don Quijote

Jorge Luis Borges

Poet, essayist, narrator, translator, and one of the most important figures in Argentinian literature.
Jorge Luis Borges is one of the most important figures in Argentinian literature and Spanish narrative in general.  Borges is also one of the most analyzed authors in the history of literature. 

Jorge Luis Borges most famous works include Universal History of Infamy (1935), Ficciones (1944), The Aleph (1949), and The Book of Sand (1975).  All of them deal with fictional places and toy with the idea of infinity and mythical creatures that immerse the reader in magical worlds. The stories have been influenced by all genres of literature, from ancient Greece through the 20th-century avant-garde movements.

One of the most famous Jorge Luis Borges excerpts is:

The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps the infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings. From any of the hexagons, one can see, interminably, the upper and lower floors. The distribution of the galleries is invariable. Twenty shelves, five long shelves per side, cover all the sides except two; their height, which is the distance from the floor to ceiling, scarcely exceeds that of a normal bookcase.…. 

Jorge Luis Borges, The Library of Babel (1941)

Many consider the text a prophesy about the creation of Internet: a global library in which all texts are related and interlinked. According to Borges, the finite library represented the universe before mankind, although it would appear infinite to the human eye. 

His stories, always full of detailed quotes, create logical syllogisms in the mind that make even the impossible seem possible. The words transform into bold images that make it seem like part of the real world.

Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires on August 24th, 1899. He was the son of an Argentinian lawyer, Jorge Guillermo Borges, and his mother, Leonor Acevedo Suárez, was from Uruguay. At their sophisticated family home, both Spanish and English were spoken. Borges was exposed to literature very early on, and by age four he could already read and write.

At 9 years old, the writer was first published in the El País newspaper when he translated The Happy Prince by Oscar Wilde from English to Spanish. This is the only time that the author ever signed his name as simply “Jorge Borges.” During his childhood years, Jorge Luis Borges had a rough time and was constantly made fun of and humiliated by his classmates at his school in the Palermo neighborhood of Buenos Aires.

The Borges family moved to Europe when Jorge’s father was forced to retire from his position as a professor due to a blindness disease that would greatly influence his son. They settled in the city of Geneva, where Jorge Luis Borges would study French and teach himself German.

In 1919 the family moved to Barcelona and later to Palma de Mallorca, marking the beginning of Jorge Luis Borges’ professional literary career. In Madrid and Seville, he participated in the Ultraist movement and later became the leading force of the movement in Argentina. There, Borges associated with other important Spanish writers of the time: Rafael Cansinos Assens, Gómez de la Serna, Valle Inclán, and Gerardo Diego.

In 1921 Jorge Luis Borges returned to his native Buenos Aires. The rediscovery of his homeland greatly impacted him and led him to mystify its suburbs, the tango, and even the neighborhood hoodlums. He befriended both Leopoldo Lugones and Ricardo Güiraldes, with whom he founded a new literary magazine.

When Juan Perón took power in Argentina, Borges, an anti-Peronist, abandoned his regular position and dedicated himself to giving lectures throughout the Argentinian provinces.

By the age of 50, Jorge Luis Borges had finally gained the recognition that he deserved both inside and outside of Argentina. He eventually became the president of the Argentine Society of Writers and, with the fall of Perón in 1955, was named the president of the National Library.

In 1986 Jorge Luis Borges returned to Geneva, a city he dearly loved, where he passed away from liver cancer on June 14th of the same year.