Last Reviewed on June 19, 2019, by eNotes Editorial. Word Count: 374
Borrowed Time by Paul Monette was published in 1988, and it tells the story of the author’s relationship with Roger Horwitz, who died of AIDS in 1986. Horwitz, a lawyer, was diagnosed with AIDS in 1985 and struggled with the disease for over a year. The characters of the memoir include historical characters (including the author himself), who were involved in the saga.
As the medical community was in the beginning stages of learning about AIDS in the 1980s, Monette’s memoir records the emotional upheaval and perpetual insecurity among the gay community.
The narrator himself is a prominent character in the story. At the outset of the novel, he is an accomplished poet and writer whose literary career is plateauing a bit as he struggles with a novel while writing movie scripts. He is new to California, having been raised in Massachusetts. The memoir he writes is told in the first person, and the author writes about himself with candor and honesty, explaining how he initially supposed himself to be immune from this disease because he didn’t frequent establishments known for sexual lasciviousness. Monette does remark that, after years of sexual repression, he pursued many sexual partners. Monette (who himself would contract and die from AIDS), nurses his partner, Roger, who passed away from AIDS in 1986.
Roger Horwitz is the other major character, whose illness Monette records. Horwitz met the author in 1974 at a function in Boston. Horwitz was a successful lawyer, and his struggles with AIDS were largely unexpected when the disease was suggested to be restricted to sexually promiscuous people. Horwitz was monogamous and dedicated to his work. Horwitz was diagnosed with AIDS in the spring of 1985 and died in the fall of 1986, after a struggle which lasted only a year. He lived with his partner in San Francisco.
Cesar Albini is another prominent character, as he was the writer’s closest friend. Born in Uruguay, Cesar spoke French, English, Spanish, and Italian and was a well-travelled scholar and teacher. Albini was a close friend of both Roger and Monette, and so when Albini (who the narrator reports was not sexually promiscuous) is diagnosed with AIDS, the two became significantly more concerned about their own vulnerability.