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17 avril 2012 2 17 /04 /avril /2012 03:11

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986), known as Jorge Luis Borges (Spanish pronunciation: [ˈxorxe ˈlwis ˈβorxes]), was anArgentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. His work embraces the "character of unreality in all literature".[2] HP Pavilion dv3-2025ee Battery

His most famous books, Ficciones(1944) and The Aleph (1949), are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, animals, fictional writers, religion and God. HP Pavilion dv3-2025eg Battery

His works have contributed to the genre of science fiction as well as the genre ofmagic realism, a genre that reacted against the realism/naturalism of the nineteenth century.[3][4][5] In fact, critic Angel Flores, the first to use the term, set the beginning of this movement with Borges's Historia universal de la infamia (A Universal History of Infamy)(1935).[6] HP Pavilion dv3-2025tx Battery

Scholars have also suggested that Borges's progressive blindness helped him to create innovative literary symbols through imagination.[7] His late poems dialogue with such cultural figures as Spinoza, Camões, and Virgil. HP Pavilion dv3-2026tx Battery

In 1914 his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school, receiving his baccalauréat from the Collège de Genève in 1918. The family travelled widely in Europe, including stays in Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in surrealist literary journals. HP Pavilion dv3-2027ee Battery

He also worked as a librarian and public lecturer. In 1955 he was appointed director of the National Public Library (Biblioteca Nacional) and professor of Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1961 he came to international attention when he received the first ever Prix International, HP Pavilion dv3-2027tx Battery

sharing the award with Samuel Beckett. In 1971 he won the Jerusalem Prize. His work was translated and published widely in the United States and in Europe. Borges himself was fluent in several languages. Borges had dedicated his final work, Los Conjurados (The Conspirators), to the city of Geneva, Switzerland, and it was there, in 1986, that he chose to die.[8]HP Pavilion dv3-2028tx Battery

His international fame was consolidated in the 1960s, aided by the "Latin American Boom" and the success of Gabriel García Márquez's Cien Años de Soledad (One Hundred Years of Solitude).[3] Writer and essayist J. M. Coetzee said of him: "He, more than anyone, renovated the language of fiction and thus opened the way to a remarkable generation of Spanish American novelists."[9]HP Pavilion dv3-2029tx Battery


Jorge Luis Borges was born in an educated middle-class family in August 1899. They were in comfortable circumstances but not wealthy enough to live in downtown Buenos Aires. They resided in Palermo, then a poorer suburb of the city. Borges's mother, Leonor Acevedo Suárez, came from a traditional Uruguayan family of "pure" criollo (Spanish) descent. HP Pavilion dv3-2030ef Battery

Her family had been much involved in the European settling of South America, and she spoke often of their heroic actions.[10] Borges's 1929 book Cuaderno San Martínincludes the poem "Isidoro Acevedo," HP Pavilion dv3-2030ei Battery

commemorating his grandfather, Isidoro de Acevedo Laprida, a soldier of the Buenos Aires Army. A descendant of the Argentine lawyer and politician Francisco Narciso de Laprida, Acevedo fought in the battles of Cepeda in 1859,Pavón in 1861, and Los Corrales in 1880. HP Pavilion dv3-2030ek Battery

Isidoro de Acevedo Laprida died of pulmonary congestion in the house where his grandson Jorge Luis Borges was born. Borges grew up hearing about the faded family glory. On the other side, Borges's father, Jorge Guillermo Borges Haslam, was part Spanish, part Portuguese, HP Pavilion dv3-2030eo Battery

and half English, also the son of a colonel. Borges Haslam, whose mother was English, grew up speaking English at home and took his own family frequently to Europe. England and English pervaded the family home.[10]HP Pavilion dv3-2030ez Battery

At nine, Jorge Luis Borges translated The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde into Spanish. It was published in a local journal, but his friends thought the real author was his father.[11]Borges Haslam was a lawyer and psychology teacher who harboured literary aspirations. HP Pavilion dv3-2030tx Battery

