(Critical Survey of Contemporary Fiction)

James Woodall’s biography of Jorge Luis Borges, an Argentine writer who has been widely acclaimed as one of the twentieth century’s greatest and most influential authors, was first published in England in 1996 as THE MAN IN THE MIRROR OF THE BOOK, a title which reflects the book’s unresolved dilemma of how to write the life story of a man whose writing is far more fascinating than the mundane details of his relatively uneventful personal history. Woodall’s extensive chronological account provides a great deal of factual information, and he has interviewed a number of Borges’ friends and colleagues, although he frequently complains about the difficulty of gathering accurate information in a short period of research time. Woodall brags about his being the first full-length biography of Borges in English since the poet’s death in 1986, but he does not fully acknowledge the existence and quality of the hundreds of Spanish language biographies and interviews, or the hundreds of English language articles and critical books which contain substantial amounts of biographical information which could have helped Woodall to fill in the many gaps in his story.

BORGES: A LIFE begins with a summary of Jorge Luis Borges’ grandparents and great-grandparents, who would later figure in poems, stories, and memoirs. Borges himself was born in Buenos Aires in 1899, the son of a literature-loving lawyer father and a mother of extraordinary vitality who lived to be...

(The entire section is 473 words.)