Jorge Luis Borges is a writer of 20th century world literature whose work today is counted as classics of that period. He was a poet, essayist, and short-story writer. Borges was born on august 24 1899 to an upper-class family in Bueno Aires, Argentina. He began writing as a student and wrote his first story at age of seven which was his translation of Oscar Wilder’s “The Happy Prince” in Spanish but his love for the literate world was passed on to him from his father, who himself was an intellectual man. His family had a notable presence in Argentina’s history.
Borges’s initial interactions with books and its world began when he started reading books from his father’s library. The adventures of Huckleberry Finn, novels of H.G. Well, The Thousand and One Night were some of the first books, young Borges had read. He had learned English and Spanish languages since his childhood under the guidance of his grandmother. In 1919 Spain Borges joined the young writers of the Ultraist movement. It was a literary movement that started to oppose modernism which dominated Spanish poetry. Later on, he was also credited to have established the movement in South America however he later denied his involvement in the events.
Buenos Aires was Borge’s native place and his heart belonged there, hence in 1921 he returned to Buenos and rediscovered his place to pen them down in his beautiful poems which imaginatively connected the dots of past and present. And during this process, he published his first book which was a volume of poems names Fervor de Buenos Aire, Poemas which means “Fervour of Buenos airs, Poems.” From here started his authoring career of volumes of essays and poems and also the period also saw the founding of three literary journals. In the initial stages of his established writing career, he wrote more about infamous men or retell the lives of the great forgotten man. one example of his work of this time is A Universal History of Infamy. Even after beginning an exceptionally brilliant writer, he wasn’t well known in Buenos, and to earn his living he took a major post in 1938 at a library named after one of his ancestors. Here he was able to earn a living for himself but his quest for writing was put to hold which wasn’t very pleasant for Borges.
The year 1938 brought a wave of shocks for Borges, he lost his father and suffered from a severe head wound which was followed by blood poisoning. All the mental and physical unrest left him near death and fearing for his sanity. These incidents shook him deep inside his heart and finally freed him of his internal fears. What followed was a new beginning of his authoring career, he produced some of his finest stories which were later on collected in Fiction.
There was no doubt that Borges was a revolutionary writer. His style was so unique that his name became an adjective which is now used to describe literary work that can play with a reader’s perceptions of what is a generally believed as reality, something that can minimize the lines of fact, fiction, and philosophy and produce a smooth blend of irony and knowledge. “Borgesian” style as it known today. One of the most iconic parts of the Borgesian style of his writing was ironic humour which is famously popular in the current scenario as well. He creates a fictional world with the realms of a real one, and he would often put people at that place of uneasiness and bound them to think about situations. What he called this technique was ‘the contamination of reality by dream’. One example of this is his work in “The Circular Ruins” which lays out the story of a man who decides to dream about a son until the son becomes real. Later on, it is revealed that he was in turn being dreamt by someone else. This how he weaved his unconventional stories. In 1952 he published a collection of short stories that revealed his analytic best.
Borges was made the director of the national library at Buenos Aires which is a very honour worthy position and also taught English and American literature at the university if Buenos Airs. In the 1950s, Borges lost his eyesight completely. It was a hereditary disorder which had also affected his father and now had taken his eyesight. However, this didn’t stop the miraculous author from putting down his thoughts in words. Even though he had to give up writing of long texts, but his work was given the written form by his mother friends, or secretary to whom he would dictate his stories. His work from this later period almost cut down the definitions of prose poetry and themes with which played during this time were revenge, murder, and horror. The Book of Sand which came out in 1975 is an example of this period where he combines a folktale with a complex understanding of a world by a man.
In 1961 he was awarded the Prix Formentor, the International Publishers Prize. The award brought international fame to Borges and he was also invited by the University of Texas to come to the United States to lecture which also marked as his first of many international lecture tours. One of his famous works “Death and the Compass” is essentially a detective story but the last part of the story completely changes the perspective of the reader and that is how Jorge Luis Borges can be summed up in an author. His intellectual understanding of concepts and power to bring them together in one universe was phenomenal.
His works have been translated into many languages. A month before his death he had married Maria Kodama who had collaborated with him on his last book. By the time of his death, his work became increasingly popular and was praised for use of common language to depict fantastic and complex stories. In 2000, Harvard University Press issued Craft of Verse which is a series of lectures delivered by Borges at Harvard University in the late 1960s. they have been termed as Borge’s ultimate gift.
-Rashmeet Kaur Oberoi