José Luis Borges -or, if you prefer, simply Borges- bequeathed us a prolific literature in which two fundamental elements can be distinguished: a marked internationalism and a deep nostalgic love for mythical or minimal places: Buenos Aires, the South, Iceland, England, the Far East, certain patios, certain corners.
A large part of José Luis Borges’ books are clearly influenced by existentialism and rationalism. However, we must always keep in mind that Borges was an active member of the current called ultraism, an avant-garde movement born around the magazine Ultra.
The essential elements of ultraism are the reduction of lyric poetry to metaphor, the elimination of nexuses and superfluous adjectives, the abolition of ornamental works and stilted sentences, as well as the synthesis of two or more images in a single one.
Philosopher of poetry or poet of philosophy, Borges always presents his writings as ontological enigmas. Often, his stories or poems are clothed with the features of a treatise.
Fantastic ontologies, transversal etymologies, synchronic genealogies, utopian grammars, novel geographies, multiple universal histories, logical bestiaries, ornithological syllogisms?
… narrative ethics, imaginary mathematics, theological thrillers, nostalgic geometries and invented memories, all of Borges’ literature is part of an immense landscape that is offered to scholars and readers.
With good reason, José Luis Borges is often presented as one of the most important scholars of the 20th century. However, this does not prevent the reading of his work from arousing moments of lively emotion or simple distraction.
As a fiction writer, it is curious that Borges is the choice of semioticians, mathematicians, philologists, philosophers and mythologists.
If we were to define the literary style of José Luis Borges, we would surely have to speak of the perfection of his language, the erudition of his knowledge, the universalism of his ideas, the originality of his fictions, the beauty of his poetry.
An intense writer, this element of Borges’ literature has revolutionized the fields of reading and criticism more than those of writing.
The transversality characteristic of Borges’ literature should not be confused with interdisciplinarity. In José Luis Borges there is less a sum of methodologies than an epistemological shift from one field of relevance to another.
Borges uses a singular literary style, based on the interpretation of concepts such as time, space, destiny or reality.
The symbology used by José Luis Borges refers to the authors that most influence him -William Shakespeare, Thomas De Quincey, Rudyard Kipling or Joseph Conrad-, as well as the Bible, the Jewish Kabbalah, early European literatures, classical literature and philosophy.
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Who was Jose Luis Borges?
José Luis Borges was an Argentine poet, essayist and writer born in Buenos Aires (1899) and died in the Swiss city of Geneva (1986). In addition to Argentina and Switzerland, Borges lived in the United Kingdom and Spain.
In 1923 he published his first book of poems, Fervor de Buenos Aires, and in 1935 Historia universal de la infamia, a series of short stories.
Between 1937 and 1945, José Luis Borges worked as a librarian in Buenos Aires. He also worked as a lecturer and professor of English literature at the University of Buenos Aires, president of the Argentine Society of Writers, member of the Argentine Academy of Letters.
Between 1955 and 1974, José Luis Borges was director of the National Library of Argentina. In 1961 he shared with Samuel Beckett the Formentor Prize, awarded by the International Congress of Publishers. Since 1964 he has published both verse and prose.
José Luis Borges’ stature as a writer and intellectual was recognized with the Miguel de Cervantes Prize in 1979.
Regarding the reasons why José Luis Boirges never received the Nobel Prize for Literature, the writer himself pointed out in several interviews “Because those gentlemen share with me the judgment I have about my work”.
Most important works of Jose Luis Borges
Although Jorge Luis Borges’ work is extensive, his short stories and poems stand out. He also has internationally recognized essays. Some of his most outstanding works are:
- Fervor de Buenos Aires (poetry, 1923)
- El otro, el mismo (poetry, 1964)
- Historia Universal de la Infamia (short stories, 1935)
- Ficciones (short stories, 1944)
- El Aleph (short stories, 1949)
- Inquisiciones (essays, 1925)
- El idioma de los argentinos (essays, 1928).
One of his most famous works, El Aleph, proposes an existentialist reading, based on the idea of the inability of humans to face eternity through the story of a fictional Borges and
Beatriz Viterbo, whom he had loved unrequited.
José Luis Borges, besides being an immense literary man, was also a naive, malignant, funny, sensitive to the misfortunes of love, envious of qualities he did not have or did not believe he had, unsuccessful, triumphant, contradictory… Here are some anecdotes arising from this amalgam of humanity.
Borges cultivated malice with exquisite grace, a resource he used above all to express himself in a lapidary way about the work of colleagues whose works he did not find praiseworthy. Borges was once asked for his opinion on the poet Arturo Capdevila, to which Borges replied, “Well, it is very difficult to speak of him without slandering him.”
Married twice, from his first wife, Elsa Astete, he divorced after three years of marriage. Combining his blindness with the bad relationship he had with his ex, Borges says “I [Elsa] never wanted to see her again, and the fact that I am blind in this case favored me”.
Finally, Argentine writer Mario Paoletti recalls a brief dialogue Borges had with author Bioy Casares, in which he again laughs at his disability.
Bioy -How uncomfortable it is not to see without glasses.
Borges -How uncomfortable it is not to see with glasses.