Back to list

Download

PDF

Added
11/07/2016

The Hazel Twig and the Olive Tree: Presence, absence, and a lost story of Jorge Luis Borges

Richard Lambert

 [1] Irving Samuelson, University of Texas, Austin

 

In January 1935, Jorge Luis Borges lost his job as literary editor of the Saturday supplement of Buenos Aires’ mass-market daily newspaper, Crítica.[2] One month after his departure, the supplement published a piece by Herbert Lock, no longer extant, but apparently retelling the story of the adulterous lovers Tristan and Isolde. Until now, Borges’ editorship and the Tristan story have been considered unconnected, against the arguments this author made in a 1993 article, based upon admittedly circumstantial evidence, that Herbert Lock and Jorge Luis Borges were one and the same.[3] But further evidence, namely a bill of sale from a bookshop in Jerusalem, and an interview with a member of the 1930s Argentine avant garde, have added weight to those earlier arguments and definitively show that a hitherto lost story of Jorge Luis Borges has come to light.

This essay will outline the original claims of that 1993 article, provide the recent evidence, and argue that the lost story resonates with many of the wider concerns of Borges: failure, repetition, and the double; and that, like so many of his stories, Borges’ version of Tristan and Isolde shows a concern with presence, loss, and the search for the reparation of that loss.

 

 

The supplement Revista Multicolor, which Borges co-edited with Ulyses Petit de Murat between June 1933 and January 1935, came out in Buenos Aires on  a Saturday, a day of the week imprinted upon Borges’ memory, for it was on a Saturday in November 1926 that Oliverio Girondo met Borges’ fiancé Norah Lange in the restaurant of the Boating Lake in Palermo Park.[4] Borges lost Norah to Oliverio that day.

To bring the biographical into the service of a textual argument, in the case of Jorge Luis Borges, is not an out-moded form of literary scholarship: from the beginning Borges stated that his writing was autobiographical; he himself appears in many of his own stories; and his literary philosophy pervaded his very perception of the world.[5] For Borges, his life was a text. And Borges’ life was altered by that meeting of Norah and Oliverio, a break that was so significant it was the moment to which he would allude in that lost, now rediscovered, story of 1935, and the moment which was to dominate the next seventy years of his life. Even once he had made the re-discovery of romantic love in old age, which allowed him finally to step from the shadow of family (‘If I were to name the chief event in my life, I should say my father’s library’, he wrote, and he shared a flat with his mother until her death in 1975) to be with the young Maria Kodama, he still lingered over that first loss of Norah Lange.[6] So much so that it received the most oblique and final of textual references in the inscription on his gravestone, a line from an Icelandic Saga: ‘He takes the sword Gram and places it between them’. That inscription was a reference to the epigraph of a late, intimately autobiographical story, ‘Ulricca’, in which the memory of a lost love is finally redeemed – not forgotten but written over, like a palimpsest – by the love given him by the eponymous Ulricca (a thinly veiled Maria Kodama).[7] And thus he closed the circle on that first loss, and revealed too, how far for him the textual and biographical were merged.

The impact, then, of that first meeting of Norah and Oliverio, that latterly ridiculous couple (at parties Norah would stand on tables dressed in white and declaim her poetry, while Oliverio once drove a funeral carriage through the city taunting Borges with a papier maché mannequin of his defeated rival) was long-lasting for Borges.[8] A photograph records that Saturday when the literary elite of Buenos Aires gathered: Borges stands unaware that, though he arrived at the lunch with his girlfriend, he was to depart alone.

Richard Lambert 1

The Orangery Restaurant, Palermo Park, Saturday, 6 November, 1926. Norah Lange is fifth from the left in the middle row, standing, looking upwards dreamily; Borges is beside her, sixth from the left in the middle row; Oliverio is first from the right in the middle row, standing, holding a cigarette.

