician. He was a representative for San Juan at the Congress of Tucumán, and its president on July 9, 1816, when the Declaration of Independence of Argentina was declared.Laprida started his studies at the Real Colegio de San Carlos in...

, Acevedo fought in the battles of Cepeda
Battle of Cepeda (1859)
The Battle of Cepeda of 1859 took place on October 23 at Cañada de Cepeda, Santa Fe, Argentina. The Republic of the Argentine Confederation army, led by Federal Justo José de Urquiza defeated the Province of Buenos Aires forces, led by Unitarian Bartolomé Mitre.-The battle in context:Before the...

 in 1859, Pavón
Battle of Pavón
The Battle of Pavón was a key battle of the Argentine civil wars fought in Pavón, in Santa Fé Province, Argentina, on September 17, 1861, between the Army of Buenos Aires, commanded by Bartolomé Mitre, and the National Army, commanded by Justo José de Urquiza...

 in 1861, and Los Corrales
Battle of Los Corrales
The Battle of Los Corrales took place in Parque Patricios, Buenos Aires, Argentina, on June 21, 1880, and confronted the side led by Carlos Tejedor, governor of Buenos Aires, against the National Army led by president Nicolás Avellaneda....

 in 1880. Isidoro de Acevedo Laprida died of pulmonary congestion in the house where his grandson Jorge Luis Borges was born. Borges grew up hearing about the faded family glory. On the other side, Borges's father, Jorge Guillermo Borges Haslam, was part Spanish, part Portuguese, and half English, also the son of a colonel. Borges Haslam, whose mother was English, grew up speaking English at home and took his own family frequently to Europe. England and English pervaded the family home.

At nine, Jorge Luis Borges translated The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

 into Spanish. It was published in a local journal, but his friends thought the real author was his father. Borges Haslam was a lawyer and psychology teacher who harboured literary aspirations. Borges said his father "tried to become a writer and failed in the attempt." He wrote, "as most of my people had been soldiers and I knew I would never be, I felt ashamed, quite early, to be a bookish kind of person and not a man of action."

Borges was taught at home until the age of 11, 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." His father gave up practicing law due to the failing eyesight that would eventually afflict his son. In 1914, the family moved to Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

, Switzerland, and spent the next decade in Europe. Borges Haslam was treated by a Geneva eye specialist, while his son and daughter Norah
Norah Borges
Leonor Fanny Borges Acevedo , better known by the pseudonym Norah Borges was a visual artist and art critic, member of the Florida group, and sister of the Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges....

 attended school, where Borges junior learned French. He read Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

 in English, and began to read philosophy in German. In 1917, when he was 18, he met Maurice Abramowicz and began a literary friendship that would last the rest of his life. He received his baccalauréat
Baccalauréat
The baccalauréat , often known in France colloquially as le bac, is an academic qualification which French and international students take at the end of the lycée . It was introduced by Napoleon I in 1808. It is the main diploma required to pursue university studies...

 from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The Borges family decided that, due to political unrest in Argentina, they would remain in Switzerland during the war, staying until 1921. After World War I
World War I
World War I , which was predominantly called the World War or the Great War from its occurrence until 1939, and the First World War or World War I thereafter, was a major war centred in Europe that began on 28 July 1914 and lasted until 11 November 1918...

, the family spent three years living in various cities: Lugano
Lugano
Lugano is a city of inhabitants in the city proper and a total of over 145,000 people in the agglomeration/city region, in the south of Switzerland, in the Italian-speaking canton of Ticino, which borders Italy...

, Barcelona
Barcelona
Barcelona is the second largest city in Spain after Madrid, and the capital of Catalonia, with a population of 1,621,537 within its administrative limits on a land area of...

, Majorca, Seville
Seville
Seville is the artistic, historic, cultural, and financial capital of southern Spain. It is the capital of the autonomous community of Andalusia and of the province of Seville. It is situated on the plain of the River Guadalquivir, with an average elevation of above sea level...

, and Madrid
Madrid
Madrid is the capital and largest city of Spain. The population of the city is roughly 3.3 million and the entire population of the Madrid metropolitan area is calculated to be 6.271 million. It is the third largest city in the European Union, after London and Berlin, and its metropolitan...

.

At that time, Borges discovered the writing of Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer
Arthur Schopenhauer was a German philosopher known for his pessimism and philosophical clarity. At age 25, he published his doctoral dissertation, On the Fourfold Root of the Principle of Sufficient Reason, which examined the four separate manifestations of reason in the phenomenal...

 and Gustav Meyrink
Gustav Meyrink
Gustav Meyrink was the pseudonym of Gustav Meyer, an Austrian author, storyteller, dramatist, translator, and banker, most famous for his novel The Golem.-Childhood:...

's The Golem
The Golem (Meyrink)
The Golem is a novel written by Gustav Meyrink in 1914.First published in serial form as Der Golem in 1913-14 in the periodical Die weissen Blätter, The Golem was published in book form in 1915 by Kurt Wolff, Leipzig. The Golem was Meyrink's first novel...

 (1915) which became influential to his work. In Spain, Borges fell in with and became a member of the avant-garde
Avant-garde
Avant-garde means "advance guard" or "vanguard". The adjective form is used in English to refer to people or works that are experimental or innovative, particularly with respect to art, culture, and politics....

, anti-Modernist Ultraist literary movement, inspired by Apollinaire and Marinetti, close to the Imagists. His first poem, "Hymn to the Sea," written in the style of Walt Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

, was published in the magazine Grecia. While in Spain, he met noted Spanish writers, including Rafael Cansinos Assens
Rafael Cansinos Assens
Rafael Cansinos Assens , born in Seville, was a Spanish poet, essayist, literary critic and translator.Cansinos was a polyglot; he translated The Arabian Nights into Spanish, as well as the works of Dostoyevsky, and the complete works of Goethe and Shakespeare for the publisher Aguilar.In the...

 and Ramón Gómez de la Serna
Ramón Gómez de la Serna
Ramón Gómez de la Serna Puig was a Spanish writer, dramatist and avant-garde agitator. He strongly influenced surrealist film maker Luis Buñuel....

.

Early writing career

In 1921, Borges returned with his family to Buenos Aires. He had little formal education, no qualifications and few friends. He wrote to a friend that Buenos Aires was now "overrun by arrivistes, by correct youths lacking any mental equipment, and decorative young ladies". He brought with him the doctrine of Ultraism
Ultraist movement
The Ultraist movement was a literary movement born in Spain in 1918, with the declared intention of opposing Modernismo, which had dominated Spanish poetry since the end of the 19th century....

 and launched his career, publishing surreal poems and essays in literary journals. In 1930, Nestor Ibarra called Borges the "Great Apostle of Criollismo
Criollismo
Criollismo is a literary movement, also called costumbrismo, that took place between the end of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century in Latin America, and is considered equivalent to regionalism in the USA literature. It is based on realism to describe the scenes, customs and...

," celebrating Latin American regionalism
Regionalism (literature)
In literature, regionalism or local color refers to fiction or poetry that focuses on specific features – including characters, dialects, customs, history, and topography – of a particular region...

. Borges published his first published collection of poetry, Fervor de Buenos Aires, in 1923 and contributed to the avant-garde review Martín Fierro
Martín Fierro (magazine)
Martín Fierro was an Argentine literary magazine which appeared from February 1924 to 1927. It was founded by Evar Méndez , José B. Cairola, Leónidas Campbell, H. Carambat, Luis L. Franco, Oliverio Girondo, Ernesto Palacio, Pablo Rojas Paz, and Gastón O...

. 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 and fiction. He worked in a style that Ana María Barrenechea has called "Irreality." Many other Latin American writers, such as Juan Rulfo
Juan Rulfo
Juan Rulfo was a Mexican author and photographer. One of Latin America's most esteemed authors, Rulfo's reputation rests on two slim books, the novel Pedro Páramo , and El Llano en llamas...

, Juan José Arreola
Juan José Arreola
Juan José Arreola Zúñiga was a Mexican writer and academic. He is considered Mexico's premier experimental short story writer of the twentieth century. Arreola is recognized as one of the first Latin American writers to abandon realism; he uses elements of fantasy to underscore existentialist and...

, and Alejo Carpentier
Alejo Carpentier
Alejo Carpentier y Valmont was a Cuban novelist, essayist, and musicologist who greatly influenced Latin American literature during its famous "boom" period. Born in Lausanne, Switzerland, Carpentier grew up in Havana, Cuba; and despite his European birthplace, Carpentier strongly self-identified...

, were also investigating these themes, influenced by the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger and the existentialism
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

 of Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

. In this vein, his biographer Williamson underlines how careful readers must be not to infer a biographical basis for Borges's work as books, philosophy and imagination were as much a source of real inspiration to him as personal experience, if not more so. From the first issue, Borges was a regular contributor to Sur (South), founded in 1931 by Victoria Ocampo
Victoria Ocampo
Victoria Ocampo Aguirre was an Argentine writer and intellectual, described by Jorge Luis Borges as La mujer más argentina ....

. It was then Argentina's most important literary journal and helped Borges find his fame. Ocampo introduced Borges to Adolfo Bioy Casares
Adolfo Bioy Casares
Adolfo Bioy Casares was an Argentine fiction writer, journalist, and translator. He was a friend and collaborator with his fellow countryman Jorge Luis Borges, and wrote what many consider one of the best pieces of fantastic fiction, the novella The Invention of Morel.-Biography:Adolfo Bioy...

