Jorge Luis Borges

I meant to publish this a while back. Reading the article on FT this month regarding Latin American literature jogged my memory.

Borges is Argentina’s greatest modern writer. That’s hardly a contentious statement. I would add he is Latin America’s greatest modern writer, but as expounded by Martin below, it’s a futile exercise anyway. This isn’t writing with a basis in any one country or area, he just happens to be the best that country produced.

Borges is an author whose pages are crammed with ideas. The short stories glide from science fiction to detective novel and themes forever overlap. There are narratives masquerading as book reviews with a scattering of links to other works. The references are highly detailed and convincingly authentic. But none of the sources exist. This is the kind of literature that left me in awe of the author’s imagination and made me wonder how intelligent I’d be if I didn’t have a brain full of football results.

Recurring motifs of labyrinths and language mix with rewritten history and can leave the reader baffled or marvelled. Like the story of the library containing every book ever written and every book yet to be written, Borges was trying to keep ahead of the game. From the scholar who precisely rewrote Don Quixote to the man who remembered literally everything, this is mind-stretching stuff. One read through is to scratch the surface, two is pick up the patterns and by the third you want to recommend it to the stranger sitting opposite on the bus.

Borges died in 1986. His writing is widely translated and the collected short stories, Fictions is the ideal way in. His most famous quote is widely known and sprang from the Falklands War in 1982, ‘Two bald men fighting over a comb.’