Jorge Luis Borges Borges, Jorge Luis (Vol. 83)

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Introduction

(Contemporary Literary Criticism)

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Jorge Luis Borges 1899–1986

(Also wrote under pseudonym F. Bustos, and, with Adolfo Bioy Casares, under the joint pseudonyms H. Bustos Domecq, B. Lynch Davis, and B. Suarez Lynch) Argentinean short story writer, poet, essayist, translator, critic, biographer, and screenwriter.

The following entry provides an overview of Borges's career. For further information on his life and work, see CLC, Volumes 1, 2, 3, 4, 6, 8, 9, 10, 13, 19, 44, and 48.

Considered among the foremost literary figures of the twentieth century, Borges is best known for his short stories which blend fantasy, realism, and his extensive knowledge of world literature, metaphysics, and mysticism. Dealing with such themes as time, memory, and the malleability of both reality and literary form, Borges combined various styles of fiction and nonfiction to create a hybrid genre that defies easy classification. Although some critics have faulted his refusal to address social and political issues in his work, Borges maintained that he was "neither a thinker nor a moralist, but simply a man of letters who turns his own perplexities and that respected system of perplexities we call philosophy into the forms of literature."

Biographical Information

Borges was born in Buenos Aires to parents of old, illustrious Argentinean families. His father, a lawyer, educator, translator, and writer, encouraged his children in their intellectual pursuits with his extensive library and broad range of interests. As a child, Borges learned Spanish and English simultaneously, and mastered French, Latin, and German during college. A family tour of Europe in 1914 was interrupted by travel restrictions necessitated by World War I, thus affording Borges time to attend the Collège Calvin in Geneva, Switzerland, from which he earned his degree in 1918. The following year he traveled in Spain where he associated with members of the literary avant-garde, particularly the Ultraists, and published his first poems, essays, and reviews. Borges returned to Buenos Aires in 1921 and, with the publication of his first books of poetry, Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923) and Luna de enfrente (1925), was recognized as one of Argentina's leading literary figures. Although primarily a poet and essayist at first, Borges began writing short stories in the 1930s, and his first collections—Historia universal de la infamia (1935; A Universal History of Infamy) and most importantly Ficciones, 1935–1944 (1944; Ficciones)—confirmed him as the foremost writer in Argentina. Despite a general dislike of politics and social commentary, Borges became an outspoken critic of Juan Perón during the Argentinean dictator's reign from 1946 to 1955; in a move to humiliate the noted writer, Perón appointed him national poultry inspector. After the return of civilian rule, however, Borges was made director of the National Library of Argentina and became a professor of English literature at the University of Buenos Aires. In the early 1960s the English translation of Ficciones, 1935–1944 brought him international recognition and, along with many offers to teach and lecture around the world, the 1961 Prix Formentor, the International Publishers Prize, which he shared with Nobel laureate Samuel Beckett. The majority of his time from this point on was spent traveling, lecturing, and dictating new works: he had grown almost completely blind and had to rely on a secretary to read and write for him. By his own account, Borges's life was devoted almost solely to literature. As he once explained: "Few things have happened to me, and I have read a great many. Or rather, few things have happened to me more worth remembering than Schopenhauer's thought or the music of England's words."

Major Works

Borges produced major works in three genres—poetry, essays, and short fiction. His first major books of poetry, Fervor de Buenos Aires and Luna de enfrente , are avant-garde collections influenced by the Ultraist movement; the poems combine urban settings and themes,...

(The entire section is 40,852 words.)