Jorge Luis Borges (1899–1986), a giant in Latin American letters, wrote numerous books of poetry, fiction, and essays, and was a prodigious translator of authors such as Kipling, Woolf, Faulkner, and Poe. He was a regular contributor to Victoria Ocampo’s journal Sur, and a frequent dinner guest of Silvina Ocampo and Bioy Casares. Over one of their legendary conversations, the three friends came upon the idea of editing the Antología de la Literatura Fantástica, which was published in 1940.


Of Heaven and Hell

The Inferno of God is not in need of the splendor of fire. When, at the end of things, Judgment Day resounds on the trumpets and the earth opens and yields up its entrails and nations reconstruct themselves from dust to bow before the unappealable …

The Rose of Paracelsus

Insolent vaunt of Paracelsus, that he would restore the original rose or violet out of the ashes settling from its combustion… —De Quincey: Writings, XIII, 345. Down in his laboratory, to which the two rooms of the cellar had been given over, Paracelsus prayed to his God, his indeterminate …

All Our Yesterdays

I need to know who lays claim to my past. Who, of all those I was? The Geneva boy Who learned some Latin hexameters with joy, Lines that the years and decades have erased? That child who searched his father’s library for Exact details, the …

Elegy for a Park

The labyrinth disappeared. The measured rows of eucalyptuses have also vanished, striped canopies of summer and the eternal sleeplessness of the mirror, that repeats every dumbshow of every human face, every ephemeron. The stopped clock, the matted tangle of the honeysuckle, the glorieta …

Poem about Quantity

I think about the scanty Puritan heavens Dotted with lost and solitary lights That Emerson must have seen so many times From the snowdrifts and austerity of Concord. Here where I am, there are too many stars. There are too many men. The innumerable …


A Prophet in Reverse

Tullio Pericoli: Jorge Luis Borges, 1987

Jorge Luis Borges: History would be the art of divining the past, no?

Osvaldo Ferrari: Yes, the art of the historian. Borges: Yes, once something has happened, one demonstrates that it happened inevitably. But it would be more interesting to apply that to the future. Ferrari: That’s more difficult than to predict the past—it’s harder to be a prophet than a historian. Borges: Well, that’s how literary histories are written.

Borges and God

Jorge Luis Borges at the ruins of Selinunte, Sicily, 1984

Osvaldo Ferrari: Throughout your writing, you have referred to what’s divine, including the supernatural. That is, you seem to admit that transcendence exists but you don’t call it God.

Jorge Luis Borges: I do think that it’s safer not to call it God. On the other hand, if we employ other words, perhaps less precise or vivid ones, then we could approach the truth, if an approach to truth is possible. Or it could be something that we ignore.

A Lecture on Johnson and Boswell

Thomas Rowlandson: Walking up the High Street, 1786

We have to think that just as Sancho is the companion Quixote sometimes treats badly, we see Boswell in that same relation to Dr. Johnson: a sometimes stupid and loyal companion. There are characters whose role is to bring out the hero’s personality, and that character in Boswell’s work is Boswell himself. That is, Boswell appears as a despicable character. But it seems impossible to me that Boswell didn’t realize this. And this shows that Boswell positioned himself in contrast to Johnson. The fact that Boswell himself tells anecdotes in which he appears ridiculous makes him not seem ridiculous at all, for if he wrote them down, he did it because he saw that the purpose of the anecdote was to make Johnson stand out.