Authors: Jorge Luis Borges,Andrew Hurley
Tags: #Short Stories, #Fiction, #ST, #CS
Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires in 1899 and was educated in Europe. One of the most widely acclaimed writers of our time, he published many collections of poems, essays, and short stories before his death in Geneva in June 1986. In 1961 Borges shared the International Publishers’ prize with Samuel Beckett. The Ingram Merrill Foundation granted him its Annual Literary Award in 1966 for his “outstanding contribution to literature.” In 1971 Columbia University awarded him the first of many degrees of Doctor of Letters,
(eventually the list included both Oxford and Cambridge), that he was to receive from the English-speaking world. In 1971 he also received the fifth biennial Jerusalem Prize and in 1973 was given one of Mexico's most prestigious cultural awards, the Alfonso Reyes Prize. In 1980 he shared with Gerardo Diego the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish world’s highest literary accolade. Borges was Director of the Argentine National Library from 1955 until 1973.
Andrew Hurley is Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan, where he also teaches in the Translation Program. He has translated over two dozen book-length works of history, poetry, and fiction, including novels by Reinaldo Arenas. Ernesto Sabato, Fernando Arrabal, Gustavo Sainz, and Edgardo Rodriguez Julia and stories by Ana Lydia Vega, and many shorter works.
I inscribe this book to S. D. English, innumerable, and an Angel. Also: I offer her that kernel of myself that I have saved, somehow the central heart that deals not in words, traffics not with dreams, and is untouched by time, by joy, by adversities.
The exercises in narrative prose that constitute this book were performed from 1933 to 1934. They are derived, I think, from my rereadings of Stevenson and Chesterton, from the first films of von Sternberg, and perhaps from a particular biography of the Argentine poet Evaristo Carriego.* Certain techniques are overused: mismatched lists, abrupt transitions, the reduction of a person's entire life to two or three scenes. (It is this pictorial intention that also governs the story called "Man on Pink Corner.") The stories are not, nor do they attempt to be, psychological.
With regard to the examples of magic that close the book, the only right I can claim to them is that of translator and reader. I sometimes think that good readers are poets as singular, and as awesome, as great authors themselves. No one will deny that the pieces attributed by Valéry to his pluperfect Monsieur Edmond Teste are worth notoriously less than those of his wife and friends.
Reading, meanwhile, is an activity subsequent to writing—more resigned, more civil, more intellectual.
J. L. B.
Buenos Aires May 27,1935
I would define the baroque as that style that deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its own possibilities, and that borders on self-caricature. In vain did Andrew Lang attempt, in the eighteen-eighties, to imitate Pope's
it was already a parody, and so defeated the parodist's attempt to exaggerate its tautness.
was a term used for one of the modes of syllogistic reasoning; the eighteenth century applied it to certain abuses in seventeenth-century architecture and painting. I would venture to say that the baroque is the final stage in all art, when art flaunts and squanders its resources. The baroque is intellectual, and Bernard Shaw has said that all intellectual labor is inherently humorous. This humor is unintentional in the works of Baltasar Gracian* but intentional, even indulged, in the works of John Donne.
The extravagant title of this volume proclaims its baroque nature. Softening its pages would have been equivalent to destroying them; that is why I have preferred, this once, to invoke the biblical words
(John 19:22), and simply reprint them, twenty years later, as they first appeared. They are the irresponsible sport of a shy sort of man who could not bring himself to write short stories, and so amused himself by changing and distorting (sometimes without aesthetic justification) the stories of other men. From these ambiguous exercises, he went on to the arduous composition of a straightforward short story—"Man on Pink Corner"—which he signed with the name of one of his grandfather's grandfathers, Francisco Bustos; the story has had a remarkable, and quite mysterious, success.
In that text, which is written in the accents of the toughs and petty criminals of the Buenos Aires underworld, the reader will note that I have interpolated a number of “cultured” words -
, etc. I did this because the tough, the knife fighter, the thug, the type that Buenos Aires calls the
aspires to refinement, or (and this reason excludes the other, but it may be the true one) because
are individuals and don't always talk like The Compadre, which is a Platonic ideal.
The learned doctors of the Great Vehicle teach us that the essential characteristic of the universe is its emptiness. They are certainly correct with respect to the tiny part of the universe that is this book. Gallows and pirates fill its pages, and that word
strikes awe in its title, but under all the storm and lightning, there is nothing. It is all just appearance, a surface of images—which is why readers may, perhaps, enjoy it. The man who made it was a pitiable sort of creature, but he found amusement in writing it; it is to be hoped that some echo of that pleasure may reach its readers.
In the section called
I have added three new pieces.
J. L. B.
THE REMOTE CAUSE
In 1517, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, feeling great pity for the Indians who grew worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines, proposed to Emperor Charles V that Negroes be brought to the isles of the Caribbean, so that
might grow worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines. To that odd variant on the species
we owe an infinitude of things: W. C. Handy's blues; the success achieved in Paris by the Uruguayan attorney-painter Pedro Figari*; the fine runaway-slave prose of the likewise Uruguayan Vicente Rossi*; the mythological stature of Abraham Lincoln; the half-million dead of the War of Secession; the $3.3 billion spent on military pensions; the statue of the imaginary semblance of Antonio (Falucho) Ruiz*; the inclusion of the verb "lynch" in respectable dictionaries; the impetuous King Vidor film
the stout bayonet charge of the regiment of "Blacks and Tans" (the color of their skins, not their uniforms) against that famous hill near Montevideo*; the gracefulness of certain elegant young ladies; the black man who killed Martín Fierro; that deplorable rumba
the arrested and imprisoned Napoleonism of Toussaint L'Ouverture; the cross and the serpent in Haiti; the blood of goats whose throats are slashed by the
that is the mother of the tango; the