 

Other losses followed the loss of Norah: Borges stopped writing poetry and did not publish a poem for fourteen years; as the 1920s gave way to the 30s, he lost his place as the leader of the avant-garde. The nadir was the publication of a collection of essays, A History of Eternity, in 1935, which sold 38 copies.[9]

In that context, the editorship of the Revista Mulitcolor provided Borges with status and stability. His psychological health may be gleaned from the first pieces he wrote while at the Saturday supplement: gaudy stories concerning the suicide of failed men.[10] Perhaps like his friend Murano, who had shot himself in a toilet cubicle in the basement of the Jockey Club (where Oliverio held court in his Tuesday-evening tertulias), Borges considered suicide.[11]

Yet it was in this period, while composing his contractually-required fortnightly pieces, that he began to publish his first fiction, initially in a series of pseudo-biographies which drew upon, but did not remain faithful to, named sources, and then in one of his first original stories.[12] This latter piece may have been inspired by Borges’ habitual, insomniac wanderings of the barrios. He had become friends with a gang leader, Don Nicolás Paredes, and was fascinated by his tales of Buenos Aires’ crime. ‘Men of the Outskirts’ tells of a gang member, Rosendo Juarez from Palermo, who one night is dancing in a bar with his girlfriend when a rival from another neighbourhood appears and steals her. Outside, the usurping rival is knifed. But the murderer is not Rosendo: in the story’s twist, the narrator suggests that it was he, disappointed with his hero’s failure to respond, who committed the murder. One of Borges’ first original stories was the fantasy of projected revenge for the loss of a woman, a revenge perpetrated not by the defeated rival but the teller of a story, a stand-in for the author himself.[13]

The image of the rival, which sometimes moves out towards the image of the double, occurs throughout Borges’ fiction. ‘The End’, ‘The Encounter’, ‘The Other Duel’ and ‘The Duel’, concern competitive battles.[14] In ‘Death and the Compass’ the opponents are also doubles, the criminal Red Scharlach and the detective Lönnrot mirroring each other through names: lönn means ‘hidden’ in Swedish, rot means ‘red’ in German, thus Hidden Red.[15] In ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’, Dr Yu Tsun and Richard Madden are enemies who could easily have swapped places with each other in one of the other possible versions of history which the story considers.[16] And these doubles leak out into the idea of the repeated self in ‘The Other’ and ‘August 25, 1983’, late works in which a character named Jorge Borges meets himself.[17]

There is a certain, textual logic therefore, in the idea that, amongst the pieces that Borges wrote for Revista Multicolor in the early Thirties (he also published reviews and essays), a re-telling of the story of King Mark and Tristan, rivals for the love of Isolde, would have resonated for Borges. Certainly he knew the story.[18]  And certainly it is the case that, a month after he left the magazine (a new editor at Crítica found the supplement too literary), the story of Tristan and Isolde was published.

Unfortunately, until now, the story itself was thought not to have survived. While the newspaper itself is on microfiche in both regional libraries and Argentina’s National Library, there are no copies of the supplement for February 1935, and Crítica itself has long since shut, its offices on Avenida de Mayo boarded up since the Sixties.

Nevertheless, the story’s absence before now is not evidence that it never existed. As I argued in my 1993 essay, a letter to Crítica in late February 1935, regarding ‘a tale’ in the previous week’s supplement ‘about those infamous lovers Tristan and Yseult’, proves that a story on that subject was published by the paper. Its author? ‘Mr Herbert Lock’ or ‘The Englishman,’ as the writer of the letter calls him.

Herbert was a name Borges used three times in his fiction: Herbert Quain appears in ‘A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain,’ one of whose literary works concerns a spurned lover and his rival; Herbert Ashe is the English friend of Jorge Borges senior in ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’; and, many years later, in a story from his 1975 collection, The Book of Sand, there appears one Herbert Locke.[19]

This Herbert Locke is the failed academic rival for the position of Chair at a conference held, ironically enough, at my own institution, the University of Texas in Austin. The English name (and word) ‘lock(e)’ had resonance for Borges. Borges was ‘locked’ in the world of his past and in familial obligation; John Locke is discussed in ‘Funes, his Memory’: ‘Locke in the seventeenth century, postulated (and rejected) an impossible language in which each individual thing, each stone, each bird and each branch, would have its own name…’[20]  The use of this name by Borges in that 1975 story would strongly suggest, if not prove, that the anglophile Borges, who grew up bilingual, learning English on the knee of his Midlands grandmother, wrote the text of Tristan and Isolde that appeared in the Revista Multicolor in 1935, and used an English-sounding pseudonym which would later be the name of a character in one of his stories.

