Posted by: Kristen Hicks | March 11, 2011

Borges the Reader

The blog of the Harry Ransom Center, a great museum and archive in Austin, TX (which I used to volunteer with and feel much fondness for), recently published a post about my favorite writer Borges.

The post is focused on an unpublished essay called “La biblioteca de Robinsón” in which Borges lists his “desert island book selections” and it can be found here.

In his writing, Borges often makes a point of letting the reader know that he considers himself a reader first and foremost, and a writer only to a lesser degree.

From the HRC post:

The act of reading was essential for the erudite author, who in fact claimed that his had been ‘a lifetime dedicated less to living than to reading,” adding in his poem “A Reader”:

let others boast of the pages they have written;
I am proud of the pages I have read.

It shows in his works.  He was astoundingly well read and both his short fictions and his essays include a vast wealth of references to other works of literature from a great variety of time periods and places.

I can’t help but feel a little giddy reading about the time Borges spent in Austin, the city I consider home.  I’m the sort of geeky fan who wishes I knew where he had lived in his time there so I can make a visit and revel in being where he once did some of his reading and writing (Note: I’ve already done this with many of his favorite spots in Buenos Aires).

I’m looking forward to making a special trip to the Harry Ransom Center’s reading room the next time I’m back in Austin to see some of the Borges works included in the collection.  In particular, I’d love to encounter the full text of the “Texas” poem they excerpt:

Illustrating the curiously appropriate position that Borges holds as a unique figure in the Ransom Center’s archive, this poem recognizes the similarly vital tensions that arise in two distant places and backgrounds, the Texas plains and the Argentine pampas:

Here too. Here as at the other edge
of the hemisphere. . .
Here too the never understood,
Anxious, and brief affair that is life

It’s one of those rare instances in life where the world seems intent to bring together various, diverse things I love all in one place.


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