Borges is, I find, a true animator of human thought. He takes a hypothetical- what would you do if you met a later version of yourself? - and makes a scene of it: younger Borges enters his own room and finds, lying down on his bed, another, older Borges. They exchange quips, ask important questions, argue over who is dreaming whom. We read along, entertained by the revelations, wondering how exactly this is going to end. In the work of Borges, philosophy has the quality of the detectivesque, of the historias poliacas he knew so well.
Borges, who lived from 1899 to 1986, is known for having been an avid reader. He was and continues to be an excellent advocate of reading. For one thing, his stories lead to further book hunts. One can read Borges without understanding the allusions (Spinoza’s philosophy, the battle of Masoller) but there is always delight in doing a bit of extra research and realizing: ha! the battle of 1904 in Masoller did take place! It was the last battle of the Uruguayan Civil War. Or in finally checking out Ben Johnson’s work or beginning to think about the Kabbalah...
Borges is a strong advocate of texts simply because he understood reading as a legitimate way of spending time, as a way of informing our human experience. He was also, of course, an amazing craftsman, composing stories of clever structure and deliciously precise word choice. His stories and essays are ever present in my own interpretation of memory, in my relationship to human history and the history of human thought. Borges is essential to the way I think of stories and imagination.
If you haven’t approached Borges yet, or if it’s been a while since you entered his labyrinths, I recommend finding your way to a collection of his short stories.
At La Casa Azul Bookstore we have Ficciones in English and El Aleph in Spanish, and can always help you find more of his works, stop by any time!
Happy, powerful reading to all.