TagJorge Borges

The Daggers of Jorge Luis Borges

Ostensibly a review of Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature, this essay is a great overview of how Jorge Borges’ politics affected his work:

Throughout his life, Jorge Luis Borges was engaged in a dialogue with violence. Speaking to an interviewer about his childhood in what was then the outlying barrio of Palermo, in Buenos Aires, he said, “To call a man, or to think of him, as a coward—that was the last thing…the kind of thing he couldn’t stand.” According to his biographer, Edwin Williamson,1 Borges’s father handed him a dagger when he was a boy, with instructions to overcome his poor eyesight and “generally defeated” demeanor and let the boys who were bullying him know that he was a man.

Swords, daggers—weapons with a blade—retained a mysterious, talismanic significance for Borges, imbued with predetermined codes of conduct and honor. The short dagger had particular power, because it required the fighters to draw death close, in a final embrace. As a young man, in the 1920s, Borges prowled the obscure barrios of Buenos Aires, seeking the company of cuchilleros, knife fighters, who represented to him a form of authentic criollo nativism that he wished to know and absorb.

The criollos were the early Spanish settlers of the pampa, and their gaucho descendants. For at least a century now, the word has signified an ideal cultural purity that, according to its champions, was corrupted by the privatization of the pampa and, later, by the flood of immigrants from Italy and elsewhere in Europe that took place in the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries.

Borges spent much of his twenties attempting to write a full-length epic poem that would mythologize this “innumerable Buenos Aires of mine,” as he called it—a work that would, in Borges’s words again, “converse with the world and with the self, with God and with death.” He saw it as a way to reflect the city’s essence, as Joyce had done with Dublin, a way to establish a lasting cultural identity that Argentina did not yet possess in the world. His aim, in part, was to enshrine the urban descendent of the criollo, with his ubiquitous dagger and supposedly honorable outlaw ways. Eventually he would abandon the project—Borges was never able to conquer the long form; and though his cultural vision, as it later developed, would be much broader, the romance of the criollo would continue to animate his imagination. Some of his finest fiction—including the stories “The South,” “The Dead Man,” and “The Intruder,” to name just a few—was kindled by the dagger.

Full Story: The New York Review of Books: The Daggers of Jorge Luis Borges

DSM-5 As Borgesian Novel

Mental Disorders

DSM-5 as a dystopian novel:

If the novel has an overbearing literary influence, it’s undoubtedly Jorge Luis Borges. The American Psychiatric Association takes his technique of lifting quotes from or writing faux-serious reviews for entirely imagined books and pushes it to the limit: Here, we have an entire book, something that purports to be a kind of encyclopedia of madness, a Library of Babel for the mind, containing everything that can possibly be wrong with a human being. Perhaps as an attempt to ward off the uncommitted reader, the novel begins with a lengthy account of the system of classifications used – one with an obvious debt to the Borgesian Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, in which animals are exhaustively classified according to such sets as “those belonging to the Emperor,” “those that, at a distance, resemble flies,” and “those that are included in this classification.”

Just as Borges’s system groups animals by seemingly aleatory characteristics entirely divorced from their actual biological attributes, DSM-5 arranges its various strains of madness solely in terms of the behaviors exhibited. This is a recurring theme in the novel, while any consideration of the mind itself is entirely absent. In its place we’re given diagnoses such as “frotteurism,” “oppositional defiant disorder,” and “caffeine intoxication disorder.” That said, these classifications aren’t arranged at random; rather, they follow a stately progression comparable to that of Dante’s Divine Comedy, rising from the infernal pit of the body and its weaknesses (intellectual disabilities, motor tics) through our purgatorial interactions with the outside world (tobacco use, erectile dysfunction, kleptomania) and finally arriving in the limpid-blue heavens of our libidinal selves (delirium, personality disorders, sexual fetishism). It’s unusual, and at times frustrating in its postmodern knowingness, but what is being told is first and foremost a story.

Full Story: New Inquiry: Book of Lamantations

Jorge Luis Borges Self-Portrait

Jorge Luis Borges self-portrait

Jorge Luis Borges Self-Portrait, self-portrait. From the collection of Burt Britton. Borges was nearly blind when he drew this for Britton.

(via CC Huang)

Borges on Google Maps

Borges’s story about a map as big as the territory it represented compared to Google Maps:

It is in these days that we are witnessing the collective creation of a map even more exact that Borges could imagine; one that describes the limits, the roads, and the shores of every territory on the planet. At the same time it uncovers another ambition more perfect and occult: that every shepherd or “emperor” can edit their own map as they wish, they can forge their own version of the world. In that map we will have a blueprint of human life: Things moving, crimes, thefts, migrating animals, childhood memories, imaginary battles between good and evil, hookers and ogres, real-time weather. In all, anything that can be pointed down to the soil and be named.

Full Story: Mira: Google Maps according to Jorge Luis Borges

The books Borges never wrote

A collection of Borges’s imaginary works, complete with covers:

The Crimson Hexagon: Books Borges Never Wrote

(via del.icio.us/tag/borges)

Borges story in the latest Exquisite Corpse

The latest edition of the weird literary magazine Exquisite Corpse has an Jorge Borges story called “Ragnarök” in it. Short and thought provoking.

In dreams, writes Coleridge, images form the impressions that we believe them to trigger; we are not afraid because we’re clutched by a sphinx, but rather a sphinx embodies the fear that we feel. If this is so, can a mere account of one’s dream–shapes transmit the stupor, the elation, the false alarms, the menace, and the jubilation that is woven into last night’s sleep? I will experiment with this account, without restraint; perhaps the fact that the dream was a single stream of consciousness expunges or mitigates this essential difficulty.

Exquisite Corpose: Ragnarök by Jorge Luis Borges.

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