Thoughts on Reading Jorge Luis Borges

Themes of non-linear time, multiple selves, complexity in simplicity, relative truth, relative reality—Borges invented stories in order to play with philosophical concepts.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator. Rather than write about a strict reality, he created fantasy in order to write about human nature. In the afterword of The Aleph and Other Stories, he concludes he’d been examining himself all along:

A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.

J.L.B.

So, would I take this short story collection to the beach with a margarita? No. It’s a challenge. He pulls allusions from so many different cultures that half of them are lost on me. And if you skim over a line, that may have been the line that tied a whole concept together.

I had to reread many of these stories before I got an inkling of what they had to offer.

And yet, with every challenge there’s a pay-off; my own short story writing has recently been infused with Borges’ concepts of simultaneous time, infinite selves, a point that is all points, a word that encompasses all language—maybe it’s just a phase.

If I feel called, I might buy a reader companion for reading Borges. I don’t really know what that is but I heard someone suggesting it. Without one, and just diving in, I feel as though I may have missed half of the thoughts to think. Will a reader companion tell me what to look for?

Though maybe there was something to gain by experiencing it all on my own, even if I did miss most of it.

That someone suggesting the reader companion: The Artisan Geek and her classics bookclub here.