It is the case that Borges was given to the use of the pseudonym. He created not only fictional doubles, but a series of authorial doubles. He used a pseudonym at least three times while working for Crítica, publishing under the names Alex Ander, José Tuntar and Francisco Bustos; later he and Bioy Cesares wrote detective novels under the names H. Bustos Domecq and B. Suárez Lynnch.[21] It is not impossible to imagine that dozens, perhaps hundreds of stories, essays and reviews, strew the journals of South America under the names of his numerous others. As he wrote in ‘The Labyrinths of the Detective Story and Chesterton’ in 1935: ‘The final discovery that two characters in the plot are the same person may be appealing.’[22]

My hypothesis is that Borges, after leaving his post at Crítica, wrote one final piece, of which all the evidence that has survived until now, is that one letter from late February 1935 which praised the story of Tristan and Isolde in the previous issue and criticised ‘the Englishman’ for his compressions and omissions.

And it is here that the author of the letter, Beatriz Bibiloni Blanco, refers in passing to that particularly Borgesian method of construction, one which she calls, ‘the Englishman’s mixed-up lists’. Borges called this method ‘random enumeration’; it can be seen in the ecstatic catalogue at the close of his story ‘The Aleph’ and in a similarly blissful catalogue at the close of ‘The Congress’. He adopted the method from his favourite poet, Walt Whitman; like him, he uses it to generate a mystical sense of union with the world.[23]

In her letter to Revista Multicolor, Beatriz also criticises Lock’s decision to compress the epic poem into a handful of pages. That compression is another Borgesian method, one he used to re-shape the biographies that became the stories of A History of Iniquity, selecting emblematic moments that reveal, in the richness of image, symbol and moment, the narrative ‘turns’ or ‘twists’ which dramatise a life.[24]

Piecing together from Beatriz’s letter the version of Tristan and Isolde which Lock-Borges chose to tell, it seems he selected Gotffried von Strassburg’s account of the discovery of Isolde and Tristan, made by King Mark in the orchard of his Cornish castle.[25] Here, King Mark climbs an olive tree to spy upon the adulterous lovers.[26] Lock-Borges also takes an episode contained in the twelfth-century lai by Marie de France.[27] Isolde is on a royal hunt, and on the forest path spots a hazel twig which signals Tristan’s presence. She leaves the hunt and Tristan and Isolde meet. When the lovers part, Isolde takes the hazel twig with her and this object becomes the token and symbol of their love. The final episode, according to the letter from Beatriz, concerns the lovers’ death.

All of which strongly suggests, if it does actually prove, that Borges was Lock and wrote a story in the style of one of his tales of iniquity, in early 1935, concerning lost love.

These were the arguments of my 1993 article, arguments which did not convince di Giovanni or Weinberger. But it was a colleague at Austin, Milton Lieb, who put the argument most vociferously:

 

Notwithstanding Samuelson’s somewhat clamorous arguments (but clamorous for what?), I’m not convinced. The fictions Borges collected in A Universal History of Iniquity were bastardised biographies of murderers and confidence tricksters: not fictional medieval lovers. To argue from Borges’ biography shows a confusion of life and text last prevailing in university campuses about seventy years ago, and somewhat embarrassing to read in a journal. A key text in Samuelson’s argument, the inscription on Borges’ tombstone, was written, not by the master himself, but by his literary secretary, Maria Kodama. So weak are the arguments, so certain the tone, I am inclined to think Samuelson a hoaxer, if not a fool. At least, he is on a fool’s quest, for a thing that does not exist.[28]

This is a man with whom, before his appointment to a professorship at Columbia, I regularly shared a friendly lunch in the campus canteen here at Austin, to whose house I have been invited to for dinner, and in whose garden I have sat on warm evenings chatting amiably in the company of his wife in the shadows of the jacarandas. Did he imagine me such a weak parodist? And what meanings could possibly be contained within such a hoax, and who would they mean anything to?