, another well-known figure of Argentine literature, who was to become a frequent collaborator and close 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
Macedonio Fernandez
Macedonio Fernández was an Argentine writer, humorist, and philosopher. His writings included novels, stories, poetry, journalism, and works not easily classified. He was a mentor to Jorge Luis Borges and other avant-garde Argentine writers. Seventeen years of his correspondence with Borges was...

 became a major influence on Borges. The two would preside over discussions in cafés, country retreats, or Fernández' tiny apartment in the Balvanera
Balvanera
Balvanera is a neighborhood of Buenos Aires, Argentina.-Origin of Name and Alternative Names:The official name, Balvanera, is the name of the parroquia centered around the church of Nuestra Señora de Balvanera, erected in 1831.The zone around Corrientes avenue is known as Once after Plaza Once de...

 district. He appears explicitly in Borges's "Dialogue about a Dialogue," in which the two discuss the immortality of the soul.

In 1933, Borges gained an editorial appointment at the literary supplement of the newspaper Crítica, where he first published the pieces later collected as the Historia universal de la infamia (A Universal History of Infamy
A Universal History of Infamy
A Universal History of Infamy, or A Universal History of Iniquity , is a collection of short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, first published in 1935, and revised by the author in 1954. Most were published individually in the newspaper Critica between 1933 and 1934...

, 1936). The book included two types of writing. The first lay somewhere between non-fictional essays and short stories, using fictional techniques to tell essentially true stories. The second consisted of literary forgeries, which Borges initially passed off as translations of passages from famous but seldom-read works. In the following years, he served as a literary adviser for the publishing house Emecé Editores
Emecé Editores
Emecé Editores is an Argentine publishing house, currently a subsidiary of Grupo Planeta.The company was founded in 1939 by Mariano Medina del Río, shortly after his arrival from Spain, with the literary collaboration of Álvaro de las Casas, and the support of Medina's former classmate Carlos Braun...

 and wrote weekly columns for El Hogar, which appeared from 1936 to 1939. In 1938, Borges found work as first assistant at the Buenos Aires Municipal Library in Miguel Cané, a working class area. There were so few books that cataloguing more than one hundred books per day, he was told, would leave little to do for the other staff and so look bad. The task took him about an hour each day and the rest of his time he spent in the basement of the library, writing articles, short stories and translations.

Later career

Borges's father died in 1938. This was a tragedy for the writer as the two were very close. On Christmas Eve that year, Borges suffered a severe head injury; during treatment, he nearly died of septicemia. While recovering from the accident, Borges began playing with a new style of writing, for which he would become famous. His first story written after his accident, "Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote" came in May 1939, examining the father-son relationship and the nature of authorship. His first collection of short stories, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths
The Garden of Forking Paths
"The Garden of Forking Paths" is a 1941 short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It is the title story in the collection El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan , which was republished in its entirety in Ficciones in 1944...

), appeared in 1941, composed mostly of works previously published in Sur. The title story concerns a Chinese professor in England, 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. A combination of book and maze, it can be read in many ways. Through it, Borges arguably invented the hypertext
Hypertext fiction
Hypertext fiction is a genre of electronic literature, characterized by the use of hypertext links which provides a new context for non-linearity in "literature" and reader interaction. The reader typically chooses links to move from one node of text to the next, and in this fashion arranges a...

 novel and went on to describe a theory of the universe based upon the structure of such a novel. Eight stories over sixty pages, the book was generally well received, but El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan failed to garner for him the literary prizes many in his circle expected. Victoria Ocampo
Victoria Ocampo
Victoria Ocampo Aguirre was an Argentine writer and intellectual, described by Jorge Luis Borges as La mujer más argentina ....

 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.

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."His was a particular kind of blindness, grown on him gradually since the age of thirty and settled in for good after his fifty-eighth birthday." From , Alberto Manguel
Alberto Manguel
Alberto Manguel is a Canadian Argentine-born writer, translator, and editor. He is the author of numerous non-fiction books such as The Dictionary of Imaginary Places , A History of Reading , The Library at Night and Homer's Iliad and Odyssey: A Biography ; and novels such as News...

 (2006) With Borges, London:Telegram Books pp. 15–16.
He 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 made into a film (under the name of Días de odio, Days of Hate, directed in 1954 by the Argentine director Leopoldo Torre Nilsson
Leopoldo Torre Nilsson
Leopoldo Torre Nilsson , also known as Leo Towers and as Babsy, was an Argentine film director, producer and screenwriter....

). Around this time, Borges also began writing screenplays.

By the late 1950s, he had become completely blind. In 1955, he was nominated to the directorship of the National Library. Neither the coincidence nor the irony of his blindness as a writer escaped Borges:
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 blindness at one touch.

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
University of Buenos Aires
The University of Buenos Aires is the largest university in Argentina and the largest university by enrollment in Latin America. Founded on August 12, 1821 in the city of Buenos Aires, it consists of 13 faculties, 6 hospitals, 10 museums and is linked to 4 high schools: Colegio Nacional de Buenos...

, 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
Braille
The Braille system is a method that is widely used by blind people to read and write, and was the first digital form of writing.Braille was devised in 1825 by Louis Braille, a blind Frenchman. Each Braille character, or cell, is made up of six dot positions, arranged in a rectangle containing two...

), his mother, to whom he had always been close, became his personal secretary. When Perón returned from exile and was re-elected president in 1973, Borges immediately resigned as director of the National Library.

International renown

Eight of Borges's poems appear in the 1943 anthology of Spanish American Poets by H. R. Hays.The Borges poems in H. R. Hays, ed. (1943) 12 Spanish American Poets are "A Patio," "Butcher Shop," "Benares," "The Recoleta," "A Day's Run," "General Quiroga Rides to Death in a Carriage," "July Avenue," and "Natural Flow of Memory." "The Garden of Forking Paths
The Garden of Forking Paths
"The Garden of Forking Paths" is a 1941 short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It is the title story in the collection El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan , which was republished in its entirety in Ficciones in 1944...

", one of the first Borges stories to be translated into English, appeared in the August 1948 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine
Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine is an American monthly digest size fiction magazine specializing in crime fiction, particularly detective fiction...

, translated by Anthony Boucher
Anthony Boucher
Anthony Boucher was an American science fiction editor and author of mystery novels and short stories. He was particularly influential as an editor. Between 1942 and 1947 he acted as reviewer of mostly mystery fiction for the San Francisco Chronicle...

. 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 Prix International
Prix Formentor
The Prix Formentor was an international literary prize awarded between 1961 and 1967. The Formentor Group offered two prizes, the Prix Formentor and the Prix International, . The Prix Formentor was given to previously unpublished work and the the Prix International was given to work already in...

, which he shared with Samuel Beckett
Samuel Beckett
Samuel Barclay Beckett was an Irish avant-garde novelist, playwright, theatre director, and poet. He wrote both in English and French. His work offers a bleak, tragicomic outlook on human nature, often coupled with black comedy and gallows humour.Beckett is widely regarded as among the most...

. While Beckett had garnered a distinguished reputation in Europe and America, Borges had been largely unknown and untranslated in the English-speaking world and the prize stirred great interest in his work. The Italian government named Borges Commendatore and the University of Texas at Austin
University of Texas at Austin
The University of Texas at Austin is a state research university located in Austin, Texas, USA, and is the flagship institution of the The University of Texas System. Founded in 1883, its campus is located approximately from the Texas State Capitol in 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
Ficciones
Ficciones is the most popular anthology of short stories by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges, often considered the best introduction to his work. Ficciones should not be confused with Labyrinths, although they have much in common. Labyrinths is a separate translation of Borges' material,...

 and Labyrinths
Labyrinths
Labyrinths is an English-language collection of short stories and essays by Jorge Luis Borges.It includes "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", "The Garden of Forking Paths", and "The Library of Babel", three of Borges' most famous stories. Many of the stories are from the collections Ficciones and El...

. In that year, Borges began lecture tours of Europe. In 1980, he was awarded the Balzan Prize
Balzan Prize
The International Balzan Prize Foundation awards four annual monetary prizes to people or organisations who have made outstanding achievements in the fields of humanities, natural sciences, culture, as well as for endeavours for peace and the brotherhood of man.-Rewards and assets:Each year the...

 (for Philology, Linguistics and literary Criticism) and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca
Prix mondial Cino Del Duca
The Prix mondial Cino Del Duca is an international literary award.-Origins and operations:It was established in 1969 in France by Simone Del Duca to continue the work of her husband, publishing magnate Cino Del Duca .Designed to recognize and reward an author whose work constitutes, in a...

; numerous other honors were to accumulate over the years, such as the French Legion of Honour
Légion d'honneur
The Legion of Honour, or in full the National Order of the Legion of Honour is a French order established by Napoleon Bonaparte, First Consul of the Consulat which succeeded to the First Republic, on 19 May 1802...

 in 1983, the Cervantes Prize, and a Special Edgar Allan Poe Award
Edgar Award
The Edgar Allan Poe Awards , named after Edgar Allan Poe, are presented every year by the Mystery Writers of America...

 from the Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America
Mystery Writers of America is an organization for mystery writers, based in New York.The organization was founded in 1945 by Clayton Rawson, Anthony Boucher, Lawrence Treat, and Brett Halliday....

, "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
Norman Thomas di Giovanni
Norman Thomas di Giovanni is an American-born editor and translator known for his collaboration with Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges.-Biography:...

, through whom he became better known in the English-speaking world. He also continued to publish books, among them El libro de los seres imaginarios (Book of Imaginary Beings
Book of Imaginary Beings
Jorge Luis Borges wrote and edited the Book of Imaginary Beings in 1957 as the original Spanish Manual de zoología fantástica, or Handbook of Fantastic Zoology, expanding it in 1967 and 1969 to the final El libro de los seres imaginarios...

, (1967, co-written with Margarita Guerrero), El informe de Brodie (Dr. Brodie's Report, 1970), and El libro de arena (The Book of Sand
The Book of Sand (book)
The Book of Sand is a short story collection by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, published in 1975. According to the author's opinion, the collection, written in his last days , is his best book, an opinion not shared by most critics, who prefer his other works such as Ficciones.Referring to...

