"Writing is nothing more than a guided dream." With these words, Jorge Luis Borges invites us to enter one of the most peculiar worlds ever created by a writer. Peopled by men who dream their sons to life and jaguar temple gods lost in the Amazon, the universe Borges revealed through his short
stories and poems was one of infinite variety and mysticism and one that left an indelible impression on many readers.
Born in Palermo, Argentina, Borges grew up in a poor, Post-Victorian family with British roots. Ironically, this giant of Spanish literature learned English as his first language! After spending most of his youth abroad (including time spent in Spain as a follower of the Ultraist movement), Borges returned to his native Argentine soil and began to establish his reputation as one of the most skilled young writers in Buenos Aires.
Like many great artists, it is not Borges' personal biography that distinguishes him from his peers, but rather the lives he created on paper. In real life, Borges was something of a recluse, dabbling in politics but mainly spending his time in a dark Buenos Aires apartment with his mother and working as a librarian.
On paper, however, Borges was the master of an evocative,
strangely poetic universe. Known primarily for his prose, Borges mixed science fiction with intellectual esoterica to weave tales of complex men confronting the unfathomable. Borges revolutionized the way fiction was written, using techniques and devices unheard of before his time. In many of his books, protagonists struggle with concepts rather than corporal enemies, achieving epistemological rather than physical victories. He wrote of deep dreams that no man
before him had dared articulate.
Borges' forays into poetry were less successful but nonetheless quite arresting. He himself
acknowledged his poetic shortcomings: "My friends tell me that my stories are much better than
my poetry, but for me it is a joy to write them." Translated or in the original Spanish, his poems
addressed highly erudite issues in smooth stark stanzas, such as this poem called "The Suicide,"
from The Book of Sand.
Not a single star will be left in the night.
The night will not be left.
I will die and, with me, the weight of the
I shall erase the pyramids, the medallions,
the continents and faces.
I shall erase the accumulated
I shall make dust of history, dust of dust.
Now I am looking on the final sunset.
I am hearing the last bird.
bequeath nothingness to no one.
Borges died on June 14, 1986, at the age of 86.