Wine Club: Here's What Argentina Can Achieve When the French Take Over
Scruton, Roger, New Statesman (1996)
One of the best things to happen to literature in the 20th century was Jorge Luis Borges, who showed us how to intensify both thought and feeling into a little flash of light at the bottom of a wine glass. One of the worst things to happen to literature was the rise of the two-inch-thick biography, in which an interesting person is anatomised, catalogued, replayed and rewound until no interest remains. Alas Borges, who spent his life avoiding life, is now the subject of just such a book. The arrival of a definitive biography always means that other scholars are at work on the same material, determined to eclipse biography A with biography B, while biographers C and D badger literary editors for the chance to write a scathing review. No writer deserves more to remain an enigma than Borges. His matchbox-size fictions, crammed with the densest matter in the universe, provide you with all you need to know about both the man and the country where he was born.
So it seems to me, at least. But I am constantly encountering people who visit Argentina for reasons that have nothing to do with Borges. Some go there for the horses; some make a pilgrimage to those strange lost communities that speak Welsh, Breton or Basque and that dress in clothes which say no to FCUK; some go in search of Hitler or Goebbels, convinced that the entire Wehrmacht is still holed up in the hills; some go to drink the wine, which is cheap and plentiful. …