Jorge Luis Borges - Biography
Jorge Luis Borges (1889-1986) was a giant in Latin American letters. Borges was a poet, story writer and essayist. His short fiction was renowned for the rich and fantastical imagery. The University of Cuyo awarded him the National Prize for Literature and an honorary doctorate. In 1961, Jorge Luis Borges (along with Samuel Beckett) was awarded the Prix Formentor.
Some argue that Jorge Luis Borges continued the fabulist tradition of Edgar Allan Poe. His own influence can be seen on the interextuality characteristic of Latin-American Literature by such pivotal figures as Gabriel Garcia Marquez and Julio Cortázar.
Borges was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1899. His family had a comfortable middle-class family. At the precocious age of nine, a journal in Buenos Aires published Jorge Luis Borges’s Spanish translation of Oscar Wilde’s The Happy Prince. Borges’s father (a failed writer by his sons admission) had a vast library, which inspired Jorge Luis Borges’s literary aspirations. Jorge Luis Borges read in both Spanish and English before he was a teenager. His mother also had literary interests and translated the works of the American author Nathaniel Hawthorne into Spanish.
The Borges family moved to Switzerland in 1914. In part, the family moved to seek treatment for Borges’s father who had a degenerative eye condition. This degenerative condition would also afflict Jorge Luis Borges in his later life.
Jorge Luis Borges continued his education in Switzerland. Borges added French and German to his linguistic repetoire. In 1918. Borges was awarded a baccalauréat from the College de Geneve. This diploma indicated that Borges was prepared for university studies. Due to the political instability in Argentina, the family remained in Europe in 1921. They traveled throughout both Switzerland and Spain. During this period, Jorge Luis Borges studied the works of Arthur Schopenhauer, Gustav Meyrink Guillaume Apollinaire, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. Borges became a member of the Ultraist movement in addition to making the acquaintance of Ramon Gomez de la Serna and Rafael Cansinos Assens.
Jorge Luis Borges and is family returned to Buenos Aires in 1921. Borges lacked an extensive formal education and few qualifications for employment. He wrote surrealist poems and literary essays that were published in journals. In 1923, Jorge Luis Borges published Fervor de Buenos Aires . This was his first collection of poetry. Within nine years of his return to Argentina, Nestor Ibarra had crowned Borges as the “Great Apostle of Criollismo.” Many see one of the projects of Borges’s work is to express his particular form of regionalism.
Jorge Luis Borges’s work turned to address existential and phenomenological issues in a more direct way. At this time, Borges was influenced by the work of Martin Heidegger, Edmund Husserl and Jean-Paul Sartre. Starting in 1931, Jorge Luis Borges was a regular contributor Sur, edited by Victoria Ocampo. In 1933, Borges became an editor for the newspaper Critica’s literary supplement. His style from this period was characterized as irreal. Borges expresses some of nature of irreality when describing a recurring nightmare:
I dream of a mirror. I see myself with a mask, or I see in the mirror somebody who is me but whom I do not recognize as myself. I arrive at a place, and I have the sense of being lost and that all is horrible. The place itself is like any other. It is a room, with furniture, and its appearance is not horrible. What is atrocious is the feeling, not the images. Another frequent nightmare is of being attacked by beings who are children; there are many of them, very little but strong. I try to defend myself, but the blows I give are weak.
Many argue that Jorge Luis Borges El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (published in 1941) represented the first hypertext.
As Jorge Luis Borges eyesight began to fail, he had difficulty working as a writer. He began to lecture publicly to supplement his income. Once he became totally blind his mother acted as his secretary. Later in life, Borges would explain his blindness by saying, “…in a certain way there is a purification in the blindness. It purifies one of visual circumstances. Circum-stances are lost, and the external world, which is always trying to grab us, becomes fainter.”
In his new public role, at the Argentine Association of English Culture appointed Borges as Professor of English and American literature, and Argentine Society of Writers appointed him as President.
In the fifties, Borges also began to compose screenplays. His screenplays include Los Orilleros, El Paraíso de los Creyentes, and Invasión.
Starting in 1956 and lasting until his death, Borges was an instructor at the University of Buenos Aires. This was also the year he was appointed the Director of the National Library. However, when Juan Peron returned to power, Borges resigned his position. Politically, Jorge Luis Borges was against Peronism, Marxism and Communism.
Jorge Luis Borges died in Geneva in 1986. He was suffering from liver cancer.
Jorge Luis Borges translated the works of Edgar Allan Poe, Franz Kafka, Hermann Hesse, Joseph Rudyard Kipling, William Faulkner, Andre Gide, Walt Whitman and Virginia Woolf. Borges was also known for literary hoaxes. Writings in the style of authors such as Emanuel Swedenborg published under the names of another author. Even Borges legitimate translations have been accused of having extensive manipulation and liberties taken with them. His literary enterprises included imagining and reviewing works that do not exist. The most noted piece is Borges “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.” In this work, Borges imagines an author who creates/re-creates the work of Miguel de Cervantes. The mercurial nature of the work of Jorge Luis Borges impacted the production of literature worldwide. Borges’s ability to make the text aware of itself marked him as one of the preeminent writers of the twentieth century, especially in developing a new post-modern sensibility.
The works Jorge Luis Borges include: Fervor de Buenos Aires, Inquisiciones, Luna de Enfrente, El tamaño de mi esperanza, El idioma de los argentinos, Cuaderno San Martín, Evaristo Carriego, Discusión, Historia universal de la infamia, Historia de la eternidad, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan, Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi, Poemas : 1922-1943, Ficciones, Un modelo para la muerte, Dos fantasías memorables, El Aleph, Aspectos de la poesía gauchesca, Antiguas literaturas germánicas, La muerte y la brújula, Otras inquisiciones 1937-1952, Historia de la eternidad, El "Martín Fierro", Poemas : 1923-1953, Los orilleros; El paraíso de los creyentes, Leopoldo Lugones, La hermana de Eloísa, Manual de zoología fantástica, Libro del cielo y del infierno, El Hacedor, Antología Personal, El lenguaje de Buenos Aires, Introducción a la literatura inglesa, Para las seis cuerdas , Literaturas germánicas medievales, Crónicas de Bustos Domecq, Introducción a la literatura norteamericana, El libro de los seres imaginarios, Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, Nueva Antología Personal, Museo, Elogio de la Sombra, El otro, el mismo, El informe de Brodie, El congreso, Nuevos Cuentos de Bustos Domecq, El oro de los tigres, Profunda, El libro de arena, La Rosa Profunda, La moneda de hierro, Diálogos, ¿Que es el budismo? , Historia de la noche, Prólogos con un prólogo de prólogos, Borges El Memorioso, Rosa y Azul: La rosa de Paracelso; Tigres azules, Borges, oral, Siete noches, La cifra, Nueve ensayos dantescos, Un argumento, Veinticinco de Agosto de 1983 y otros cuentos, Altas, Los conjurados, Textos cautivos, and This Craft of Verse.