, 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). His presence, also in 1967, on campus at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA) influenced a group of students amongst which was Jared Loewenstein who would later become founder and curator of the Jorge Luis Borges Collection at UVA, one of the largest repositories of documents and manuscripts pertaining to the early works of JLB.

Later personal life

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 internationally. He was often accompanied in these travels by his personal assistant María Kodama
María Kodama
María Kodama Schweitzer is the widow of Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges and sole owner of his estate after his death in 1986. Borges had bequeathed to Kodama his rights as author in a will written in 1979, when she was his literary secretary, and bequeathed to her his whole estate in 1985...

, 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
Paraguay
Paraguay , officially the Republic of Paraguay , is a landlocked country in South America. It is bordered by Argentina to the south and southwest, Brazil to the east and northeast, and Bolivia to the northwest. Paraguay lies on both banks of the Paraguay River, which runs through the center of the...

, in what was then a common practice among Argentines wishing to circumvent the Argentine laws of the time regarding divorce.

Jorge Luis Borges died of liver cancer
Hepatocellular carcinoma
Hepatocellular carcinoma is the most common type of liver cancer. Most cases of HCC are secondary to either a viral hepatitide infection or cirrhosis .Compared to other cancers, HCC is quite a rare tumor in the United States...

 in 1986 in Geneva and was buried there in the Cimetière des Rois
Cimetière des Rois
The Cimetière des Rois or Cimetière de Plainpalais, is a cemetery in Geneva, Switzerland, where John Calvin, the Protestant reformer, Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine author, Sérgio Vieira de Mello, the former UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, and Jean Piaget, the noted child psychologist are...

. Kodama, his widow and heir on the basis of the marriage and two wills, gained control over his works. Her assertive administration of his estate resulted in a bitter dispute with the French publisher Gallimard regarding the republication of the complete works of Borges in French, with Pierre Assouline
Pierre Assouline
Pierre Assouline is a writer and journalist. He was born in Casablanca, Morocco. He has published several novels and biographies, and also contributes articles for the print media and broadcasts for radio....

 in Le Nouvel Observateur
Le Nouvel Observateur
Le Nouvel Observateur is a weekly French newsmagazine. Based in Paris, it is the most prominent French general information magazine in terms of audience and circulation ....

 (August 2006) calling her "an obstacle to the dissemination of the works of Borges." Kodama took legal action against Assouline, considering the remark unjustified and defamatory, asking for a symbolic compensation of one euro. Kodama also rescinded all publishing rights for existing collections of his work in English, including the translations by Norman Thomas di Giovanni
Norman Thomas di Giovanni
Norman Thomas di Giovanni is an American-born editor and translator known for his collaboration with Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges.-Biography:...

, in which Borges himself collaborated, and from which di Giovanni would have received an unusually high fifty percent of the royalties. Kodama commissioned new translations by Andrew Hurley
Andrew Hurley (academic)
Andrew Hurley is primarily known as an English translator of Spanish literature, having translated a variety of authors, most notably the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges....

 which have become the standard translations in English.

Anti-Communism

In an interview with Richard Burgin
Richard Burgin (writer)
For the Polish-American violinist,, see Richard BurginRichard Burgin is an American fiction writer, editor, composer, critic, and academic. He has published fourteen books, with one more forthcoming, and since 1996 has been professor of Communication and English at St. Louis University...

 during the late 1960s, Borges described himself as an adherent of Classical Liberalism
Classical liberalism
Classical liberalism is the philosophy committed to the ideal of limited government, constitutionalism, rule of law, due process, and liberty of individuals including freedom of religion, speech, press, assembly, and free markets....

. He further recalled that his opposition to Marxism
Marxism
Marxism is an economic and sociopolitical worldview and method of socioeconomic inquiry that centers upon a materialist interpretation of history, a dialectical view of social change, and an analysis and critique of the development of capitalism. Marxism was pioneered in the early to mid 19th...

 and Communism
Communism
Communism is a social, political and economic ideology that aims at the establishment of a classless, moneyless, revolutionary and stateless socialist society structured upon common ownership of the means of production...

 was absorbed in his childhood. "Well, I have been brought up to think that the individual should be strong and the State should be weak. I couldn't be enthusiastic about theories where the State is more important than the individual." After the overthrow via coup d'etat
Coup d'état
A coup d'état state, literally: strike/blow of state)—also known as a coup, putsch, and overthrow—is the sudden, extrajudicial deposition of a government, usually by a small group of the existing state establishment—typically the military—to replace the deposed government with another body; either...

 of President Juan Domingo Perón in 1955, Borges supported efforts to purge Argentina's Government of Peronists and dismantle the former President's welfare state. He was enraged that the Communist Party of Argentina
Communist Party of Argentina
The Communist Party of Argentina is a communist party from Argentina. It was founded in 1918.At the 2005 legislative elections, the Party joined the Encuentro Amplio with other left-wing parties in Buenos Aires and Buenos Aires Province...

 opposed these measures and sharply criticized them in lectures and in print. Borges' opposition to the Party in this matter ultimately led to a permanent rift with his longtime lover, Argentine Communist Estela Canto
Estela Canto
Estela Canto was an Argentine writer and translator best known for her relationship with Jorge Luis Borges.- Life :Canto was the descendant of an old Uruguayan family. Her ancestors included some important military men...

. In later years, Borges frequently expressed contempt for Marxists and Communists within the Latin American intelligentsia. In an interview with Burgin, Borges referred to Chilean
Chilean people
Chilean people, or simply Chileans, are the native citizens and long-term immigrants of Chile. Chileans are mainly of Spanish and Amerindian descent, with small but significant traces of 19th and 20th century European immigrant origin...

 Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda
Pablo Neruda was the pen name and, later, legal name of the Chilean poet, diplomat and politician Neftalí Ricardo Reyes Basoalto. He chose his pen name after Czech poet Jan Neruda....

 as "a very fine poet," but a "very mean man" for unconditionally supporting the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

 and demonizing the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

. During the 1970s, Borges at first expressed support for Argentina's military junta
Military junta
A junta or military junta is a government led by a committee of military leaders. The term derives from the Spanish language junta meaning committee, specifically a board of directors...

, but was scandalized by the junta's actions during the Dirty War
Dirty War
The Dirty War was a period of state-sponsored violence in Argentina from 1976 until 1983. Victims of the violence included several thousand left-wing activists, including trade unionists, students, journalists, Marxists, Peronist guerrillas and alleged sympathizers, either proved or suspected...

. In protest against their support of the regime, Borges ceased publishing in the newspaper La Nación
La Nación
La Nación is an Argentine daily newspaper. The country's leading conservative paper, the centrist Clarín is its main competitor. It is the only newspaper in Argentina still published in broadsheet format.-Overview:...

.

Anti-Fascism

In 1934, Argentine ultra-nationalists, sympathetic to Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler
Adolf Hitler was an Austrian-born German politician and the leader of the National Socialist German Workers Party , commonly referred to as the Nazi Party). He was Chancellor of Germany from 1933 to 1945, and head of state from 1934 to 1945...

 and the Nazi Party, asserted Borges was secretly Jewish, and by implication, not a "true" Argentine. Borges responded with the essay "Yo Judío" ("I, a Jew"), a reference to the old "Yo, Argentino" ("I, an Argentine"), a defensive phrase used during pogrom
Pogrom
A pogrom is a form of violent riot, a mob attack directed against a minority group, and characterized by killings and destruction of their homes and properties, businesses, and religious centres...

s of Argentine Jews to make it clear to attackers that an intended victim was not Jewish.De Costa, René (2000) Humor in Borges (Humor in Life & Letters). Wayne State University Press p49 ISBN 0-8143-2888-1 In the essay he notes, that he would be proud to be a Jew, with a backhanded reminder that any "pure" Castilian might be likely to have Jewish ancestry from a millennium ago.

Both before and during the Second World War, Borges regularly published essays attacking the Nazi police state and its racist ideology. His outrage was fueled by his deep love for German literature
German literature
German literature comprises those literary texts written in the German language. This includes literature written in Germany, Austria, the German part of Switzerland, and to a lesser extent works of the German diaspora. German literature of the modern period is mostly in Standard German, but there...

. In an essay published in 1937, Borges attacked the Nazi Party's use of children's books in order to inflame Anti-Semitism. He wrote, " I don't know if the world can do without German civilization, but I do know that its corruption by the teachings of hatred is a crime."

In a 1938 essay, Borges reviewed an anthology which rewrote German authors of the past to fit the Nazi party line. He was disgusted by what he describes as Germany's "chaotic descent into darkness" and the attendant re-writing of history. He argues that such books sacrifice culture, history and honesty in the name of defending German honour. Such practices, he writes, "perfect the criminal arts of barbarians." In a 1944 essay, Borges postulated,
"Nazism suffers from unreality, like Erigena's hell. It is uninhabitable; men can only die for it, lie for it, wound and kill for it. No one, in the intimate depths of his being, can wish it to triumph. I shall risk this conjecture: Hitler wants to be defeated. Hitler is blindly collaborating with the inevitable armies that will annihilate him, as the metal vultures and the dragon, (which must have known that they were monsters), collaborated, mysteriously, with Hercules
Hercules
Hercules is the Roman name for Greek demigod Heracles, son of Zeus , and the mortal Alcmene...

."


In 1946, Borges published the short story
Short story
A short story is a work of fiction that is usually written in prose, often in narrative format. This format tends to be more pointed than longer works of fiction, such as novellas and novels. Short story definitions based on length differ somewhat, even among professional writers, in part because...

, "Deutsches Requiem," which masquerades as the last testament of Otto Dietrich zur Linde, a condemned Nazi war criminal. In a 1967 interview with Burgin, Borges recalled how his interactions with Argentina's Nazi sympathisers led him to create the story.
And then I realized that those people that were on the side of Germany, that they never thought of German victories or the German glory. What they really liked was the idea of the Blitzkrieg
Blitzkrieg
For other uses of the word, see: Blitzkrieg Blitzkrieg is an anglicized word describing all-motorised force concentration of tanks, infantry, artillery, combat engineers and air power, concentrating overwhelming force at high speed to break through enemy lines, and, once the lines are broken,...

