Borges, Jorge Luis

The Columbia Encyclopedia, 6th ed.

Borges, Jorge Luis

Jorge Luis Borges (hôr´hā lōōēs´ bôr´hās), 1899–1986, Argentine poet, critic, and short-story writer, b. Buenos Aires. Borges has been widely hailed as the foremost contemporary Spanish-American writer. He was educated in Switzerland and afterward lived in Spain, where he became an exponent of ultraísmo, a poetic movement that followed the decline of modernismo after World War I. Ultraísmo advocated the use of bold images and daring metaphors in an attempt to create pure poetry, divorced not only from the past but from reality. Borges, who brought the movement to Argentina, never adhered strictly to its tenets. He helped to found three avant-garde journals and was director of the National Library and professor of English at the Univ. of Buenos Aires.

His poems, collected in Fervor de Buenos Aires (1923), Luna de enfrente (1925), Cuaderno San Martín (1954), Dreamtigers (tr. 1964), A Personal Anthology (tr. 1967), Selected Poems: 1923–1967 (1972), and In Praise of Darkness (tr. 1974), are often inspired by events of daily life or episodes of Argentine history. Characterized by lyricism, imagination, and boldness, they are, he said, "spiritual adventures." His essays, collected in Inquisiciones (1925), Otras inquisiciones (1960, tr. 1964), and the translations in Selected Nonfictions (1999) generally deal with philosophy and literary criticism. His tales, ranging from metaphysical allegories and fantasies (e.g., The Book of Imaginary Beings, 1967; tr. 1969) to sophisticated detective yarns, reveal a wide variety of influences (Kafka, Chesterton, Virginia Woolf) but are nevertheless strikingly original. Major collections of his short stories include Historia universal de la infamia (1935, tr. 1972), Ficciones (1944, tr. 1962), El Aleph (1949, tr. 1970), Extraordinary Tales (1955, tr. 1971), and Dr. Brodie's Report (tr. 1972). Labyrinths (1962) is a collection of translated works, and Collected Fictions (1998) contains his complete stories in translation.

See biographies by J. Woodall (1997) and E. Williamson (2004); R. Burgin, Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges (1969); studies by A. M. Barrenechea (tr. 1965), R. J. Christ (1969), C. Wheelock (1969), J. Alazraki (1971), and G. H. Bell-Villada (1981).

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