But Milton Lieb was correct in two respects: that this is a quest, and that I am after a real object. The quest is minor, not epic: for a colour supplement from Argentina in 1935; an object humbler even than a book: ‘A book is a thing among things, an object among the objects that coexist in three dimensions, but it is also a symbol.’[29]

Inquiries to the offices of the Municipal Library Service of Buenos Aires on Calle Tronador, produced nothing; neither did letters to other libraries. Once I believed I had found a copy. That was back in 1997. Shouting down a muffled line to make myself heard by a librarian in Córdoba whose voice echoed strangely in the receiver, I understood they held a copy. I endured what seemed an infinite wait for the librarian to return from the shelves then she came on the line: she had issues of Revista Multicolor from April, March … not February.

The Borges Center, then in Aarhus, did not have any copy beyond January (why should they, they collected only Borges-authored items, and I sought a piece by Lock). An appeal printed in the editor’s column on the books page of La Nación, prompted one, irrelevant response.[30] Vacations, and a sabbatical, spent searching the second-hand bookstores of Buenos Aires, brought only a certain emptiness.

It seems not inappropriate, in this revised version of my essay submitted originally to Modern Fiction Review, soon to be accepted by a more prestigious journal, I am certain, to name the more personal consequences of my search, not because I want to write autobiographically (although as Borges wrote, ‘My postulate is that all literature, in the end, is autobiographical’) but because it will illuminate certain aspects of Borges’ work.[31]

It was neither di Giovanni or Weinberger’s responses to my original 1993 article, but Milton Lieb’s, which led to a subtle shift in my colleagues’ attitudes towards me. Reputation is vaporous, made of gossip and silences; to detect its shifts is simple; to measure it accurately requires instruments as subtle as those of meteorologists. Staff meetings, hallway conversations, encounters at pigeon-holes; each suggested an adjustment in how I was perceived. And it seemed that this shift had followed the publication in Hispanic Review of Milton’s review, although I could not be sure. I was not invited again to his house; did not sit again in the garden with his wife Hannah. But it was the following autumn that I understood how far beyond the streets of Austin that my damaged reputation had travelled: a series of reviews damned my latest book.

The search for the lost Borges story took on greater personal significance then; the story was the source of my difficulty; it was also my potential salvation. I considered the life of Borges more deeply; I felt a certain sympathy with him for the years following Norah’s marriage to Oliverio and the loss of his job as an editor at Crítica, years when he took the tram to a dreary local library in a poor barrio at the outskirts of Buenos Aires, where he worked as a lowly cataloguer, returning each night with tears in his eyes, those nights when he wrote the desolate black comedies that became The Garden of Forking Paths.[32] Perhaps I identified too greatly with Borges. I think one night I believed I was Borges.

And I realised then, how deeply that desire for revelation is in Borges’ stories, and how the quest for wholeness, unity, coloured everything he wrote. How it is sometimes the occasional source of a profound sense of one-ness, and at others a sham, an iniquitous, flawed quest producing, sometimes, evil. Thus the vanity of the sect of Tlön, which wanted to replicate the world as they dreamed it; thus the vanity too, of the secret society of the Congress, whose quest ends in failure.[33] To these can be added the quest undertaken by the protagonist of the novel The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim described in the story ‘The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim’, the search for perfection by the author Jaromir Hladek, the uncovering of a mystery by the detective Lönnrot, the revelation of a false mystic in ‘Hakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv’, and those late hallucinations of quest and failure: ‘Blue Tigers’, ‘The Rose of Paracelsus’, and ‘Shakespeare’s Memory’; and ‘The Disk’, ‘Undr’ and ‘The Mirror and the Mask’.[34] But, for the character Jaromir Hladek in the story ‘The Secrete Miracle’, who completes his play The Enemies (a play concerning, again, two rivals, this time for the love Julia de Wiedenau, and whose identities become confused), there is the glimmer of satisfaction at the very moment of death; and in one of the final stories, ‘Ulricca’, the narrator finds temporary solace when time and space dissolve in two lovers’ unity. And in ‘The Aleph’ a mystical, bittersweet unity is briefly achieved by the narrator (named Borges) which, although it includes a vision of everything that exists in the universe, must necessarily offer too a glimpse of his own, earlier loss.

