A Companion to Jorge Luis Borges

A Companion to Jorge Luis Borges

STEVEN BOLDY
Series: Monografías A
Copyright Date: 2009
Edition: NED - New edition
Published by: Boydell and Brewer,
Pages: 218
https://www.jstor.org/stable/10.7722/j.ctt9qdpv0
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  • Book Info
    A Companion to Jorge Luis Borges
    Book Description:

    Jorge Luis Borges is one of the key writers of the twentieth century in the context of both Hispanic and world literature. This Companion has been designed for keen readers of Borges whether they approach him in English or Spanish, within or outside a university context. It takes his stories and essays of the forties and fifties, especially Ficciones and El Aleph, to be his most significant works, and organizes its material in consequence. About two thirds of the book analyzes the stories of this period text by text. The early sections map Borges's intellectual trajectory up to the fifties in some detail, and up to his death more briefly. They aim to provide an account of the context which will allow the reader maximum access to the meaning and significance of his work and present a biographical narrative developed against the Argentine literary world in which Borges was a key player, the Argentine intellectual tradition in its historical context, and the Argentine and world politics to which his works respond in more or less obvious ways. STEVEN BOLDY is Reader in Latin American Literature at the University of Cambridge.

    eISBN: 978-1-84615-705-9
    Subjects: Language & Literature

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-iv)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. v-vi)
  3. FOREWORD
    (pp. vii-viii)

    This Companion to Jorge Luis Borges has been designed for keen readers of Borges whether they approach him in English or Spanish, within or outside a university context. It takes his stories and essays of the forties and fifties, especiallyFiccionesandEl Aleph, to be his most significant works, and organizes its material in consequence. About two-thirds of the book analyses the stories of this period text by text. The early sections map Borges’s intellectual trajectory up to the fifties in some detail, and up to his death more briefly. They aim to provide an account of the context...

  4. ABBREVIATIONS
    (pp. ix-x)
  5. I Context

    • Perspectives
      (pp. 3-7)

      Borges is a world of complex and paradoxical perceptions and dimensions. He can be seen as an author of purely archetypal literary texts; as a bookish and almost unreal individual; as a harbinger of major trends in structuralist, post-structuralist and post-modern thought; as a cosmopolitan, universal writer; as an essentially Argentine author deeply concerned with both his country’s literary classics and its history; as a writer engaging with the historical and ideological issues facing the Western world from the twenties to the Cold War. A glance at a number of these dimensions may serve as a preliminary and impressionistic introduction...

    • Family History, National History
      (pp. 8-15)

      Various critics and biographers, such as Piglia and Williamson, have focused on the way in which Borges tends to view national history in terms of his own family history, and an opposition between the paternal and maternal family lines. John King puts it succinctly:

      For Borges, as for Victoria Ocampo [the owner ofSur, literary maecenas, and member of a wealthycriollolandowning family], the history of Argentina was a family affair, a conflict between the civilisation of his father’s side, equated with books and the English language, and the barbarism of his mother’s lineage, synonymous with men of action...

    • Life and Literature
      (pp. 16-43)

      Borges was born in his maternal grandparents’ house in central Buenos Aires, calle Tucumán, but moved in 1901 to calle Serrano in the neighbourhood of Palermo, a far less salubrious area with many southern Italian immigrants, and close to notorious establishments such as the Tierra del Fuego, where local toughs orcompadritosfought knife-fights and danced tango. Though Borges writes that his mother’s prim and snobbish household isolated the children from this world, he later became fascinated with it through the poems and accounts of a friend of his father’s, Evaristo Carriego, a popular poet and bohemian who had befriended...

    • Metaphysics, the Cult of Courage
      (pp. 44-60)

      Three short texts published in the 1928 collectionThe Language of the Argentines,El idioma de los argentinos, point both to founding preoccupations within Borges’s corpus: metaphysics and time, the cult of courage and the duel, and to a key textual practice: rewriting, and reusing similar or identical pieces in different contexts. Michel Lafon, inBorges ou la réécriture, studies and theorizes the textual manoeuvres in great detail. These texts are ‘El truco’; ‘Men Fought’, ‘Hombres pelearon’; and ‘Feeling in Death’, ‘Sentirse en muerte’. In the three cases the process is different. The short and schematic text of ‘Men Fought’...

  6. II Key Works

    • From book review to fiction: ‘The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim’
      (pp. 63-70)

      ‘The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim’ (‘El acercamiento a Almotásim’), written in 1935, is the starting point of Borges’s mature fictions. Borges saw it in this light:

      [It] is both a hoaxanda pseudo-essay. It purports to be a review of a book published originally in Bombay three years earlier. I endowed its fake second edition with a real publisher, Victor Gollancz, and a preface by a real writer, Dorothy L. Sayers. But the author and the book are entirely my own invention. I gave the plot and details of some chapters – borrowing from Kipling and working in the twelfth-century Persian...

    • Fictions Part I: The Garden of Forking Paths (1941)
      (pp. 71-104)

      ‘Pierre Menard’ was written in 1939 as Borges was recovering from the head wound and subsequent septicaemia resulting from his accedent on Christmas Eve. Borges himself contributed to the mythology behind the story in his ‘Autobiographical Essay’. Fearing for his intellectual powers, and not daring to try to write a book review, he decided to write ‘something I had never really done before’ (Aut 243): a story. Thus the Borges-story writer was born, reborn from the near death experience. Of course, Borges had already written stories, and a rather similar exercise four years previously in ‘Al-Mu’tasim’. It is also seen...

    • Fictions Part II: Artifices (1944)
      (pp. 105-128)

      The unnamed narrator of ‘Funes el memorioso’ has many of the biographical details of Borges: for example he spends the summer in Uruguay with his relations the Haedo family, and studies Latin. The events he relates, however, are dated 1887, and he writes about them fifty years later, around 1937, at the age of about seventy. He writes a contribution to a collection on Ireneo Funes, who, after a fall from a horse, had acquired total recall. The time lapse and the fallibility of his memory explain the schematic and short account. The charm of the story lies in the...

    • The Aleph (1949)
      (pp. 129-186)

      Though ‘El Aleph’ was first published inSurin September 1945, and was thus the earliest published story in the collection El Aleph (apart from the brief ‘The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths’), it is placed last. The story embodies one of the extremes of Borges’s conceptual world, while its twin tale, ‘The Zahir’, represents the other: everything and the one thing; a chaotic world unaffected by structure or symbolism, and the world reduced to one symbol; difference and unity. Given the importance of the opposition for other stories, I will consider them out of order and before the...

  7. SUGGESTIONS FOR FURTHER READING
    (pp. 187-188)
  8. BIBLIOGRAPHY
    (pp. 189-192)
  9. INDEX
    (pp. 193-208)
  10. Back Matter
    (pp. 209-209)