, of London being on fire, of the country being destroyed. As to the German fighters, they took no stock in them. Then I thought, well now Germany has lost, now America has saved us from this nightmare, but since nobody can doubt on which side I stood, I'll see what can be done from a literary point of view in favor of the Nazis. And then I created the ideal Nazi.

Opposition to Peronism

In 1946, President Juan Domingo Perón began transforming Argentina into a Justicialist regime with the assistance of his wife Evita
Eva Perón
María Eva Duarte de Perón was the second wife of President Juan Perón and served as the First Lady of Argentina from 1946 until her death in 1952. She is often referred to as simply Eva Perón, or by the affectionate Spanish language diminutive Evita.She was born in the village of Los Toldos in...

. Almost immediately, the spoils system
Spoils system
In the politics of the United States, a spoil system is a practice where a political party, after winning an election, gives government jobs to its voters as a reward for working toward victory, and as an incentive to keep working for the party—as opposed to a system of awarding offices on the...

 was the rule of the day, as ideological critics of the new order were dismissed from government jobs. During this period, Borges was informed that he was being "promoted" from his position at the Miguel Cané Library to a post as inspector of poultry and rabbits at the Buenos Aires municipal market. Upon demanding to know the reason, Borges was told, "Well, you were on the side of the Allies, what do you expect?" The following day, Borges resigned from Government service in response to an insult he would never forget, or forgive.

Peron's treatment of Borges became a cause célèbre
Cause célèbre
A is an issue or incident arousing widespread controversy, outside campaigning and heated public debate. The term is particularly used in connection with celebrated legal cases. It is a French phrase in common English use...

 for the Argentine intelligentsia. The Argentine Society of Writers (SADE) held a formal dinner in his honour. At the dinner, a speech was read which Borges had written for the occasion. It said,
"Dictatorships breed oppression, dictatorships breed servility, dictatorships breed cruelty; more loathsome still is the fact that they breed idiocy. Bellboys babbling orders, portraits of caudillo
Caudillo
Caudillo is a Spanish word for "leader" and usually describes a political-military leader at the head of an authoritarian power. The term translates into English as leader or chief, or more pejoratively as warlord, dictator or strongman. Caudillo was the term used to refer to the charismatic...

s, prearranged cheers or insults, walls covered with names, unanimous ceremonies, mere discipline usurping the place of clear thinking... Fighting these sad monotonies is one of the duties of a writer. Need I remind readers of Martín Fierro
Martín Fierro
Martín Fierro is a 2,316 line epic poem by the Argentine writer José Hernández. The poem was originally published in two parts, El Gaucho Martín Fierro and La Vuelta de Martín Fierro . The poem is, in part, a protest against the modernist tendencies of Argentine president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento...

 or Don Segundo that individualism is an old Argentine virtue."


In the aftermath, Borges found himself much in demand as a lecturer and one of the intellectual leaders of the Argentine opposition. In 1951 he was asked by Anti-Peronist friends to run for president of SADE. Borges, then suffering from depression caused by a failed romance, reluctantly accepted. He later recalled that he would awake every morning and remember that Peron was President and feel deeply depressed and ashamed. Peron's government had seized control of the Argentine mass media and regarded SADE with indifference. Borges later recalled, however, "Many distinguished men of letters did not dare set foot inside its doors."Williamson (2004) p313 Meanwhile, SADE became an increasing refuge for critics of the regime. SADE official Luisa Mercedes Levinson noted, "We would gather every week to tell the latest jokes about the ruling couple and even dared to sing the songs of the French Resistance
French Resistance
The French Resistance is the name used to denote the collection of French resistance movements that fought against the Nazi German occupation of France and against the collaborationist Vichy régime during World War II...

, as well as 'La Marseillaise
La Marseillaise
"La Marseillaise" is the national anthem of France. The song, originally titled "Chant de guerre pour l'Armée du Rhin" was written and composed by Claude Joseph Rouget de Lisle in 1792. The French National Convention adopted it as the Republic's anthem in 1795...

'."

After Evita's death on July 26, 1952, Borges received a visit from two policemen, who ordered him to put up two portraits of the ruling couple on the premises of SADE. Borges indignantly refused, calling it a ridiculous demand. The policemen icily retorted that he would soon face the consequences. The regime placed Borges under 24-hour surveillance and sent policemen to sit in on his lectures; in September it ordered SADE to be permanently closed down. Like much of the Argentine opposition to Peron, SADE had become marginalized due to persecution by the State and very few active members remained.

According to Edwin Williamson,
Borges had agreed to stand for the presidency of the SADE in order [to] fight for intellectual freedom, but he also wanted to avenge the humiliation he believed he had suffered in 1946, when the Peronists had proposed to make him an inspector of chickens. In his letter of 1950 to Attilio Rossi, he claimed that his infamous promotion had been a clever way the Peronists had found of damaging him and diminishing his reputation. The closure of the SADE meant that the Peronists had damaged him a second time, as was borne out by the visit of the Spanish writer Julián Marías
Julián Marías
Julián Marías Aguilera , was a Spanish philosopher. His History of Philosophy is widely accepted as the greatest work written in Spanish on the subject of the history of philosophy...

, who arrived in Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires
Buenos Aires is the capital and largest city of Argentina, and the second-largest metropolitan area in South America, after São Paulo. It is located on the western shore of the estuary of the Río de la Plata, on the southeastern coast of the South American continent...

 shortly after the closure of SADE. It was impossible for Borges, as president, to hold the usual reception for the distinguished visitor; instead, one of Borges' friends brought a lamb from his ranch, and they had it roasted at a tavern across the road from the SADE building on Calle Mexico. After dinner, a friendly janitor let them into the premises, and they showed Marías around by candlelight. That tiny group of writers leading a foreign guest through a dark building by the light of gutering candles was vivid proof of the extent to which the SADE had been diminished under the rule of Juan Peron.


On September 16, 1955, General Pedro Eugenio Aramburu
Pedro Eugenio Aramburu
Pedro Eugenio Aramburu Silveti was an Argentine Army General. Born in Río Cuarto, Córdoba on May 21, 1903. He was a major figure behind the military coup against Juan Perón in 1955. He became de facto president of Argentina from November 13, 1955 to May 1, 1958...

's "Revolución Libertadora
Revolución Libertadora
The Revolución Libertadora was a military uprising that ended the second presidential term of Juan Perón in Argentina, on September 16, 1955.-History:...

" forced Peron to flee into exile. Borges was overjoyed and joined demonstrators marching through the streets of Buenos Aires. According to Williamson, Borges shouted, "Viva la Patria," until his voice grew hoarse. At his mother's prompting, the Aramburu regime appointed Borges as the Director of the National Library.

In his subsequent essay l'Illusion Comique
L'Illusion Comique
L'Illusion Comique is a comedic play by Pierre Corneille, written in 1636. In its use of meta-theatricality , it is far ahead of its time. It was first performed at the Hôtel de Bourgogne in 1636 and published in 1639....

, Borges denounced the conspiracy theories which the Peronist State had spread through the press and speeches. In conclusion, he wrote,
...one can only denounce the duplicity of the fictions of the former regime, which can't be believed and were believed. It will be said that the public's lack of sophistication is enough to explain the contradiction; I believe that the cause is more profound. Coleridge
Coleridge
Coleridge may refer to:People* Samuel Taylor Coleridge , English poet and philosopher* Coleridge , other people with the surname ColeridgePlaces* Coleridge, Cambridgeshire, a ward in the City of Cambridge...

 spoke of the "willing suspension of disbelief
Suspension of disbelief
Suspension of disbelief or "willing suspension of disbelief" is a formula for justifying the use of fantastic or non-realistic elements in literary works of fiction...

," that is, poetic faith; Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson
Samuel Johnson , often referred to as Dr. Johnson, was an English author who made lasting contributions to English literature as a poet, essayist, moralist, literary critic, biographer, editor and lexicographer...

 said, in defense of Shakespeare, that the spectators at a tragedy do not believe they are in Alexandria
Alexandria
Alexandria is the second-largest city of Egypt, with a population of 4.1 million, extending about along the coast of the Mediterranean Sea in the north central part of the country; it is also the largest city lying directly on the Mediterranean coast. It is Egypt's largest seaport, serving...

 in the first act and Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 in the second, but submit to the pleasure of a fiction. Similarly, the lies of a dictatorship are neither believed nor disbelieved; they pertain to an intermediate plane, and their purpose is to conceal or justify sordid or atrocious realities.


In a 1967 interview, Borges said, "Peron was a humbug
Humbug
Humbug is an old term meaning hoax or jest. While the term was first described in 1751 as student slang, its etymology is unknown. Its present meaning as an exclamation is closer to 'nonsense' or 'gibberish', while as a noun, a humbug refers to a fraud or impostor, implying an element of...

, and he knew it, and everybody knew it. But Peron could be very cruel. I mean, he had people tortured, killed. And his wife was a common prostitute."

When Peron returned from exile in 1973 and regained the Presidency, Borges was enraged. In a 1975 interview for National Geographic, he said "Damn, the snobs are back in the saddle. If their posters and slogans again defile the city, I'll be glad I've lost my sight. Well, they can't humilate me as they did before my books sold well."National Geographic, March 1975. p303. After being accused of being unforgiving, Borges quipped, "I resented Peron's making Argentina look ridiculous to the world... as in 1951, when he announced control over thermonuclear fusion, which still hasn't happened anywhere but in the sun and the stars. For a time, Argentinians hesitated to wear bandaids for fear friends would ask, 'Did the Atomic Bomb go off in your hand?' A shame, because Argentina really has world class scientists."

