Does "The Sea" by Jorge Luis Borges have anything to do with post-colonialism?

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thanatassa | College Teacher | (Level 3) Educator Emeritus

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Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1899, but his family moved to Switzerland in 1914 and Borges earned a baccalauréat at College de Geneve. He returned to Argentina in 1921. One can argue that Borges participated in the postcolonial experience in two ways. First, Argentina, as much of South American, had been colonized by Spain. Borges, as most Argentinians, is a native speaker of Spanish, the language of the colonizers, rather than an indigenous language. His education and literary models were strongly European, and thus his work displays what postcolonial theorists describe as assimilation, assuming the voice and traditions of the imperial culture.

One of the key issues for postcolonial reading is how the subaltern constructs a subject position from which to write. In "The Sea", Borges points out that the sea itself exists before all mythologies, that is, that the sea is prior to colonial discourse. Thus by articulating the voice of the sea, Borges steps outside the unequal power relations of the colonial experience and enters into a universal archetype. The question "Who is the sea, who am I?" implies that he rejects the subaltern position, suggesting that his identity is tied to the sea, something that embraces all continents equally, and that he can no more be constrained by cultural oppression than can the sea itself. The world of art, like the sea, is ancient and all encompassing, both preceding the experience of colonialism and persisting in "the days to come that follow the agony."

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