List Borges Essays

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One must investigate every fringe, every path that Borges has left behind.

For Bolaño, the writing of his predecessors was somewhat profane, its most obvious expression being its unprecedented commercial success.

His characters were marginalized, desperate beings who, in the end, lost their style.

Elegance, perfection, and correctness mattered little to him; what he found transcendent was the plot, the destiny of his characters.

Borges is simply not the precursor who naturally comes to mind when we read Bolaño. Borges is a curious case within the vastness of twentieth-century Latin American literature.

Among the works of such writers as Carpentier, Lezama Lima, Asturias, Rulfo, Cortázar, Fuentes, García Márquez, Vargas Llosa and others, Borges' work stands alone: he never wrote a novel.As with Flaubert or Kafka, literature for them was not a path to respectability, recognition or personal fulfillment; nor a difficult and perverse means of scaling the social or economic ladder; but rather a martyrdom or a pilgrimage, or a martyred pilgrimage towards complete annulment: the literary nirvana. " Flaubert postulated in an exalted letter to his friend, the novelist George Sand.By comparison, in a speech given in Barcelona a year before his death, Bolaño declared, "Literature is an armored machine. Sometimes it doesn't even realize that they're alive." Borges maintained this notion in numerous essays, from "Everything and Nothing" to "From Someone to No One," "The Nothingness of Personality," and "The Argentine writer and Tradition," in which he speaks of artistic creation as a "voluntary dream" to which one must abandon one's self.This rejection can be read as a clever break with Borges' own immediate traditions, the Argentine and Latin American literature of the first half of the twentieth century, and all the "isms" of the 20s, 30s, and 40s.For him, the writer--whether poet or novelist--was a maker, a rápsoda, a teller of stories, and the epic was the highest form of art. Once Bolaño had established himself as a writer, he didn't miss many opportunities to declare himself a disciple of Borges, "Like all men, like all living things," he wrote in the ("The Valiant Librarian"), he lauds the merits of his precursor: "clear writing, a reading of Whitman (...) a dialogue and monologue before history, an honest approach to English verse.Positioning Borges at the center of the Argentinean literary canon is, for Bolaño, a modest way of placing him at the center of a personal canon. The Spanish novelist and critic Eduardo Lago notes in a revealing essay about Bolaño's complete works that "his debt to Borges is incalculable, but it is difficult to imagine anything further from the piecemeal intellectual fictions of the Argentinean" than Bolaño's peripatetic plotlines.Borges cultivated a summary prose that was the expression of succinct, precise thought: an almost mathematical equation.His longest story, "The Congress," totals fourteen pages.His work erases the biographical, the psychological, and the local.Personality is a myth or mental mirage assailed by Borges.The eradication of the ego is, of course, a literary trick that in the end becomes one of the characteristics of Borgesian works. His writing suppresses, or hopes to suppress, any biographical impressions, for the sake of literary nirvana. In it are found endless characters who are librarians and poets but also murderers and pimps, insane, desperate, resentful.


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