After Borges' death in 1986, the Peronist Partido Justicialista declined to send a delegate to the writer's memorial service in Buenos Aires. A spokesman for the Party stated that this was in reaction to, "certain declarations he had made about the country."Williamson (2004) p491 One Peronist declared that Borges had made statements about Evita Peron which were, "unacceptable." Later, at the City Council of Buenos Aires, a storm raged when Peronist politicians decided to give only conditional support for a condolence on the writer's death.

Works

Wardrip-Fruin
Noah Wardrip-Fruin
Noah Wardrip-Fruin is Associate Professor in the Computer Science Department of the University of California, Santa Cruz, and is an advisor for the Expressive Intelligence Studio. He is an alumnus of the Literary Arts MFA program and Special Graduate Study PhD program at Brown University...

 and Montfort
Nick Montfort
Nick Montfort is an associate professor of digital media at MIT in the Program in Writing and Humanistic Studies. He is also a poet, computer scientist, and author of interactive fiction. Montfort has collaborated on the blog Grand Text Auto, the sticker novel Implementation, and the contemporary...

 argue that Borges "may have been the most important figure in Spanish-language literature since Cervantes
Cervantes
-People:*Alfonso J. Cervantes , mayor of St. Louis, Missouri*Francisco Cervantes de Salazar, 16th-century man of letters*Ignacio Cervantes, Cuban composer*Jorge Cervantes, a world-renowned expert on indoor, outdoor, and greenhouse cannabis cultivation...

. 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."Wardrip-Fruin, Noah, and Nick Montfort, ed. (2003). The New Media Reader. Cambridge: The MIT Press, p29. ISBN 0-262-23227-8

In addition to short stories for which he is most noted, Borges also wrote poetry, essays, screenplays, literary criticism, and edited numerous anthologies. His longest work of fiction was a 14-page story, "The Congress", first published in 1971. His late-onset blindness strongly influenced his later writing. Borges wrote: "When I think of what I've lost, I ask, 'Who know themselves better than the blind?' – for every thought becomes a tool." Paramount among his intellectual interests are elements of mythology, mathematics, theology, integrating these through literature, sometimes playfully, sometimes with great seriousness.

Borges composed poetry throughout his life. As his eyesight waned (it came and went, with a struggle between advancing age and advances in eye surgery), he increasingly focused on writing poetry, since he could memorize an entire work in progress. His poems embrace the same wide range of interests as his fiction, along with issues that emerge in his critical works and translations, and from more personal musings. For example, his interest idealism
Idealism
In philosophy, idealism is the family of views which assert that reality, or reality as we can know it, is fundamentally mental, mentally constructed, or otherwise immaterial. Epistemologically, idealism manifests as a skepticism about the possibility of knowing any mind-independent thing...

 is reflected in the fictional world of Tlön in "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
"Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" is a short story by the 20th century Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The story was first published in the Argentine journal Sur, May 1940. The "postscript" dated 1947 is intended to be anachronistic, set seven years in the future...

", in his essay "A New Refutation of Time
A New Refutation of Time
A New Refutation of Time is an essay by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges in which he argues that the negations of idealism may be extended to time. It consists of a prologue and two articles: the first one was written in 1944 and appeared in number 115 of the review Sur; the second, written...

", "On Exactitude in Science
On Exactitude in Science
"On Exactitude in Science" or "On Rigor in Science" is a one-paragraph short story by Jorge Luis Borges, about the map/territory relation, written in the form of a literary forgery.-Plot:The story elaborates on a concept in Lewis Carroll's Sylvie and Bruno Concluded: a fictional map that had "the...

", and in his poem "Things". Similarly, a common thread runs through his story "The Circular Ruins
The Circular Ruins
"The Circular Ruins" is a fantasy short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. Published in the literary journal Sur in December 1940, it was included in the 1941 collection The Garden of Forking Paths and then in part one of the 1944 collection Ficciones...

" and his poem "El Golem
El Golem
"El Golem" is a poem by Jorge Luis Borges, part of the 1964 book El otro, el mismo . The poem tells the story of Judah Loew and his giving birth to the Golem. In that poem, Borges quotes the works of German Jewish philosopher Gershom Scholem....

" ("The Golem").

Borges was a notable translator. He translated works of literature in English, French, German, Old English
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

, and Old Norse
Old Norse
Old Norse is a North Germanic language that was spoken by inhabitants of Scandinavia and inhabitants of their overseas settlements during the Viking Age, until about 1300....

 into Spanish. His first publication, for a Buenos Aires newspaper, was a translation of Oscar Wilde
Oscar Wilde
Oscar Fingal O'Flahertie Wills Wilde was an Irish writer and poet. After writing in different forms throughout the 1880s, he became one of London's most popular playwrights in the early 1890s...

's story The Happy Prince
The Happy Prince and Other Stories
The Happy Prince and Other Tales is a collection of stories for children by Oscar Wilde first published in May 1888. It contains five stories, "The Happy Prince", "The Nightingale and the Rose", "The Selfish Giant", "The Devoted Friend", and "The Remarkable Rocket"...

 into Spanish when he was nine. At the end of his life he produced a Spanish-language version of a part of Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson
Snorri Sturluson was an Icelandic historian, poet, and politician. He was twice elected lawspeaker at the Icelandic parliament, the Althing...

's Prose Edda
Prose Edda
The Prose Edda, also known as the Younger Edda, Snorri's Edda or simply Edda, is an Icelandic collection of four sections interspersed with excerpts from earlier skaldic and Eddic poetry containing tales from Nordic mythology...

. He also translated (while simultaneously subtly transforming) the works of, among others, Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe
Edgar Allan Poe was an American author, poet, editor and literary critic, considered part of the American Romantic Movement. Best known for his tales of mystery and the macabre, Poe was one of the earliest American practitioners of the short story and is considered the inventor of the detective...

, Kafka
Franz Kafka
Franz Kafka was a culturally influential German-language author of short stories and novels. Contemporary critics and academics, including Vladimir Nabokov, regard Kafka as one of the best writers of the 20th century...

, Hesse
Hermann Hesse
Hermann Hesse was a German-Swiss poet, novelist, and painter. In 1946, he received the Nobel Prize in Literature...

, Kipling
Rudyard Kipling
Joseph Rudyard Kipling was an English poet, short-story writer, and novelist chiefly remembered for his celebration of British imperialism, tales and poems of British soldiers in India, and his tales for children. Kipling received the 1907 Nobel Prize for Literature...

, Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

, Gide
André Gide
André Paul Guillaume Gide was a French author and winner of the Nobel Prize in literature in 1947. Gide's career ranged from its beginnings in the symbolist movement, to the advent of anticolonialism between the two World Wars.Known for his fiction as well as his autobiographical works, Gide...

, Whitman
Walt Whitman
Walter "Walt" Whitman was an American poet, essayist and journalist. A humanist, he was a part of the transition between transcendentalism and realism, incorporating both views in his works. Whitman is among the most influential poets in the American canon, often called the father of free verse...

 and Woolf
Virginia Woolf
Adeline Virginia Woolf was an English author, essayist, publisher, and writer of short stories, regarded as one of the foremost modernist literary figures of the twentieth century....

.Notable translations also include work by Melville
Herman Melville
Herman Melville was an American novelist, short story writer, essayist, and poet. He is best known for his novel Moby-Dick and the posthumous novella Billy Budd....

, Faulkner
William Faulkner
William Cuthbert Faulkner was an American writer from Oxford, Mississippi. Faulkner worked in a variety of media; he wrote novels, short stories, a play, poetry, essays and screenplays during his career...

, Sir Thomas Browne
Thomas Browne
Sir Thomas Browne was an English author of varied works which reveal his wide learning in diverse fields including medicine, religion, science and the esoteric....

, and G. K. Chesterton
G. K. Chesterton
Gilbert Keith Chesterton, KC*SG was an English writer. His prolific and diverse output included philosophy, ontology, poetry, plays, journalism, public lectures and debates, literary and art criticism, biography, Christian apologetics, and fiction, including fantasy and detective fiction....

.
Borges wrote and lectured extensively on the art of translation, holding 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 the devices of literary forgery and the review of an imaginary work, both forms of modern pseudo-epigrapha
Pseudepigraphy
Pseudepigrapha are falsely attributed works, texts whose claimed authorship is unfounded; a work, simply, "whose real author attributed it to a figure of the past." The word "pseudepigrapha" is the plural of "pseudepigraphon" ; the Anglicized forms...

.

Hoaxes and forgeries

Borges's best-known set of literary forgeries date from his early work as a translator and literary critic with a regular column in the Argentine magazine El Hogar. Along with publishing numerous legitimate translations, he also published original works, for example, in the style of Emanuel Swedenborg
Emanuel Swedenborg
was a Swedish scientist, philosopher, and theologian. He has been termed a Christian mystic by some sources, including the Encyclopædia Britannica online version, and the Encyclopedia of Religion , which starts its article with the description that he was a "Swedish scientist and mystic." Others...

or One Thousand and One Nights, originally claiming them to be translations of works he had chanced upon. In another case, he added three short, falsely attributed pieces into his otherwise legitimate and carefully researched anthology El matrero. Several of these are gathered in the A Universal History of Infamy
A Universal History of Infamy
A Universal History of Infamy, or A Universal History of Iniquity , is a collection of short stories by Jorge Luis Borges, first published in 1935, and revised by the author in 1954. Most were published individually in the newspaper Critica between 1933 and 1934...

.

At times he wrote reviews of nonexistent writings by some other person. The key example of this is "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote", which imagines a twentieth-century Frenchman who tries to write Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes
Miguel de Cervantes Saavedra was a Spanish novelist, poet, and playwright. His magnum opus, Don Quixote, considered the first modern novel, is a classic of Western literature, and is regarded amongst the best works of fiction ever written...