In Borges’ stories, this unity stands opposed to the infinite, to the mirror, to the series.[35] It is the cessation of striving, a mystic, occasionally erotic, union. Borges wrote: ‘I have distinguished between two causal processes: the natural, which is the unceasing result of uncontrollable and infinite operations; the magical, lucid and limited, in which details are prophetic. In the novel, I think the only possible honesty lies in the second. The first may be left to psychological simulation.’[36] That is, the infinite versus the limited, and two movements which share the same desire: one towards infinite, hellish multiplicity; the other towards unity and wholeness.

And it was in the midst of this quest, that by chance, two years ago, at a conference at the Hebrew University at Jerusalem, at which I was presenting a paper on Borges’ debt to the Kabbalah, that I mentioned my quest for a lost story, which so many of my colleagues have considered apocryphal, and that had led me to be dubbed a fool by Milton Lieb.[37] (And I am sure, too, Milton, that you are the anonymous referee of the original of this article – that glib tic of yours, ‘notwithstanding’, is a giveaway.) In one of the coffee breaks, I was approached by an old man. He said that he had been in Oliverio’s tertulia in the 1930s. In fact, he had met Borges several times. He told me something then that I did not know – Borges’ tendency to squeeze the bridge of his nose between forefinger and thumb as if he had a headache. The man recalled he did it whenever Oilverio spoke. It was then that I mentioned that the lost story was a version of Tristan. And then, I remember this very clearly, the man interrupted me. ‘How strange,’ he said, ‘But I have just read Borges’ version of that story.’ It was all I could do not to grab him. ‘Where is it?’ I asked.

He remembered the story very well from its original publication, he said, and in fact had had a conversation with Borges about it, because he had begun as a Germanist, like Hannah, and knew the Tristan story, and had found Borges’ version intriguing. He said that Borges admitted to him that he had written Lock’s Tristan. The old man said he had not thought of the story in sixty years, and then had encountered it again while browsing a bookshop in the old quarter of the city the previous day. How surprising and strange it was, he said, that the very next day that I should speak of it. ‘But where did you see it?’ I asked again. ‘In a bookshop in the old city,’ he replied. Again I wanted to grab him. He had actually held, the day before, a yellowed copy of Revista Multicolor from Februrary 1935. ‘Do you remember any of it?’ I asked. He looked away for the longest time: ‘On the day that the lovers met secretly, King Mark hid himself in an olive tree.

The old part of the city is a mixture of architectures, of different traditions joining, so that buildings are neither one thing or another: thick Romanesque walls and delicate Islamic fretwork, concrete filling damaged surfaces, stone crumbling to reveal metal – the city has been written over so many times, it is like a palimpsest. The lanes and alleyways are narrow, deep, and turn at strange angles, so that soon you lose your bearings and you are not sure if you face the sunrise or sunset.

I found the passageway the old man had described. It led to a single, closed door. I expected to step into the bookshop; instead, the door opened onto a roomy, Spanish-style courtyard, much too large for the crowded district which surrounded it, and where a shaft of sunlight illuminated a jacaranda tree. Off this great courtyard were several open doors. Through one, in deep shadow and darkness, someone moved.

I found that room full of books and shadows. Several large tables were covered, with paperbacks, leatherbound volumes, old magazines and picture books. Opened tea crates, their pale sides printed with smudged names – Ceylon, Java – contained further books. And in the remaining space towers of books rose, forming a kind of forest through which I moved carefully, fearful that if I knocked against one it would topple. I reached an open area. Here stood a small table. I called out. A man came forward from beside me. He had the smell of old, damp books and sweat.

He informed me that the Revista Multicolor had just been sold and that if I had arrived five minutes earlier, I would have found it. I found it impossible to believe. I argued with him. He seemed deliberately to misunderstand me. Then, I am sorry to say, I threatened him. There was a silence and then I caught myself – raving. I fell silent, ashamed. He took from the table, first, his account book, and handed it to me. It had the day’s date and then, Item: February 1935, Revista Multicolor, Argentina, and then these words: story by J.L. Borges (Lock). Then he handed me the receipt book, which contained the same information, and I read again those words: Borges (Lock). I left then.

