Jorge Luis Borges Additional Biography

Pierre Menard, Author of the

The Story

The title of this story indicates that Jorge Luis Borges is engaging in his customary mischief of rearranging the universe, for almost any reader of the fiction of this master storyteller would know that the author of El ingenioso hidalgo don Quixote de la Mancha (1605, 1615; The History of the Valorous and Wittie Knight-Errant, Don Quixote of the Mancha, 1612-1620; better known as Don Quixote de la Mancha) is not Pierre Menard but Miguel de Cervantes (1547-1616). The narrator begins by relating the details of his encounter with Menard through a series of mutual friends, in particular the baroness de Bacourt and the countess de Bagnoregio, formerly of Monaco but now married to an international philanthropist in Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.

The narrator lists what he calls the “visible” work of Menard, comparing his enumeration of works to the catalog prepared by Madame Henri Bachelier and published by a newspaper suspect for its Protestant tendencies. The list includes translations of classical authors, treatises on philosophical and metaphysical problems, monographs on poetic language, and various works of poetry. The narrator then turns to the other, more important work—the subterranean, heroic, peerless, and unfinished. This extraordinary composition consists of two chapters and a fragment of a third chapter of Don Quixote de la Mancha. Menard’s work is not another Quixote; rather, it is the Quixote itself.

Menard’s inspiration came from two sources: a fragment by Novalis (1772-1801), which deals with the theme of a total identification with a given author, and an unnamed parasitic book that places a classic fictional character in a modern setting. Menard attempted to create a few fragments that would coincide word for word with the Quixote, not by copying the text but by assimilating it completely and then inventing it anew.

Menard first tried to accomplish his task in 1918 by becoming Cervantes—knowing Spanish well, fighting the Turks and the Moors, and forgetting the history of the world from 1602 to 1918. He then discarded that plan and adopted another, which led to the final invention analyzed by the narrator. He wrote the Quixote from the experience and perspective of the twentieth century author Pierre Menard.

The result of Menard’s endeavor is three passages that coincide in every textual detail with the corresponding chapters of Cervantes’s Don Quixote de la Mancha. As the narrator observes, however, there is a vivid contrast in style. Cervantes’s style is contemporary and natural; Menard’s is archaic and affected. Cervantes’s view of history as “the mother of truth” is merely rhetorical; Menard’s history as engenderer of truth is an astounding and original concept.

The narrator reasons that Menard’s greatest contribution is his enrichment of the art of reading through the techniques of deliberate anachronism and erroneous attribution. Menard’s illuminating labor has made possible the reading of great classics as contemporary works. To read the original text of the Iliad (c. 750 b.c.e.;...

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Pierre Menard, Author of the

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

The Work

In “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote,” Borges combines a sophisticated sense of humor, directed toward the scholasticism of the academic, with one of his favorite images—that of the simulacrum. The story begins as a eulogy written in the first person and dedicated to the memory of an admirable French author, Pierre Menard. The narrator first provides a list of the author’s visible works in a rather pompous, academic style; the narrator often invokes his literary authority by dropping names of famous writers or providing documentary proof through the citation of very real authors or journals in his footnotes. The insertion of footnotes for the purpose of creating an impression of...

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Biography

Jorge Luis Borges was born on August 24, 1899, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the son of Jorge Guillermo Borges, a lawyer and psychology teacher, and Leonor Acevedo de Borges, a descendant of old Argentine and Uruguayan stock. A precocious child who spent much of his childhood indoors, Borges later said that his discovery of his father’s library was the chief event in his life; he began writing at the age of six, imitating classical Spanish authors such as Miguel de Cervantes.

Attending school in Switzerland during World War I, Borges read, and was strongly influenced by, the French Symbolist poets and such English prose writers as Robert Louis Stevenson, G. K. Chesterton, and Thomas Carlyle. After the war, Borges spent two years in Spain, where he became the disciple of Rafael Casinos Assens, leader of the Ultraist movement in poetry, and where he began writing poetry himself.