' Don Quixote verbatim, not by having memorized Cervantes' work, but as an "original" narrative of his own invention. Initially the Frenchman 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 explore the resonances which Don Quixote has picked up over the centuries since it was written. He discusses how much "richer" Menard's work is than that of Cervantes, even though the actual text is exactly the same.

While Borges was the great popularizer of the review of an imaginary work, he had developed the idea from Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle
Thomas Carlyle was a Scottish satirical writer, essayist, historian and teacher during the Victorian era.He called economics "the dismal science", wrote articles for the Edinburgh Encyclopedia, and became a controversial social commentator.Coming from a strict Calvinist family, Carlyle was...

's Sartor Resartus
Sartor Resartus
Thomas Carlyle's major work, Sartor Resartus , first published as a serial in 1833-34, purported to be a commentary on the thought and early life of a German philosopher called Diogenes Teufelsdröckh , author of a tome entitled "Clothes: their Origin and Influence" , but was actually a poioumenon...

, a book-length review of a non-existent German transcendentalist
Transcendentalism
Transcendentalism is a philosophical movement that developed in the 1830s and 1840s in the New England region of the United States as a protest against the general state of culture and society, and in particular, the state of intellectualism at Harvard University and the doctrine of the Unitarian...

 work, and the biography of its equally non-existent author. In This Craft of Verse, Borges says that in 1916 in Geneva "[I] discovered, and was overwhelmed by, Thomas Carlyle. I read Sartor Resartus
Sartor Resartus
Thomas Carlyle's major work, Sartor Resartus , first published as a serial in 1833-34, purported to be a commentary on the thought and early life of a German philosopher called Diogenes Teufelsdröckh , author of a tome entitled "Clothes: their Origin and Influence" , but was actually a poioumenon...

, 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."

On the other hand, Borges was wrongly attributed some works, like the poem Instantes
Moments (poem)
Moments is the title of a text wrongly attributed to Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. It was widely spread through articles, compilations, posters and email chain letters, mainly in Spanish....

.

Criticism of Borges' work

Borges's change in style from regionalist criollismo
Criollismo
Criollismo is a literary movement, also called costumbrismo, that took place between the end of the 19th century and the first part of the 20th century in Latin America, and is considered equivalent to regionalism in the USA literature. It is based on realism to describe the scenes, customs and...

 to a more cosmopolitan style brought him much criticism from journals such as Contorno, a left-of-centre, Sartre
Jean-Paul Sartre
Jean-Paul Charles Aymard Sartre was a French existentialist philosopher, playwright, novelist, screenwriter, political activist, biographer, and literary critic. He was one of the leading figures in 20th century French philosophy, particularly Marxism, and was one of the key figures in literary...

-influenced Argentine publication founded by the Viñas brothers, Noé Jitrik
Noé Jitrik
Noé Jitrik was born in Argentina in 1928 and is one of Latin America's foremost literary critics.He is currently director of the Instituto de literatura hispanoamericana at the University of Buenos Aires, and was a notable participant in the cultural journal Contorno in the 1950s in Argentina.While...

, Adolfo Prieto, and other intellectuals. In the post-Peronist Argentina of the early 1960s, Contorno met with wide approval from the youth who challenged the authenticity of older writers such as Borges and questioned their legacy of experimentation. Magic realism
Magic realism
Magic realism or magical realism is an aesthetic style or genre of fiction in which magical elements blend with the real world. The story explains these magical elements as real occurrences, presented in a straightforward manner that places the "real" and the "fantastic" in the same stream of...

 and exploration of universal truths, they argued, had come at the cost of responsibility and seriousness in the face of society's problems.Katra, William H. (1988) Contorno: Literary Engagement in Post-Perónist Argentina. Teaneck, NJ: Fairleigh Dickinson UP, pp. 56–57 The Contorno writers acknowledged Borges and Eduardo Mallea
Eduardo Mallea
Eduardo Mallea was an Argentine essayist, cultural critic, writer and diplomat. In 1931 he became editor of the literary magazine of La Nación.-Work:...

 for being "doctors of technique" but argued that their work lacked substance due to their lack of interaction with the reality that they inhabited, an existentialist critique of their refusal to embrace existence and reality in their artwork.

Sexuality

With a few notable exceptions, women are almost entirely absent from the majority of Borges's fictional output. There are, however, some instances in Borges's writings of romantic love, for example the story "Ulrikke
Ulrikke (short story)
"Ulrikke" is a short story by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, collected in the anthology The Book of Sand. It is notable because it is one of the few of Borges' stories in which women and sex play a central role...

" from The Book of Sand
The Book of Sand (book)
The Book of Sand is a short story collection by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, published in 1975. According to the author's opinion, the collection, written in his last days , is his best book, an opinion not shared by most critics, who prefer his other works such as Ficciones.Referring to...

. The protagonist of the story "El muerto" also lusts after the "splendid, contemptuous, red-haired woman" of Azevedo Bandeira and later "sleeps with the woman with shining hair". Although they do not appear in the stories, women are significantly discussed as objects of unrequited love in his short stories The Zahir and The Aleph. The plot of La Intrusa was based on a true story of two friends. Borges turned their fictional counterparts into brothers, excluding the possibility of a homosexual relationship.

Nobel Prize omission

Borges was never awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature
Nobel Prize in Literature
Since 1901, the Nobel Prize in Literature has been awarded annually to an author from any country who has, in the words from the will of Alfred Nobel, produced "in the field of literature the most outstanding work in an ideal direction"...

, something which continually distressed the writer."Don’t abandon me" Tóibín, Colm London Review of Books 2006-05-11. Retrieved 2009-04-19 He was one of several distinguished authors who never received the honour. Borges commented "Not granting me the Nobel Prize has become a Scandinavian tradition; since I was born they have not been granting it to me." Some observers speculated that Borges did not receive the award because of his conservative political views; or more specifically, because he had accepted an honour from dictator Augusto Pinochet
Augusto Pinochet
Augusto José Ramón Pinochet Ugarte, more commonly known as Augusto Pinochet , was a Chilean army general and dictator who assumed power in a coup d'état on 11 September 1973...

.

Fact, fantasy and non-linearity

Many of Borges's most popular stories concern the nature of time ("The Secret Miracle
The Secret Miracle
"The Secret Miracle" is a short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It was first published in the magazine Sur in February 1943.-Plot:...

"), infinity ("The Aleph"), mirrors ("Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
"Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" is a short story by the 20th century Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The story was first published in the Argentine journal Sur, May 1940. The "postscript" dated 1947 is intended to be anachronistic, set seven years in the future...

") and Labyrinths ("The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths
The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths
"The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths" "The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths" "The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths" (original Spanish title: "Una Leyenda Arábiga (Historia de los dos Reyes y los dos Laberintos, como Nota de Burton") is a short story by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges, first...

", "The House of Asterion
The House of Asterion
"The House of Asterion" is a short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, first published in Los Anales de Buenos Aires in May 1947. It was reprinted in the short-story collection El Aleph in 1949.-Plot summary:The story takes the form of a monologue by Asterion...

", The Immortal, "The Garden of Forking Paths
The Garden of Forking Paths
"The Garden of Forking Paths" is a 1941 short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It is the title story in the collection El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan , which was republished in its entirety in Ficciones in 1944...

"). Williamson writes, "His basic contention was that fiction did not depend on the illusion of reality; what mattered ultimately was an author’s ability to generate 'poetic faith' in his reader." His stories often have fantastical themes, such as a library containing every possible 410-page text ("The Library of Babel
The Library of Babel
"The Library of Babel" is a short story by Argentine author and librarian Jorge Luis Borges , conceiving of a universe in the form of a vast library containing all possible 410-page books of a certain format....

"), a man who forgets nothing
Eidetic memory
Eidetic , commonly referred to as photographic memory, is a medical term, popularly defined as the ability to recall images, sounds, or objects in memory with extreme precision and in abundant volume. The word eidetic, referring to extraordinarily detailed and vivid recall not limited to, but...

 he experiences ("Funes, the Memorious"), an artifact through which the user can see everything in the universe ("The Aleph"), and a year of still time given to a man standing before a firing squad ("The Secret Miracle
The Secret Miracle
"The Secret Miracle" is a short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It was first published in the magazine Sur in February 1943.-Plot:...

"). Borges also told realistic stories of South American life, of folk heroes, streetfighters, soldiers, gaucho
Gaucho
Gaucho is a term commonly used to describe residents of the South American pampas, chacos, or Patagonian grasslands, found principally in parts of Argentina, Uruguay, Southern Chile, and Southern Brazil...

s, detectives, historical figures. He mixed the real and the fantastic: fact with fiction. His interest in compounding fantasy, philosophy, and the art of translation are evident in articles such as "The Translators of The Book of One Thousand and One Nights". In the Book of Imaginary Beings
Book of Imaginary Beings
Jorge Luis Borges wrote and edited the Book of Imaginary Beings in 1957 as the original Spanish Manual de zoología fantástica, or Handbook of Fantastic Zoology, expanding it in 1967 and 1969 to the final El libro de los seres imaginarios...

, a thoroughly (and obscurely) researched bestiary
Bestiary
A bestiary, or Bestiarum vocabulum is a compendium of beasts. Bestiaries were made popular in the Middle Ages in illustrated volumes that described various animals, birds and even rocks. The natural history and illustration of each beast was usually accompanied by a moral lesson...

 of mythical creatures, Borges wrote, "There is a kind of lazy pleasure in useless and out-of-the-way erudition."Borges, Luis Borges (1979) Book of Imaginary Beings Penguin Books Australia p.11 ISBN 0-525-47538-9 Borges's interest in fantasy was shared by Adolfo Bioy Casares
Adolfo Bioy Casares
Adolfo Bioy Casares was an Argentine fiction writer, journalist, and translator. He was a friend and collaborator with his fellow countryman Jorge Luis Borges, and wrote what many consider one of the best pieces of fantastic fiction, the novella The Invention of Morel.-Biography:Adolfo Bioy...

