Ok, yes, it is true, each anniversary seems to be a good reason to write about Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges. But hey, what do they want, is that Borges is like the second goal to the English of Maradona. Every time you look at it (you read it) it is a better goal.
It is 3:42 pm on December 31, 2020 and I proposed to the editor to put together something about Borges and the end of the year because Georgie (so they affectionately called him) it has its stories around the holidays.
But first let’s open that beautiful evil book (the last adjective is by Ricardo Piglia) which are the 1,663 pages of the diaries of Adolfo Bioy Casares. I look for December 31 of each year. I like strong emotions.
In 1956, for example, we read that it happened at Borges’s house. Bioy carries a packet of tea from La Maruise de Sévigné and, from Silvina Ocampo (his wife), a tie. I swear to you. After toasting with champagne they chatted for a few minutes on the balcony, watching the fireworks. They are – I believe – in the house on Maipú Street. In 1953, they had already toasted with Champagne at Julia Bullrich’s ranch and, in 1969, they toasted with Arizu champagne.
Let’s continue: on December 31, 1957, Bioy writes briefly: “Borges announces that he will come to toast with us at a quarter to twelve; he calls shortly after twelve, from Elvira’s: ‘I’m tied up. A hug. Miss them a lot”.
Can you bank me one more? On December 31, 1960, Borges went to the Bioy house. Typical. After eating they both went to the window. The scene is like this: they see the trees and the paths of the square, they see the statue of Alver, until 12 o’clock is done. After a comment by Bioy about Wells’s time machine, Borges says: “How strange that in as many years as I lived there was not a time when I was further into the future than now.And yes, it’s Borges, what is he going to say?
In 1962 they also waited together for the year by a window. In 1964 they spent it writing a story and in the New Year of ’68 they worked until dawn on some translations. Of course.
But let’s go back to the end of the year stories: for example Christmas Eve 1938 when he suffered an accident that almost killed him. Borges was running up a ladder and suddenly he felt something scratch his head. It had been brushed by the casement of a freshly painted window. He touched his head: it was full of blood.
They treated him immediately, but the wound became infected. He went without sleep for a week with hallucinations and a high fever. One night he lost his speech and had to be taken to the hospital for an emergency operation. They transferred him to a sanatorium on Ecuador Street. He had septicemia. He was about to die.
The truth is that this accident gave the literary foundation to his “Pierre Menard, author of Don Quixote” and the later fictional stories. Let’s put it like this: if there is a story that shook Argentine literature in those years, it was Pierre Menard. It was Borges’s “Rompan todo”.
Even more, it was included in the book The Garden of Forking Paths whose colophon indicates that it was finished printing on December 30, 1941 at the López printing house on Peru 666 street in the City of Buenos Aires. Another busy end of the year, of course.
This book – which is the germ of Fictions published three years later – it had eight stories. As well marked by his biographer Alejandro Vaccaro, the issue had no flap, written back cover, photos, or news from the author. Nothing at all.
In the prologue of The garden of trails he points out: “It would be a laborious and impoverishing rant to compose vast books; that of expanding into five hundred pages an idea whose perfect oral presentation fits in a few minutes ”. Uff. Golazo.
Well, it is that the economy of the word defined Borges identity. With his story “Theme of the traitor and the hero”, a page and a half (literal), you could make a wonderful novel of 700 pages. Put it on. But no: Borges only needed that space to say what he had to say.
One more story: in his first book of 1923, the collection of poems entitled Fervor of Buenos Aires, Borges includes the beautiful poem “End of the year” that reflects on the enigma of time and expresses the hope that despite the fact that we are drops from the “river of Heraclitus”, something will last in us.
The allusion to the “River of Heraclitus” is a superclassic in Borges, a reference to fragment 91 by the Greek philosopher that it is not possible to pass through the same river twice. Yes, Nor is it possible to go through the same Borges twice.
Borges must be discovered behind the myth of difficult. Not because his texts do not address complex issues (from quantum physics to Greek philosophical paradoxes, let’s say), but precisely because he appeals to simple plots to narrate them. Many of its formulations are subject, verb, predicate.
For this 2021: Borges, heart and short passes.