I lost my way in the old city, and did not find my way out for many hours. I reached my hotel late at night. The moon was large and crescent. At that moment, after being that close to the Revista Multicolor, I think perhaps I began to lose my sense of reality. I do not know for certain what happened next. I was unsure if I woke or slept. A blueness infused things. Shadows reminded me of past times. I was sitting in a garden. The breeze moved in the jacarandas. A woman sat beside me. I was unsure if she was Norah Lange or Hannah, Milton Lieb’s wife. I turned to her. She put her hand to her head, holding it as if she would place a band in her hair. She turned to me and spoke. I do not recall what she said, only the timbre of her voice, low and musical, and the wind through the trees above her. I do not know if it was day or night, dusk or dawn, if we were at the Boating Lake at Palermo, in an orchard in Cornwall, or the shadows of her garden in Texas. I understood the unity of person and event, and simultaneously, their distinction; for a moment I held all this, dazzled, full; I was these things; I knew all; therefore knew also that this experience would end, that I would laugh or cry, that reality would become dream, or dream become reality.

There are passages of time I recall clearly; other periods are dark smudges. But I know that time passed. A colleague visited me in my garden. This was in Austin. He asked why I had pierced the torn pages of books, why I had hung each page on a loop of string from the branches of the trees. Another memory: heavy rain, and the pages spinning, and in the morning the lawn scattered with white, like magnolia blossom. Sometimes, from my room, out there in the garden I saw a woman, her back turned to me, so that I saw only the narrow slope of her shoulders, and the length of her bare neck – her hair tied up.

Richard Lambert 2

 

This phase of my life passed; the world became clearer, colder. I returned to work. I understood these objects, events, as metaphor. As you must understand them, Milton. I remembered then with a clarity that has visited me a handful of times in my life, that period before you came to Austin, when Hannah and I were still together. A memory from those times: one morning, a simple morning, sitting by the river with Hannah in easy silence, the water dancing with sunlight.

Here, Milton, is the revised version of my essay on Borges for your consideration. You will understand that the words do not belong to me. They are someone else’s.

 

[1] This paper was rejected by Modern Fiction Studies. The anonymous referee, to whom I would dedicate this article were it not that he has chosen to remain nameless and that any dedication, where Borges is concerned, is owed to absence, concluded his report with formulaic cruelty: ‘notwithstanding the author’s shrill protests, this story never existed.’

[2] E. Williamson, Borges: A Life (London, 2004), 212.

[3] I. Samuelson, ‘A Lost Story of Jorge Luis Borges’, Hispanic Review, 44 (1993), 234-47.

[4] Williamson, Borges, 148-50.

[5] On autobiography, see Borges, ‘A Profession of Literary Faith’, The Total Library: Non-fiction 1922-1986, ed. E. Weinberger, trans. E. Allen, S.J. Levine and E. Weinberger (Harmondsworth, 2000), 23-7. For a character named Borges, see ‘The Aleph’, in The Aleph and Other Stories (1933-1969), trans. N.T. di Giovanni (London, 1970), and ‘The Other’, and ‘August 25, 1983’, in The Book of Sand and Shakespeare’s Memory, trans. A. Hurley (Harmondsworth, 1999), 3-11, 99-104. On Borges’ ideas about repetition in literature, see ‘Kafka and His Precursors’, in Labyrinths: Selected stories and other writings, trans. J.E. Irby (Harmondsworth, 1964), 234-6; these literary ideas echo his personal philosophy of pantheism, for which see Williamson, Borges, 449-50.

[6] Borges ‘An Autobiographical Essay’, The Aleph, 211-12. On life with his mother see, C. Tóibín, ‘Don’t Abandon Me’, London Review of Books, May 2006, 19-26. The household was strange: even as an old man Borges informed his mother of all his movements and each night would receive two sweets from the family maid before going to bed, like a little boy.

[7] Williamson, Borges, 397-99, 492.

[8] Williamson, Borges, 189, 228.

[9] Williamson, Borges, 175-6, 216.

[10] Williamson, Borges, 207-8.

[11] Williamson, Borges, 165. In ‘Death and the Compass’, Lönnrot seeks his own death. In his essay on suicide, ‘Biathanatos’, The Total Library, 333-6, Borges identifies with the suicide Philipp Batz.

[12] These pieces were collected in A Universal History of Iniquity, trans. A. Hurley (Harmondsworth, 2000). On the use of sources in this work, see N.T. di Giovanni, ‘Borges and his Sources: A Universal History of Infamy’, The Lesson of the Master: On Borges and his work (London, 2003), 111-37.

