Borges: Selected Non-Fictions
Jorge Luis Borges, Esther Allen
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It will come as a surprise to some readers that the greater part of Jorge Luis Borges's extraordinary writing was not in the genres of fiction or poetry, but in the various forms of non-fiction prose. His thousands of pages of essays, reviews, prologues, lectures, and notes on politics and culture—though revered in Latin America and Europe as among his finest work—have scarcely been translated into English.
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by La Fontaine and declares (to spite some opponent) that they are "the most beautiful verses in the world" ( Variete, 84) . I would now like to recall the future and not the past. Reading is now T H E S U P E R ST I TI 0 U S ET H I CS 0 F T H E R E A D E R 55 practiced in silence, a fortunate symptom. And there are mute readers of verse. From that discrete capacity to a purely ideographic writing-direct communication of experiences, not of sounds-there is an inexhaustible distance, though
Hollywood with silvery images of Joan Crawford, and read and reread in cities every where. They are governed by a very different order, both lucid and primi tive: the primeval clarity of magic. This ancient procedure, or ambition, has been reduced by Frazer to a convenient general law, the law of sympathy, which assumes that "things act on each other at a distance" through a secret sympathy, either because their form is similar (imitative or homeopathic magic) or because of a previous physical
cases from the desert or the cities of Arabia, are not obscene, and neither is any production of pre-Islamic literature. They are impassioned and sad, and one of their favorite themes is death for love, the death that an opinion ren dered by the ulamas declared no less holy than that of a martyr who bears witness to the faith . . . . If we approve of this argument, we may see the timidities of Galland and Lane as the restoration of a primal text. I know of another defense, a better one. An
or remembers having remembered it until very recently. ( I retrieve it by distorting it in the following way: If time is a men tal process, how can it be shared by thousands of men, or even two different men?) The Eleatic refutation of movement raises another problem, which can be expressed thus: It is impossible for fourteen minutes to elapse in eight hundred years of time, because first seven minutes must pass, and before seven, three and a half, and before three and a half, one and
which things participate in the universal forms; yet another, the conjecture that these antiseptic archetypes may themselves suffer from mixture and variety. Far from being indissoluble, they are as confused as time's own creatures, repeating the very anoma lies they seek to resolve. Lion-ness, let us say: how would it dispense with Pride and Tawniness, Mane-ness and Paw-ness? There is no answer to this question, nor can there be: we do not expect from the term lion-ness a A H I S T O RY O f