Jorge Luis Borges: Borges and I
This newly translated piece by Jorge Luis Borges appears in The FSG Book of Twentieth-Century Latin American Poetry. Ilan Stavans, the book’s editor and the translator of “Borges and I,” stopped by the FSG offices to record the piece in Spanish and English for us:
The other one, Borges, is to whom things happen. I walk through Buenos Aires, stop, maybe a bit mechanically, to look at the arch of an entrance way and a grillwork door; I have news from Borges by mail or when I see his name in a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, 18th-century typography, the taste of coffee, and Stevenson’s prose; the other shares those preferences but with a vanity that turns them into an actor’s attributes. It would be an exaggeration to affirm that our relationship is hostile; I live, I let myself live, so that Borges can plot his literature and that literature justifies me. It doesn’t cost me anything to confess he has achieved a few valid pages, but those pages can’t save me, perhaps because what’s good no longer belongs to anyone, not even to the other, but to language and traditions. In any case, I’m destined to be lost, definitively, and just some instant of me will survive in the other. Little by little I cede everything, even though I’m aware of his perverse tendency to falsify and pontificate. Spinoza understood that all things want to be preserved in their being: the stone eternally wants to be a stone and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others and in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried freeing myself from him and went from the mythologies of the arrabal to the games with time and the infinite, but those games are Borges’ now and I shall come up with other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to the other.
I don’t know which of the two writes this page.