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What did Jorge Luis Borges read?

Maria Kodama tells us what the writer's favorite authors were and what works were never missing in her personal library.

Art and Literature

Almost 120 years after the birth of one of the greatest Argentine writers of universal literature, its validity in intellectual and literary life remains stronger than ever. Master of teachers, the contribution left by Jorge Luis Borges profoundly marked not only the formation of so many other writers who chose the way of the pen, but also of the different generations of readers who came to their pages to dazzle with the creation of a unique world and personal.

Stories, poems, essays, classes, lectures and no novel. “Circular Ruins”, “Tlön Uqbar Orbis Tertius”, “Funes the Memorioso”, “The Library of Babel”, “The Other”, “The Aleph”, “The Garden of Forking Trails” and so many other unforgettable texts are some of those that built Borges as one of literary geniuses not only in Argentina, but also in the rest of the world. In China, for example, he became the most read Latin American author and even sell t-shirts with some of his phrases stamped on ideograms.

 Your library 

This August 24 marks 119 years of the birth of Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, who, with great humility, wrote in one of his poems: “Let others boast of the pages they have written; I am proud of the ones I have read.” 

But what are the ones that gave him so much pride? What kind of books were there in your own library? What were your favorite authors? Who was he relayed?

 “ His large library was what he inherited from his father, who came from his English grandmother. There he met many authors. In his personal library, there were not only copies of literature but, above all, philosophy, religion, astrology, mathematics and science. He was very curious,” said Maria Kodama , literature specialist and wife of the writer, who accompanied him until the last day.

And he added:

 “ Borges had the complete British Encyclopedia; many translations of the Divine Comedy — he travelled bookstores to buy and compare translations—; sagas of Icelandic literature, and various oriental works, especially Japanese such as The Tales of Ise. Of course, I read a lot to the classics.” 

Translated into English by William Morris, the Icelandic sagaVölsunga — an anonymous work written during the 13th century — was a gift from his father, when Borges was just a teenager and already an exceptional reader. The passion for Icelandic lyrics — “the Latin of the North” as Borges said — accompanied him ever since. He began to study that language, also with Maria Kodama, not to speak it, but he did to translate it. And so he published the books The Kenningar , Medieval Germanic Literatures , and Gylfginning — the latter, along with his wife.

Although he considered himself a contemporary of the Greeks, he also had a certain predilection for other authors, including: Virginia Woolf, William Faulkner, E. M. Forster, Kafka, André Breton, Ray Bradbury, Lovecraft, C. S. Lewis; and on this side of the region Silvina Ocampo, Adolfo Bioy Casares, Jose Bianco, Juan Rodolfo Wilkock, Ernesto Sabato, Julio Cortazar.

Still, Borges explained: “ In general, contemporary is not interested in me. I think he'll have to look a lot like me. After all, I'm a contemporary, too. As it is contemporary, we are living in the same world and I don't think we can be very different. On the other hand, if you study literatures from other times, you can find new things.” 

There are those who say that reader is not the one who reads, but the one who rereads. Borges always returned to the pages that aroused him most admiration, among them: Divina Comedy,El Quixote, Homeric poems .

By the way, Kodama said: “Borges reused Cervantes's work a lot. It was the only novel he liked . But he wasn't a reader of the genre. He said that in novels, at any moment, they were populated with pillows, candlesticks, meals. I mean, stuffing stuff ended up coming up. That's why he didn't write them either. Instead, with poems, stories or essays he said that he had greater control, for their extent, tension and brevity.”

Year by year, what does move away from brevity is the number of readers of different nationalities who read and read the Borgean work, perpetuating the enormous cultural and literary footprint that this Argentine writer knew how to achieve not only in the history of literature, but also in the most vivid and contemporary.neo of her.

Why is “Reader's Day” celebrated every 24 August in Argentina?

It is in honor and commemoration of the birth of Jorge Luis Borges.It was declared in 2012 by a bill that was passed unanimously in both Houses of the Congress of the Nation.


Publication Date: 14/06/2019

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