Two comments on Jorge Luis Borges summarize his name and legacy. Nobel Literature Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa said: “Those of us who write in Spanish owe him an enormous debt”. The New York Times, for its part, was brief but concise: “No one is like Borges”.
To re-engage with Borges’s work, and for those who come to him for the first time, Vintage Español has released new editions of four seminal books by the great Argentine author: El Aleph (The Aleph), Ficciones (Collected Fictions), La historia universal de la infamia (A Universal History of Infamy),and Poesía completa (Selected Poems). A summa luxury.
What about Borges the man? His widow María Kodama recently spoke with TintaFresca about the person and the author during her recent visit to New York to open the exhibit The Atlas of Borges.
What do readers learn with this exhibition?
Happiness. Borges is always portrayed as someone in a grim mood, the man of the labyrinths. Yes, part of it was true, but necessary for the creative process. However, he was also a terribly funny person. I always say that if he hadn’t gone blind, he would have been an adventurer. He’d still have been a writer, because that was what he felt, but he loved to do fun things. He had a different life, was overprotected, and raised by 19th century people. I tried to do everything as safe as possible for him, but he never said he could not do this or that. If he wanted to spend the night in the desert, if he wanted to ride a hot air balloon, a helicopter, we did it. A person is what he transmits. And Borges never transmitted to me that he was old or blind. With this exhibit, I want people to capture the image of what happiness was to us, of what we shared in a unique and wonderful way.
What does this retrospective mean to you?
For me, it’s as if he were present. I have never felt that he’s gone. Or as my friends tell me, I do not let go of him.
A book by Borges that you really like?
Las ruinas circulares (The Circular Ruins), I read it when I was very young. Even though I did not fully understand it then I was fascinated by the language, the rhythm, its depth.
If Borges had not been a writer, what do you think he would have been?
Lawrence of Arabia (laughs). That’s very funny. Borges loved epic stories, and the main character in the film is epic and he is totally crazy.
About the author
Jorge Luis Borges was born on August 24, 1899 in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He died in 1986 in Geneva, Switzerland. He was a writer, poet, translator, librarian, essayist and literary critic. In 1921, after many years of living abroad, he returned to his homeland and founded the magazines Prisma and Proa. In 1923 he published his first book of poetry, Fervor de Buenos Aires, and in 1935 A Universal History of Infamy. He won many literary prizes among them the National Literature Prize in Argentina and the coveted Cervantes Prize.