, with whom he coauthored several collections of tales between 1942 and 1967, often under different pseudonyms including H. Bustos Domecq
H. Bustos Domecq
H. is a pseudonym used for several collaborative works by the Argentine writers Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares.-Origin:Bustos Domecq made his first appearance as F...

. Often, especially early in his career, the mixture of fact and fantasy crossed the line into the realm of hoax or literary forgery.His imitations of Swedenborg and others were originally passed off as translations, in his literary column in Crítica. "El Teólogo" was originally published with the note "Lo anterior... es obra de Manuel Swedenborg, eminente ingeniero y hombre de ciencia, que durante 27 años estuvo en comercio lúcido y familiar con el otro mundo." ("The preceding [...] is the work of Emanuel Swedenborg, eminent engineer and man of science, who during 27 years was in lucid and familiar commerce with the other world.") See "Borges y Revista multicolor de los sábados: confabulados en una escritura de la infamia" by Raquel Atena Green in Wor(l)ds of Change: Latin American and Iberian Literature Volume 32 2010 Peter Lang publishers, ISBN 9780820434674

"The Garden of Forking Paths
The Garden of Forking Paths
"The Garden of Forking Paths" is a 1941 short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It is the title story in the collection El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan , which was republished in its entirety in Ficciones in 1944...

" (1941) presents the idea of forking paths through networks of time, none of which is the same, all of which are equal. Borges uses the recurring image of "a labyrinth that folds back upon itself in infinite regression" so we "become aware of all the possible choices we might make."Murray, Janet H. "Inventing the Medium" The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press, 2003. The forking paths have branches to represent these choices 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. Borges also examined the themes of universal randomness and madness (The Lottery in Babylon
The Lottery in Babylon
"The Lottery in Babylon" is a fantasy short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges...

) and (The Zahir
The Zahir
The Zahir is a short story by the Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It is one of the stories in the book The Aleph and Other Stories, first published in 1949, and revised by the author in 1974....

). Due to the success of the "Forking Paths" story, the term "Borgesian" came to reflect a quality of narrative non-linearity.Non-linearity was key to the development of digital media
Digital media
Digital media is a form of electronic media where data is stored in digital form. It can refer to the technical aspect of storage and transmission Digital media is a form of electronic media where data is stored in digital (as opposed to analog) form. It can refer to the technical aspect of...

. See Murray, Janet H. "Inventing the Medium" The New Media Reader. Cambridge: MIT Press
MIT Press
The MIT Press is a university press affiliated with the Massachusetts Institute of Technology in Cambridge, Massachusetts .-History:...

, 2003

Martín Fierro and Argentine tradition

Along with other young Argentine writers of his generation, Borges initially rallied around the fictional character of Martín Fierro. Martín Fierro
Martín Fierro
Martín Fierro is a 2,316 line epic poem by the Argentine writer José Hernández. The poem was originally published in two parts, El Gaucho Martín Fierro and La Vuelta de Martín Fierro . The poem is, in part, a protest against the modernist tendencies of Argentine president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento...

, a poem by José Hernández, was a dominant work of 19th century Argentine literature. Its eponymous hero became a symbol of Argentine sensibility, untied from European values – a gaucho
Gaucho
Gaucho is a term commonly used to describe residents of the South American pampas, chacos, or Patagonian grasslands, found principally in parts of Argentina, Uruguay, Southern Chile, and Southern Brazil...

, free, poor, pampas-dwelling. The character Fierro is illegally drafted to serve at a border fort to defend against the Indians but ultimately deserts to become a gaucho matrero, the Argentine equivalent of a North American western outlaw. Borges contributed keenly to the avant garde Martín Fierro magazine
Martín Fierro (magazine)
Martín Fierro was an Argentine literary magazine which appeared from February 1924 to 1927. It was founded by Evar Méndez , José B. Cairola, Leónidas Campbell, H. Carambat, Luis L. Franco, Oliverio Girondo, Ernesto Palacio, Pablo Rojas Paz, and Gastón O...

 in the early 1920s.

As Borges matured, he came to a more nuanced attitude toward the Hernández poem. In his book of essays on the poem
Borges on Martín Fierro
Like most Argentines, Jorge Luis Borges was a great admirer of José Hernández's poem Martín Fierro.With real or feigned modesty about his own work, he routinely characterized it as the one clearly great work in Argentine literature...

, Borges separates his admiration for the aesthetic virtues of the work from his mixed opinion of the moral virtues of its protagonist. In his essay "The Argentine Writer and Tradition" (1951), Borges celebrates how Hernández expresses the Argentine character. In a key scene in the poem, Martín Fierro and El Moreno compete by improvising songs on universal themes such as time, night, and the sea, reflecting the real-world gaucho tradition of payadas, improvised musical dialogues on philosophical themes.Gabriel Waisman, Sergio (2005) Borges and Translation: The Irreverence of the Periphery Bucknell University Press pp. 126–9 ISBN 0-8387-5592-5Borges, Jorge Luis and Lanuza, Eduardo González (1961) "The Argentine writer and tradition" Latin American and European Literary Society Borges points out that Hernández evidently knew the difference between actual gaucho tradition of composing poetry, versus the "gauchesque" fashion among Buenos Aires literati.

In his works he refutes the arch-nationalist interpreters of the poem, and disdains others as critic Eleuterio Tiscornia, for their Europeanising approach. Borges denies that Argentine literature should distinguish itself by limiting itself to "local colour", which he equates with cultural nationalism. Racine
Jean Racine
Jean Racine , baptismal name Jean-Baptiste Racine , was a French dramatist, one of the "Big Three" of 17th-century France , and one of the most important literary figures in the Western tradition...

 and Shakespeare's work, he says, looked beyond their countries' borders. Neither, he argues, need the literature be bound to the heritage of old world Spanish or European tradition. Nor should it define itself by the conscious rejection of its colonial past. 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 those who have inherited the whole of world literature. Williamson says "Borges's main argument is that the very fact of writing from the margins provides Argentine writers with a special opportunity to innovate without being bound to the canons of the centre, [...] at once a part of and apart from the centre which gives them much potential freedom".

Argentine culture

Borges focused on universal themes, but also composed a substantial body of literature on themes from Argentine folklore and history. His first book, the poetry collection Fervor de Buenos Aires (Passion for Buenos Aires), appeared in 1923. Borges's writings on things Argentine, include 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
Evaristo Carriego
Evaristo Carriego , was an Argentine poet, best known for the biography written about him by Jorge Luis Borges....

") and national concerns ("Celebration of The Monster", "Hurry, Hurry", "The Mountebank", "Pedro Salvadores"). Ultra-nationalists, however, continued to question 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
Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

. 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
Manuel Isidoro Suárez
Manuel Isidoro Suárez was an Argentine colonel who commanded Peruvian and Colombian cavalry troops in their wars of independence. He was noted for his pivotal role in securing a revolutionary victory at the Battle of Junín...

, was another military hero, whom Borges immortalized in the poem "A Page to Commemorate Colonel Suárez, Victor at Junín." The city of Coronel Suárez
Coronel Suárez
Coronel Suárez is a town in Buenos Aires Province, Argentina. It is also the capital of Coronel Suárez Partido.The partido was created in 1882 by the government of Buenos Aires Province in Argentina who divided the territory of Tres Arroyos into the partidos of Tres Arroyos, Coronel Pringles and...

 in the south of Buenos Aires Province
Buenos Aires Province
The Province of Buenos Aires is the largest and most populous province of Argentina. It takes the name from the city of Buenos Aires, which used to be the provincial capital until it was federalized in 1880...

 is named after him.

His non-fiction explores many of the themes found in his fiction. Essays such as "The History of the Tango
Tango (dance)
Tango dance originated in the area of the Rio de la Plata , and spread to the rest of the world soon after....

" or his writings on the epic poem Martín Fierro
Martín Fierro
Martín Fierro is a 2,316 line epic poem by the Argentine writer José Hernández. The poem was originally published in two parts, El Gaucho Martín Fierro and La Vuelta de Martín Fierro . The poem is, in part, a protest against the modernist tendencies of Argentine president Domingo Faustino Sarmiento...

 explore Argentine themes, such as the identity of the Argentine people and of various Argentine subcultures. 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 or framing Argentine culture as 'exotic'. In his essay "El escritor argentino y la tradición", Borges notes that the very absence of camels in the Qur'an
Qur'an
The Quran , also transliterated Qur'an, Koran, Alcoran, Qur’ān, Coran, Kuran, and al-Qur’ān, is the central religious text of Islam, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God . It is regarded widely as the finest piece of literature in the Arabic language...

 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.Takolander, Maria (2007) Catching butterflies: bringing magical realism to ground Peter Lang Pub Inc pp. 55–60 ISBN 3-03911-193-0 He uses this example to illustrate how his dialogue with universal existential concerns was just as Argentine as writing about gauchos and tangos.

Multicultural Influences

At the time of Argentine independence in 1816, the population was predominantly criollo
Criollo people
The Criollo class ranked below that of the Iberian Peninsulares, the high-born permanent residence colonists born in Spain. But Criollos were higher status/rank than all other castes—people of mixed descent, Amerindians, and enslaved Africans...

