[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.]