Skip to main content

J. L. Borges directory


“An Autobiographical Essay”, Borges 1971

1971-borges-anautobiographicalessay.pdf: “An Autobiographical Essay”⁠, Jorge Luis Borges (1971; similar):

[Lengthy autobiographical essay by author Jorge Luis Borges⁠; this is a major source for his life as he viewed it. Written at the height of his fame, it was published in the New Yorker⁠, and then early editions of The Aleph, before disputes with the translator led to it no longer being published and falling into obscurity—despite being a Borges fan, I was unaware it existed & had never read it until recently.

Borges methodically covers his life from beginning to the present, where he lectured and taught abroad as a celebrity, with particular focus on his intellectual influences: born to an obscure genteelly shabby middle-class family with illustrious forebears, Borges was raised to follow a literary career, and expected to vindicate his unsuccessful father efforts. Dabbling in local literature, Borges showed little promise until the family fortunes forced him onto quasi-welfare, indexing books at the national library; the futility of the work, his distaste for his colleagues, their grinding poverty, and frustrated expectations drove him to tears, in the most miserable period of his life. But this period was also the period where he would start writing his best-known short stories. (The details of the shelves & books in “The Library of Babel” were not symbolic but literally just that of the national library, Borges notes.) Happily, translations unexpectedly made Borges famous abroad before he became known in Argentina, and he discovered a life outside books, sharing everything he learned, like his studies of Anglo-Saxon, with students.

Borges concludes that, to his surprise, he now has something like happiness.]

“The Nightingale of Keats”, Borges 1952

1952-borges-thenightingaleofkeats.pdf: “The Nightingale of Keats”⁠, Jorge Luis Borges (1952-01-01)

“The Argentine Writer and Tradition”, Borges 1951

1951-borges-theargentinewriterandtradition.pdf: “The Argentine Writer and Tradition”⁠, Jorge Luis Borges (1951; ; backlinks; similar):

[Borges considers the problem of whether Argentinian writing on non-Argentinian subjects can still be truly “Argentine.” His conclusion:]

…We should not be alarmed and that we should feel that our patrimony is the universe; we should essay all themes, and we cannot limit ourselves to purely Argentine subjects in order to be Argentine; for either being Argentine is an inescapable act of fate—and in that case we shall be so in all events—or being Argentine is a mere affectation, a mask. I believe that if we surrender ourselves to that voluntary dream which is artistic creation, we shall be Argentine and we shall also be good or tolerable writers.

“From Allegories to Novels”, Borges 1949

1949-borges-fromallegoriestonovels.pdf: “From Allegories to Novels”⁠, Jorge Luis Borges (1949-01-01; ; backlinks)

“The Translators of The Thousand and One Nights”, Borges 1936

1936-borges-thetranslatorsofthethousandandonenights.pdf: “The Translators of The Thousand and One Nights⁠, Jorge Luis Borges (1936; ; backlinks; similar):

[18pg Borges essay on translations of the collection of Arab fairytales The Thousand and One Nights: each translator—Galland⁠, Lane⁠, Burton⁠, Littmann⁠, Mardrus—criticized the previous translator by creation.]

At Trieste, in 1872, in a palace with damp statues and deficient hygienic facilities, a gentleman on whose face an African scar told its tale-Captain Richard Francis Burton, the English consul-embarked on a famous translation of the Quitab alif laila ua laila, which the roumis know by the title The Thousand and One Nights. One of the secret aims of his work was the annihilation of another gentleman (also weather-beaten, and with a dark and Moorish beard) who was compiling a vast dictionary in England and who died long before he was annihilated by Burton. That gentleman was Edward Lane, the Orientalist, author of a highly scrupulous version of The Thousand and One Nights that had supplanted a version by Galland. Lane translated against Galland, Burton against Lane; to understand Burton we must understand this hostile dynasty.

“The Homeric Versions”, Borges 1932

1932-borges-thehomericversions.pdf: “The Homeric Versions”⁠, Jorge Luis Borges (1932; backlinks; similar):

[6pg Borges essay on the literary merits of different translations of Homer and the problems of translation: the Newman-Arnold debate encapsulates the basic problem of literality vs literary. Borges gives translations of one passage by Buckley, Butcher & Lang, Cowper, Pope, Chapman, and Butler. Which is best?

See also Borges 1936, “The Translators of the Thousand and One Nights”⁠, a much more extended discussion of different translations of a work.]