January 25, 2005

Incompletely Borges

I really liked this bit, published in the January 31, 2005, print edition of National Review, from a review of Borges: A Life, the new biography by Edwin Williamson, which I've yet to purchase. In fact, I wasn't at all interested in buying it; I cannot tell whether Algis Valiunas' review has changed my mind. Valiunas tells us:

At the heart of Williamson's account is a line from the philosopher F.H. Bradley that Borges chose as the epigraph to a 1928 book of essays: "For love unsatisfied the world is a mystery, a mystery which satisfied love appears to understand." Erotic distress translated into metaphysical consternation, and both found their way into Borges's writing. Druing most of his career Borges studiously avoided writing of love, at least directly; but, Williamson writes, this subject "haunted the work of his middle years and was encrypted in signs, symbols, and motifs virtually everywhere in his texts." Although Williamson's endless worrying at this theme turns into academic overkill, he clearly understands something essential about Borges's fiction.

This is an interesting observation; I'm not sure I'd care to read pages and pages on this theme, which sometimes is fairly obvious. In the Zahir (to cite one example) we begin with Borges' obsession over a woman, and end with his obsession over a coin. (The story also contains this memorable line: "I am no longer the 'I' of that episode; but it is still possible for me to remember what happened, perhaps even to tell it. I am still, however incompletely, Borges.")

Posted by Ideofact at January 25, 2005 11:02 PM
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