Archive for April 2023

Jorge Luis Borges

When a first-year student at MIT, I went to hear Jorge Luis Borges speak at Tuft University on April 9, 1971.

Two secretaries read Borges’s poetry in English and Spanish. Borges followed the readings with excellent explanation.

I found the poetry, much of which dealt with blindness and age, dramatically impressive, sensitive, and moving.

Some Comments by Borges

  I awake to despair in the realization of my human identity, “Borges, the overrated writer.”

The dream poem I dreamt and wrote at my mother’s insistence. My enemy’s cane falls from view as objects fall from dreams. I never knew Treatise on Dreams; I selected the name from Encyclopedia Britannica.

    Eternity is not the sum total of yesterdays, todays, and tomorrows stretching on forever; it is all time at once. In my poem on John xx:xx, I attempt (and of course fail) to write from eternity into time.

“Israel” a gift of inspiration, which no doubt came to many that week. Others, I hope, have written it better.

Forgiveness and revenge, I cannot understand. They are both the same.

“Cain and Abel:” the nameless star just sets the story in antiquity. Logical error: Abel’s ghost should meet Cain. But this would be a literary error.

Blind man in library autobiographical. Note early use of sense-impressions, casual mention of blindness. Happiness comes unreasonably; just enjoy it. Blindness can be an avenue of happiness.

Praise to darkness. Darkness has two meanings. Blindness simplifies, abstracts. I used to employ every moment (e.g. reading on bus), but now time flows differently. Simplification and abstraction. A sleepless night is not necessarily an unhappiness. Intimately personal poem.

Afterward, Borges autographed books, answered questions. I felt that he was not well enough befriended and taken care of and respected. His secretaries on stage whispered behind him even as he explained his poetry. People mobbed him before he could sit down, “I am tired.” He deserves respect.

A very humble man. He explains he is not completely blind, and demonstrates by distinguishing forms and colors accurately.