 Borges said his father "tried to become a writer and failed in the attempt." He wrote, "as most of my people had been soldiers and I knew I would never be, I felt ashamed, quite early, to be a bookish kind of person and not a man of action."[10]HP Pavilion dv3-2032tx Battery

Borges was taught at home until the age of 11, bilingual, reading Shakespeare in English at the age of twelve.[10] The family lived in a large house with an English library of over one thousand volumes; Borges would later remark that "if I were asked to name the chief event in my life, I should say my father's library."[12] HP Pavilion dv3-2033eg Battery

His father gave up practicing law due to the failing eyesight that would eventually afflict his son. In 1914, the family moved to Geneva, Switzerland, and spent the next decade in Europe.[10] Borges Haslam was treated by a Geneva eye specialist, while his son and daughter Norah attended school, HP Pavilion dv3-2033tx Battery

where Borges junior learned French. He read Carlyle in English, and began to read philosophy in German. In 1917, when he was 18, he met Maurice Abramowicz and began a literary friendship that would last the rest of his life.[10]HP Pavilion dv3-2034tx Battery

 He received his baccalauréat from theCollège de Genève in 1918. The Borges family decided that, due to political unrest in Argentina, they would remain in Switzerland during the war, staying until 1921. After World War I, the family spent three years living in various cities: Lugano, Barcelona, Majorca,Seville, and Madrid.[10]HP Pavilion dv3-2036tx Battery

At that time, Borges discovered the writing of Arthur Schopenhauer and Gustav Meyrink'sThe Golem (1915) which became influential to his work. In Spain, Borges fell in with and became a member of the avant-garde, anti-Modernist Ultraist literary movement, inspired by Apollinaire and Marinetti, close to the Imagists. HP Pavilion dv3-2050ea Battery

His first poem, "Hymn to the Sea," written in the style of Walt Whitman, was published in the magazine Grecia.[13] While in Spain, he met noted Spanish writers, including Rafael Cansinos Assens and Ramón Gómez de la Serna. HP Pavilion dv3-2050ec Battery

In 1921, Borges returned with his family to Buenos Aires. He had little formal education, no qualifications and few friends. He wrote to a friend that Buenos Aires was now "overrun by arrivistes, by correct youths lacking any mental equipment, and decorative young ladies".[10]HP Pavilion dv3-2050ep Battery

 He brought with him the doctrine of Ultraism and launched his career, publishing surreal poems and essays in literary journals. In 1930, Nestor Ibarra called Borges the "Great Apostle of Criollismo," celebrating Latin American regionalism.[14]HP Pavilion dv3-2050es Battery

Borges published his first published collection of poetry, Fervor de Buenos Aires, in 1923 and contributed to the avant-garde review Martín Fierro. Borges co-founded the journalsPrisma, a broadsheet distributed largely by pasting copies to walls in Buenos Aires, andProa. Later in life, Borges regretted some of these early publications, and attempted to purchase all known copies to ensure their destruction.[15]HP Pavilion dv3-2051ea Battery

By the mid-1930s, he began to explore existential questions and fiction. He worked in a style that Ana María Barrenechea has called "Irreality." Many other Latin American writers, such as Juan Rulfo, Juan José Arreola, and Alejo Carpentier, HP Pavilion dv3-2055ea Battery

were also investigating these themes, influenced by the phenomenology of Husserl and Heidegger and theexistentialism of Jean-Paul Sartre. In this vein, his biographer Williamson underlines how careful readers must be not to infer a biographical basis for Borges's work as books, philosophy and imagination were as much a source of real inspiration to him as personal experience, if not more so.[10] HP Pavilion dv3-2080eo Battery

From the first issue, Borges was a regular contributor toSur (South), founded in 1931 by Victoria Ocampo. It was then Argentina's most important literary journal and helped Borges find his fame.[16] Ocampo introduced Borges to Adolfo Bioy Casares, another well-known figure of Argentine literature, who was to become a frequent collaborator and close friend. HP Pavilion dv3-2090ej Battery

Together they wrote a number of works, some under the nom de plume H. Bustos Domecq, including a parody detective series and fantasy stories. During these years, a family friend Macedonio Fernández became a major influence on Borges. HP Pavilion dv3-2090en Battery