[13] Williamson, Borges, 170-2; Borges, ‘Man on Pink Corner’, A Universal History of Iniquity, 55-64.

[14] Borges, Fictions, trans. A, Hurley (London, 2000), 138-41; Williamson, Borges, 367.

[15] J.T. Irwin, The Mystery to a Solution: Poe, Borges, and the Analytic Detective Story (Baltimore, 1994), 30.

[16] Borges enjoyed Hitchcock’s The Thirty-nine Steps but not Buchan’s; perhaps his Richard Madden is named after the character Richard Hannay: both tales turn on a state secret being transmitted to an enemy power by means of a secret code. See ‘Two Films’, The Total Library, 148-9, where Borges also dwells on the character of Mr Memory, who may have led him to his own Mr Memory, Funes the memorioso.

[17] Borges, The Book of Sand and Shakespeare’s Memory, 3-11, 99-104.

[18] Borges, Obras completas en colaboración (Buenos Aires, 1979), 908.

[19] Borges, Fictions, 59-64, 7-25; ‘The Bribe’, The Book of Sand, 73-9.

[20] Borges, ‘Funes, His Memory’, Fictions, 97.

[21] Williamson, Borges, 200-1, 207, 218.

[22] Borges, ‘The Labyrinths of the Detective Story and Chesterton’, The Total Library, 112-14, at 113.

[23] On lists, see Di Giovanni, ‘Borges and his Sources’, The Lesson of the Master, 111-37, at 121-2. On Whitman, see Williamson, Borges, 71.

[24] A. Hurley, ‘Afterword’, A Universal History of Iniquity, 80-5, at 84-5.

[25] Gottfried von Strassburg, Tristan trans. A.T. Hatton (Harmondsworth, 1960), 233-9.

[26] For betrayal, Borges, ‘The Shape of the Sword’, ‘The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero’ and ‘Three versions of Judas’, Fictions, 100-105, 106-10, 132-7.

[27] Marie de France, The Lais of Marie de France, trans. G. Burgess (Harmondsworth, 1999), 109-110.

[28] M.Lieb, ‘A Lost Story of Jorge Luis Borges: A retort’, Hispanic Review, 45 (1994), 111-13.

[29] Borges, ‘Catalog of the Exhibition Books from Spain’, The Total Library, 444-5.

[30] A letter from Helena Matarasso, who remembered the story because it echoed certain episodes from her own life; she thanked me for reminding her of a time that was happy and wished me luck in my search.

[31] Borges, ‘A Profession of Literary Faith’, The Total Library, 23-7, at 24.

[32] Williamson, Borges, 230-1.

[33] Borges, ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ Fictions, 7-25, ‘The Congress’, The Book of Sand, 17-35.

[34] Borges, ‘The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim’, Fictions, 26-32, ‘The Secret Miracle’, ‘Death and the Compass’, Fictions, 124-31, 111-123; ‘Hakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv’, A Universal History of Iniquity, 48-54; ‘Blue Tigers’, ‘The Rose of Paracelsus’, and ‘Shakespeare’s Memory’; ‘The Disk’, ‘Undr’ and ‘The Mirror and the Mask’, The Book of Sand, 105-16, 117-21, 122-31, 86-8, 59-64, 54-8.

[35] A mirror opens ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’, Fictions, 7-25. Infinity: ‘Hell is mere physical violence, but the three inextricable Persons add up to an intellectual horror, stifled and specious like the infinity of facing mirrors’: ‘A History of Eternity’, The Total Library, 123-39, at 130. The series: ‘the periodic series of bloody deeds’ determines the plot of ‘Death and the Compass’, Fictions, 111-23; the ‘infinite series’ of pages of a diabolical book in ‘The Book of Sand’, The Book of Sand, 89-93.

[36] Borges, ‘Narrative Art and Magic’ in The Total Library, 75-82, at 81-2.

[37] On the influence of Judaism on Borges, see J. Alazraki, Borges and the Kabbalah and Other Essays on his Fiction and Poetry (Cambridge, 1988); E. Fishburn, ‘Reflections on the Jewish Imaginary in the Fictions of Borges’, Variaciones Borges 5 (1998), 145-56.

Add new comment

Guest

Post as Guest