 (of Spanish ancestry). The Argentine Declaration of Independence
Argentine Declaration of Independence
What today is commonly referred as the Independence of Argentina was declared on July 9, 1816 by the Congress of Tucumán. In reality, the congressmen that were assembled in Tucumán declared the independence of the United Provinces of South America, which is still today one of the legal names of the...

 in 1816 led to waves of immigration from Europe, Asia, and the Middle East, and in the following decades and the Argentine national identity diversified. Borges therefore was writing in a strongly European literary context, and worked immersed in Spanish, English, French, German, Italian, Anglo-Saxon
Old English language
Old English or Anglo-Saxon is an early form of the English language that was spoken and written by the Anglo-Saxons and their descendants in parts of what are now England and southeastern Scotland between at least the mid-5th century and the mid-12th century...

 and Old Norse literature. He also read translations of Near Eastern and Far Eastern works. Borges's writing is also informed by scholarship of Christianity, Buddhism, Islam, and Judaism, including prominent religious figures, heretics, and mystics. Bell-Villada, Gene Borges and His Fiction: A Guide to His Mind and Art University of Texas Press ISBN 978-0-292-70878-5 Religion and heresy are explored in such stories as "Averroes's Search
Averroes's Search
"Averroës's Search" is a 1947 short story by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. Originally published in the magazine Sur, it was later included in his second anthology of short stories, El Aleph.-Plot summary:The story imagines the difficulty of Averroës, the famed Arabic commentator and...

", "The Writing of the God
The Writing of the God
"The Writing of the God" is a short story by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. It was published in Sur in February 1949, and later reprinted in the collection The Aleph.- Plot summary :...

", "The Theologians
The Theologians
"The Theologians" is a short story by Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges. It was featured in the collection Labyrinths...

" and "Three Versions of Judas
Three Versions of Judas
"Three versions of Judas" is a short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It was included in Borges' anthology, Ficciones, published in 1944. Like several other Borges stories, it is written in form of a scholarly article...

". The curious inversion of mainstream Christian concepts of redemption
Redemption (theology)
Redemption is a concept common to several theologies. It is generally associated with the efforts of people within a faith to overcome their shortcomings and achieve the moral positions exemplified in their faith.- In Buddhism :...

 in the latter story is characteristic of Borges's approach to theology in his literature.

In describing himself, he said, "I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities that I have visited, all my ancestors." As a young man, he visited the frontier pampas which extend beyond Argentina into Uruguay
Uruguay
Uruguay ,officially the Oriental Republic of Uruguay,sometimes the Eastern Republic of Uruguay; ) is a country in the southeastern part of South America. It is home to some 3.5 million people, of whom 1.8 million live in the capital Montevideo and its metropolitan area...

 and Brazil
Brazil
Brazil , officially the Federative Republic of Brazil , is the largest country in South America. It is the world's fifth largest country, both by geographical area and by population with over 192 million people...

. Borges said that his father wished him "to become a citizen of the world, a great cosmopolitan," in the way of Henry
Henry James
Henry James, OM was an American-born writer, regarded as one of the key figures of 19th-century literary realism. He was the son of Henry James, Sr., a clergyman, and the brother of philosopher and psychologist William James and diarist Alice James....

 and William James
William James
William James was a pioneering American psychologist and philosopher who was trained as a physician. He wrote influential books on the young science of psychology, educational psychology, psychology of religious experience and mysticism, and on the philosophy of pragmatism...

. Borges 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, finally settling in Geneva
Geneva
Geneva In the national languages of Switzerland the city is known as Genf , Ginevra and Genevra is the second-most-populous city in Switzerland and is the most populous city of Romandie, the French-speaking part of Switzerland...

 where he had spent some of his youth. Drawing on the influence of many times and places, Borges's work belittled nationalism and racism. Portraits of diverse coexisting cultures characteristic of Argentina are especially pronounced in the book Six Problems for don Isidoro Parodi (co-authored with Adolfo Bioy Casares
Adolfo Bioy Casares
Adolfo Bioy Casares was an Argentine fiction writer, journalist, and translator. He was a friend and collaborator with his fellow countryman Jorge Luis Borges, and wrote what many consider one of the best pieces of fantastic fiction, the novella The Invention of Morel.-Biography:Adolfo Bioy...

) and the story "Death and the Compass
Death and the Compass
Death and the Compass is British director Alex Cox's second Mexican feature , made in 1992. Based on the short story Death and the Compass by Jorge Luis Borges, the film is in English, and stars Peter Boyle as Erik Lönnrot the detective, Miguel Sandoval as Treviranus, his boss, and Christopher...

", which may or may not be set in Buenos Aires. Borges wrote that he considered Mexican essayist Alfonso Reyes
Alfonso Reyes
Alfonso Reyes Ochoa was a Mexican writer, philosopher and diplomat.-Early life:Alfonso Reyes parents were Bernardo Reyes and Aurelia Ochoa...

 "the best prose-writer in the Spanish language of any time."

Borges was also an admirer of some Oriental culture, e.g. the ancient Chinese board game of Go, about which he penned some verses.

Modernism

Borges lived through most of the 20th century, and was rooted in the Modernism
Modernism
Modernism, in its broadest definition, is modern thought, character, or practice. More specifically, the term describes the modernist movement, its set of cultural tendencies and array of associated cultural movements, originally arising from wide-scale and far-reaching changes to Western society...

 pre-dominant in its early years. He was especially influenced by Symbolism
Symbolism (arts)
Symbolism was a late nineteenth-century art movement of French, Russian and Belgian origin in poetry and other arts. In literature, the style had its beginnings with the publication Les Fleurs du mal by Charles Baudelaire...

. Like contemporary novelist Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Nabokov
Vladimir Vladimirovich Nabokov was a multilingual Russian novelist and short story writer. Nabokov wrote his first nine novels in Russian, then rose to international prominence as a master English prose stylist...

 and the older James Joyce
James Joyce
James Augustine Aloysius Joyce was an Irish novelist and poet, considered to be one of the most influential writers in the modernist avant-garde of the early 20th century...

, he combined an interest in his native culture with broader perspectives. He also shared their multilingualism and their inventiveness with language. However, while Nabokov and Joyce tended toward progressively larger works as they grew older, Borges remained a miniaturist. Borges's work progressed away from what he referred to as "the baroque", while Joyce's and Nabokov's moved towards it: his later style is far more transparent and naturalistic than his earlier works. Borges represented the humanist view of media that stressed the social aspect of art driven by emotion. If art represented the tool, then Borges was more interested in how the tool could be used to relate to people.

Existentialism
Existentialism
Existentialism is a term applied to a school of 19th- and 20th-century philosophers who, despite profound doctrinal differences, shared the belief that philosophical thinking begins with the human subject—not merely the thinking subject, but the acting, feeling, living human individual...

 saw its apogee during the years of Borges's greatest artistic production. It has been argued that his choice of topics largely ignored existentialism's central tenets. Critic Paul de Man
Paul de Man
Paul de Man was a Belgian-born deconstructionist literary critic and theorist.He began teaching at Bard College. Later, he completed his Ph.D. at Harvard University in the late 1950s...

 notes, "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."

Political influences

As a political conservative, Borges "was repulsed by Marxism in theory and practice. Abhorring sentimentality, he rejected the politics and poetics of cultural identity that held sway in Latin America for so long." As a universalist, his interest in world literature reflected an attitude that was also incongruent with the Perónist
Juan Perón
Juan Domingo Perón was an Argentine military officer, and politician. Perón was three times elected as President of Argentina though he only managed to serve one full term, after serving in several government positions, including the Secretary of Labor and the Vice Presidency...

 Populist nationalism. That government's confiscation of Borges's job at the Miguel Cané Library fueled his skepticism of government. He labeled himself a Spencerian
Herbert Spencer
Herbert Spencer was an English philosopher, biologist, sociologist, and prominent classical liberal political theorist of the Victorian era....

 anarchist
Anarchism
Anarchism is generally defined as the political philosophy which holds the state to be undesirable, unnecessary, and harmful, or alternatively as opposing authority in the conduct of human relations...

, following his father.

Mathematics

The essay collection Borges y la Matemática (Borges and Mathematics, 2003) by Argentine mathematician and writer Guillermo Martínez
Guillermo Martínez
Guillermo Martínez is an Argentine novelist and short story writer.Martínez was born in Bahía Blanca, Argentina. He gained a PhD in mathematical logic at the University of Buenos Aires....

, outlines how Borges used concepts from mathematics in his work. Martínez states that Borges had, for example, at least a superficial knowledge of set theory
Set theory
Set theory is the branch of mathematics that studies sets, which are collections of objects. Although any type of object can be collected into a set, set theory is applied most often to objects that are relevant to mathematics...

, which he handles with elegance in stories such as "The Book of Sand
The Book of Sand
"The Book of Sand" is a 1975 short story by Jorge Luis Borges. It has parallels to "The Zahir", continuing the theme of self-reference and attempting to abandon the terribly infinite....

". Other books such as The Unimaginable Mathematics of Borges' Library of Babel by William Goldbloom Bloch (2008) and Unthinking Thinking: Jorge Luis Borges, Mathematics, and the New Physics by Floyd Merrell (1991) also explore this relationship.

Further reading

Illustrated by Donato Grima
Donato Grima
Donato Grima, contemporary Argentine artist. Born in San Miguel de Tucumán, on July 22, 1949.- Biography :Donato Grima Argentine visual artist. Born in San Miguel de Tucumán, on July 22, 1949. He studied arts and design. During the 70’s, he moved to Caracas, Venezuela. He did not return to his home...

.
  • Burgin, Richard (1969) Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges. Holt Rhinehart Winston
  • Laín Corona, Guillermo. "Borges and Cervantes: Truth and Falsehood in the Narration”. Neophilologus, 93 (2009): 421-37.
  • Laín Corona, Guillermo. "Teoría y práctica de la metáfora en torno a Fervor de Buenos Aires, de Borges”. Cuadernos de Aleph. Revista de literatura hispánica, 2 (2007): 79-93. http://cuadernosdealeph.com/revista_2007/A2007_pdf/06%20Teor%C3%ADa.pdf
  • Manovich, Lev, New Media from Borges to HTML, 2003
  • Murray, Janet H., Inventing the Medium, 2003

External links

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