 The two would preside over discussions in cafés, country retreats, or Fernández' tiny apartment in the Balvanera district. He appears explicitly in Borges's "Dialogue about a Dialogue,"[17] in which the two discuss the immortality of the soul. HP Pavilion dv3-2100 Battery

In 1933, Borges gained an editorial appointment at the literary supplement of the newspaper Crítica, where he first published the pieces later collected as the Historia universal de la infamia (A Universal History of Infamy, 1936).[10] HP Pavilion dv3-2101tu Battery

The book included two types of writing. The first lay somewhere between non-fictional essays and short stories, using fictional techniques to tell essentially true stories. The second consisted of literary forgeries, which Borges initially passed off as translations of passages from famous but seldom-read works. HP Pavilion dv3-2101tx Battery

In the following years, he served as a literary adviser for the publishing house Emecé Editores and wrote weekly columns for El Hogar, which appeared from 1936 to 1939. In 1938, Borges found work as first assistant at the Buenos Aires Municipal Library in Miguel Cané, a working class area. HP Pavilion dv3-2102tu Battery

There were so few books that cataloguing more than one hundred books per day, he was told, would leave little to do for the other staff and so look bad. The task took him about an hour each day and the rest of his time he spent in the basement of the library, writing articles, short stories and translations.[10]HP Pavilion dv3-2102tx Battery


Borges's father died in 1938. This was a tragedy for the writer as the two were very close. On Christmas Eve that year, Borges suffered a severe head injury; during treatment, he nearly died of septicemia. While recovering from the accident, Borges began playing with a new style of writing for which he would become famous. His first story written after his accident, "Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote" came out in May 1939, examining the father-son relationship and the nature of authorship. HP Pavilion dv3-2103tx Battery

His first collection of short stories, El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths), appeared in 1941, composed mostly of works previously published in Sur.[10] The title story concerns a Chinese professor in England, Dr. Yu Tsun, HP Pavilion dv3-2105ee Battery

who spies for Germany during World War I, in an attempt to prove to the authorities that an Asian person is able to obtain the information that they seek. A combination of book and maze, it can be read in many ways. Through it, Borges arguably invented the hypertext novel and went on to describe a theory of the universe based upon the structure of such a novel.[18][19] HP Pavilion dv3-2105tu Battery

Eight stories taking up over sixty pages, the book was generally well received, but El jardín de senderos que se bifurcanfailed to garner for him the literary prizes many in his circle expected.[20][21] Victoria Ocampo dedicated a large portion of the July 1941 issue of Sur to a "Reparation for Borges." Numerous leading writers and critics from Argentina and throughout the Spanish-speaking world contributed writings to the "reparation" project. HP Pavilion dv3-2106tu Battery

With his vision beginning to fade in his early thirties and unable to support himself as a writer, Borges began a new career as a public lecturer.[Notes 1][22][23] He became an increasingly public figure, obtaining appointments as President of the Argentine Society of Writers and as Professor of English and American Literature at the Argentine Association of English Culture. HP Pavilion dv3-2107tu Battery

His short story "Emma Zunz" was made into a film (under the name ofDías de odioDays of Hate, directed in 1954 by the Argentine director Leopoldo Torre Nilsson).[24] Around this time, Borges also began writing screenplays. HP Pavilion dv3-2108tu Battery

By the late 1950s, he had become completely blind. In 1955, he was nominated to the directorship of the National Library. Neither the coincidence nor the irony of his blindness as a writer escaped Borges:[10]HP Pavilion dv3-2110er Battery

The following year, Borges was awarded the National Prize for Literature from theUniversity of Cuyo, and the first of many honorary doctorates. From 1956 to 1970, Borges also held a position as a professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires, while frequently holding temporary appointments at other universities. HP Pavilion dv3-2112tx Battery

As his eyesight deteriorated, Borges relied increasingly on his mother's help. When he was not able to read and write anymore (he never learned to read Braille), his mother, to whom he had always been close, became his personal secretary. When Perón returned from exile and was re-elected president in 1973, Borges immediately resigned as director of the National Library. HP Pavilion dv3-2115ea Battery

