Jorge Luis Borges 1899–-1986
(Also wrote under the pseudonym F. Bustos; with Adolfo Bioy Casares wrote under the joint pseudonyms. Bustos Domecq, B. Lynch Davis, and B. Suarez Lynch) Argentinian short story writer, poet, essayist, critic, translator, biographer, and screenwriter. See also Jorge Luis Borges Criticism (Volume 1), and Volumes 2, 3, 4, 6, 9, 10, 13, 32, 83.
During his lifetime, Borges was highly regarded as the author of baroque and labyrinthine short fictions, often written in the form of metaphysical detective stories. Characteristically, they blur the distinction between reality and the perception of reality, between the possible and the fantastic, between matter and spirit, between past, present, and future, and between the self and the other. They usually are situated in the nebulous confines of allegorical locations, whether identified as bizarre dimensions of the universe, Arabian cities, English gardens, the Argentine pampas, amazing libraries, or the neighborhoods of Buenos Aires. Since his death, Borges has attained the status of one of the major literary figures of the twentieth century, a master poet and essayist, as well as an architect of the short story. His work not only has influenced the way Latin American and non-Latin American writers write, but also the way readers read.
Borges was born into an old, Argentinian family of soldiers, patriots, and scholars in Buenos Aires, where he spent most of his childhood. His father was an intellectual, a university professor of psychology and modern languages, a lawyer, and a writer, who possessed an extensive library, which was the boy's delight. Borges, whose paternal grandmother was English, was raised bilingual and read English before Spanish. For example, his first encounter with Cervantes was in English, and when he was seven, his Spanish translation of Oscar Wilde's “The Happy Prince” appeared in a Uruguayan newspaper. A visit to Switzerland in 1914 became an extended stay when the outbreak of the First World War made it impossible for the family to return to Argentina. Borges enrolled in the College de Geneve, where he studied Latin, French, German, and the European philosophers, especially Schopenhauer and Bishop Berkley, whose dark pessimistic and antimaterialist influences can be perceived in the worldview of his literary work. After receiving his degree in 1918, and with the termination of the war, Borges traveled to Spain. There he joined with the avant-garde Ultraistas, who combined elements of Dadaism, Imagism, and German Expressionism, and published reviews, essays, and poetry. Borges returned to Buenos Aires in 1921, and, with the publication of his first books of poetry, Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923), Luna de enfrente (1925), and Cuaderno San Martin (1929) was recognized as a leading literary figure in Argentina. During these years, Borges helped establish several literary journals, and published essays on metaphysics and language, which were collected in Inquisiciones (1925) and El tamano de mi esperanza (1927). In 1938, the same year his father died, Borges developed a form of blood poisoning after a wound he received was poorly tended. Fearful that his ability to write might have been impaired by his illness, Borges took up short fiction rather than poetry, intending to attribute possible failure to inexperience in the genre rather than diminished literary skill. The result was “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote ,” a story highly acclaimed both as a fiction and as a precursor to deconstructionist textual analysis. There followed a period of composition in which the stories regarded as masterpieces were written. Though he spoke of his disdain for politics, Borges was always politically outspoken. He opposed European fascism and anti-Semitism, and the dictatorship of Juan Perón in Argentina. In 1946, Perón removed Borges from his post as an assistant at the National Library of Argentina, due to his opposition to the regime. In 1955,...
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