In 1935, Borges’s first book of stories, Historia universal de la infamia (A Universal History of Infamy, 1972), appeared. He wrote his most important stories, published in 1941 under the title El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (the garden of forking paths), while recovering from blood poisoning four years later. Another collection of stories, Ficciones, 1935-1944 (English translation, 1962) was published in 1944 and promptly awarded a prize by the Argentine Society of Writers. After he criticized the regime of dictator Juan Perón, however, Borges was “promoted” from his librarian’s job to that of inspector of poultry and rabbits, a position from which he promptly resigned. When the military government took over from Perón, Borges was appointed head of the National Library; in 1956, he was awarded the National Prize in Literature. Because of increasing blindness he was forced to stop reading and writing in the late 1950’s; his mother became his secretary, however, and he continued to work by dictation.

In 1961, Borges was awarded a major European prize with Samuel Beckett, an event that launched his international reputation and that led to his being invited to lecture in the United States. The following year, translations of his books began to appear and he received several honorary doctorates and literary prizes from universities and professional societies. He died in Geneva, Switzerland, on June 14, 1986, after a long and distinguished career.

Biography

(Literary Essentials: Short Fiction Masterpieces)

Jorge Luis Borges was born on August 24, 1899, in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the first of two children born to Jorge Guillermo Borges and Leonor Acevedo de Borges. (His sister, Norah, was born in 1901.) Borges’s ancestors included prominent Argentine military and historical figures on both sides of his family and an English grandmother on his father’s.

“Georgie,” as Borges’s family called him, began reading very early, first in English, then in Spanish. Tutored first by his English grandmother and later by a private governess, and with access to his father’s library (which contained numerous volumes in English), young Borges devoured a wide range of writings, among them those of Robert Louis Stevenson, Rudyard...

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Biography

(World Poets and Poetry)

Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1899. Borges grew up bilingual in Spanish and English, largely because he had a British grandmother, and later learned some French, German, and Latin during the family’s four years in Switzerland (1914-1919). The major conflict during his early years was between forcefulness and literary refinement. Before leaving for Switzerland (to seek treatment for his father’s growing blindness), his family lived in a suburb plagued with knife-fighting gauchos and other criminals, a fascination with which often surfaced in Borges’s writings. In partial contrast, his father was a lawyer, psychology teacher, and amateur novelist. Once, however, when Borges was being bullied by...

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Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on August 24, 1899, to Jorge Guillermo Borges and Leonor Acevedo de Borges, Jorge Luis Borges (BAWR-hays) belonged to a well-off family. His father was of English descent. The young Borges appears to have enjoyed a relatively happy childhood and the security of a close-knit Latin American family. Under the nurturing influence of his family, Borges began to write at a very early age. He read voraciously from his father’s personal library, which was rich in adventure tales by English authors such as Rudyard Kipling. Stories about distant lands and wild animals of the East shaped Borges’s childhood imagination. This curiosity was later to develop into more serious pursuits of study in the areas of...

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Biography

(Masterpieces of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Combining some unusual literary techniques with a refined wit, Jorge Luis Borges insisted on the fictionality of fiction—something fabricated and artificial. Many of Borges’s stories are true “artifices,” carefully wrought intellectual exercises that involve clever conceits. Borges is thus a truly postmodern writer, as interested in the process of construction as in the final product itself. Through the use of metaphors such as the labyrinth and the mirror and a highly cerebral style, Borges offers the reader a unique philosophy that denies the division between the real and the unreal worlds.

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Biography

(Great Authors of World Literature, Critical Edition)

Jorge Luis Borges (BAWR-hays), South America’s most famous writer of short fiction, was born in 1899 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, the son of Jorge Guillermo Borges, a lawyer and psychology teacher, and Leonor Acevedo de Borges, a descendant of old Argentine and Uruguayan families. An extremely intelligent child who spent much of his childhood indoors, Borges named his father’s library as the most important influence on his career. Based on his reading in that library, he began writing at the early age of six, imitating classical Spanish authors such as Miguel de Cervantes and others.{$S[A]Domecq, H. Bustos (joint);Borges, Jorge Luis}{$S[A]Lynch, B. Suárez (joint);Borges, Jorge Luis}

Borges attended school in...

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Biography

Jorge Luis Borges was born on August 24, 1899, in Buenos Aires, one of Argentina’s most famous cities. His father, Jorge Guillermo Borges,...

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Biography

Jorge Luis Borges was one of the most important and influential writers of the twentieth century. Born on August 24,1899, in Buenos Aires,...

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Biography

Jorge Luis Borges unintentionally helped to found Postmodernism through his blurring of the lines of genre and the borders between fiction...

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