Eight of Borges's poems appear in the 1943 anthology of Spanish American Poets by H. R. Hays.[26][Notes 2] "The Garden of Forking Paths", one of the first Borges stories to be translated into English, appeared in the August 1948 issue of Ellery Queen's Mystery Magazine, translated by Anthony Boucher.[27][dead link] HP Pavilion dv3-2115ee Battery

Though several other Borges translations appeared in literary magazines and anthologies during the 1950s, his international fame dates from the early 1960s.[28] In 1961, he received the first Prix International, which he shared with Samuel Beckett. HP Pavilion dv3-2116tx Battery

While Beckett had garnered a distinguished reputation in Europe and America, Borges had been largely unknown and untranslated in the English-speaking world and the prize stirred great interest in his work. The Italian government named Borges Commendatore and the University of Texas at Austin appointed him for one year to the Tinker Chair. This led to his first lecture tour in the United States. HP Pavilion dv3-2117tx Battery

In 1962, two major anthologies of Borges's writings were published in English by New York presses: Ficciones and Labyrinths. In that year, Borges began lecture tours of Europe. In 1980, he was awarded the Balzan Prize (for Philology, Linguistics and literary Criticism) and the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca; HP Pavilion dv3-2119tx Battery

numerous other honors were to accumulate over the years, such as the French Legion of Honour in 1983, the Cervantes Prize, and a Special Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America, "for distinguished contribution to the mystery genre".[29][dead link]HP Pavilion dv3-2120ea Battery

In 1967, Borges began a five-year period of collaboration with the American translatorNorman Thomas di Giovanni, through whom he became better known in the English-speaking world. He also continued to publish books, among them El libro de los seres imaginarios (Book of Imaginary Beings, (1967, co-written with Margarita Guerrero), El informe de Brodie (Dr. Brodie's Report, 1970), HP Pavilion dv3-2120ss Battery

and El libro de arena (The Book of Sand, 1975). He also lectured prolifically. Many of these lectures were anthologized in volumes such as Siete noches (Seven Nights) and Nueve ensayos dantescos (Nine Dantesque Essays). HP Pavilion dv3-2121tx Battery

His presence, also in 1967, on campus at the University of Virginia (Charlottesville, VA) influenced a group of students amongst which was Jared Loewenstein who would later become founder and curator of the Jorge Luis Borges Collection at UVA[30], one of the largest repositories of documents and manuscripts pertaining to the early works of JLB.[31]HP Pavilion dv3-2122tx Battery


In 1967, Borges married the recently widowed Elsa Astete Millán. Friends believed that his mother, who was 90 and anticipating her own death, wanted to find someone to care for her blind son. The marriage lasted less than three years. After a legal separation, Borges moved back in with his mother, with whom he lived until her death at age 99.[32]HP Pavilion dv3-2123tx Battery

Thereafter, he lived alone in the small flat he had shared with her, cared for by Fanny, their housekeeper of many decades.[33] From 1975 until the time of his death, Borges traveled internationally. He was often accompanied in these travels by his personal assistant María Kodama, HP Pavilion dv3-2125ee Battery

an Argentine woman of Japanese and German ancestry. In April 1986, a few months before his death, he married her via an attorney in Paraguay, in what was then a common practice among Argentines wishing to circumvent the Argentine laws of the time regarding divorce. HP Pavilion dv3-2126tx Battery

Jorge Luis Borges died of liver cancer in 1986 in Geneva and was buried there in theCimetière des Rois. Kodama, his widow and heir on the basis of the marriage and two wills, gained control over his works. Her assertive administration of his estate resulted in a bitter dispute with the French publisher Gallimard regarding the republication of the complete works of Borges in French, HP Pavilion dv3-2129tx Battery

with Pierre Assouline in Le Nouvel Observateur(August 2006) calling her "an obstacle to the dissemination of the works of Borges." Kodama took legal action against Assouline, considering the remark unjustified and defamatory, asking for a symbolic compensation of one euro.[34][35][36] HP Pavilion dv3-2130ea Battery

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