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Borges: A Life

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Review-A-Day

"In this altogether first-rate biography, Edwin Williamson identifies [an] element in Joyce that kindled an answering spark in Borges. The Irish, Borges wrote, 'have always been famous agitators of the literature of England.' Might it not be possible, then, that a young writer in Spanish, in a Spanish ex-colony at the other end of the world, could also raise a body of work that would resonate in the wider tongue, and bring the local practice of letters one step beyond the national, the folkloric, and the epic?" Christopher Hitchens, The Atlantic Monthly (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)

Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Short story writer, essayist, and poet Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986) revolutionized the literature of Latin America almost single-handedly and left a legion of readers and admirers worldwide. Based on an unprecedented range of interviews and on research into previously unknown or unavailable resources, this is the first biography in any language to encompass the entire span of Borges's life and work. In Borges, Edwin Williamson brings to life the little known human side of the writer: his ancestral roots in Argentina, his relations with family and friends, his passions and despairs, and the evolution of his political ideas.

By correlating this new biographical information with Borges's literary texts, Williamson also reconstructs the dynamics of his inner world — the conflicts, desires, and obsessions that drove the man and shaped his work. This major new study finally unlocks the mysteries that have obscured the life of Borges. The result is a compelling and often poignant portrait that will radically transform our views of this modern master.

Review:

"Only one of the most paradoxical men of 20th-century Spanish-language letters could have authored an equally complicated literary work such as Labyrinths. And Jorge Luis Borges's life (1899 – 1986) imitated his art. In this dynamic biography, Spanish literature scholar Williamson (The Penguin History of Latin America) pieces together the life of Argentina's elusive literary master against a backdrop of the country's history and the author's oeuvre. While Borges was known as a rebel of narrative form and a crusader against conservative politics, Williamson argues that in spite of his ultracerebral writing style, he lived and died with very ordinary regrets. Borges was the son of battling parents from opposing political parties and the grandson of some of Argentina's most revered military generals. Williamson shows the young writer (whom he nicknames 'Georgie' for effect) as a weakling and social recluse, unable to defend himself from the world's bullies. Ultimately, Borges chose the pen over the valiant dagger, so often used in his family's bloody history, as a means of protection. Later in life, displeased with his early books of essays, he set out to buy and burn all available copies. With just the right balance of fact and insight to make for a composed and not overly inflated biography, Williamson's psychoanalysis of Borges in love and in alienation is compelling. Replete with the most detailed facts about the air surrounding Borges, the book maintains human drama without overloading on unnecessary facts to create a poignant overview of a peculiar man. (On sale Aug. 9)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)

Review:

"[A] richly psychological, dynamically intellectual, and deeply affecting portrait of an often anguished and inhibited man who, through heroic perseverance and spiritual conviction, found salvation in writing and transformed literature for all time." Booklist (Starred Review)

Review:

"Edwin Williamson's new life of the great writer Jorge Luis Borges...is thoroughly engrossing, and fans of the Argentine's ficciones will want to read it without delay." The Washington Post Book World

Review:

"Borges is a wonderful biography with a point....Almost an oral history, the book is a fine discussion of Borges's involvement in Argentine politics, literary life, fame, travel, as well as political redemption when, finally, he opposed the military, protested the abuses, and demanded human rights." Boston Globe

Review:

"[T]he best guide to the intertwined life and writings of the most important Spanish-language author of the 20th century." Los Angeles Times

Review:

"Edwin Williamson delivers an impressive and nuanced portrait of a complicated man, even as he grounds Borges' career so thoroughly in the writer's turbulent emotional life and personal travails that his book does, in fact, serve as an exercise in demystification." Minneapolis Star Tribune

Review:

"The big problem with Borges: A Life is that Williamson is an atrocious reader of Borges's work; his interpretations amount to a simplistic, dishonest kind of psychological criticism." David Foster Wallace, The New York times Book Review

Synopsis:

Based on an unprecedented range of interviews and new research, this is the first biography to encompass the entire life of short story writer, essayist, and poet Jorge Luis Borges, who revolutionized Latin American literature.

About the Author

Edwin Williamson is King Alfonso XIII Professor of Spanish and Fellow of Exeter College, Oxford. A leading international expert on Cervantes, he is the author of the Penguin History of Latin America.

Table of Contents

Contents

Preface vii

Acknowledgments xiii

part one: The Sword and the Dagger (1899–1921) 1

1. Family and Nation 3

2. Mother and Father 17

3. Childhood (1899–1914) 32

4. Geneva (1914–1919) 55

5. Spain (1919–1921) 68

part two: A Poet in Love (1921–1934) 91

6. Buenos Aires (1921–1923) 93

7. Second Visit to Europe (1923–1924) 115

8. Adventures in the Avant-Garde (1925) 130

9. The Aleph (1926) 139

10. Rejection (1926–1927) 149

11. Revenge and Defeat (1927–1930) 160

12. Experiments in Fiction (1930–1932) 175

13. The Rivals (1933–1934) 191

part three: A Season in Hell (1934–1944) 205

14. Failure (1934–1935) 207

15. Isolation (1936–1937) 217

16. The Death of Father (1938–1939) 230

17. The Example of Dante (1939–1940) 240

18. The Garden of Forking Paths (1940–1944) 256

part four: Of Hell and Heaven (1944–1969) 273

19. The“New Beatric” (1944–1946) 275

20. Humiliation and Anguish (1946–1947) 291

21. False Hopes (1947–1950) 299

22. Borges Against Perón (1950–1955) 311

23. La Revolución Libertadora (1955–1959) 326

24. The Rule of Mother (1958–1963) 342

25. Deconstructions (1963–1967) 355

26. Marriage (1967–1968) 369

part five: Love Regained (1969–1986) 383

27. Iceland (1969–1971) 385

28. Between Sunset and Dawn (1971–1975) 403

29. A New Dawn in Iceland (1975–1976) 416

30. Blue Tigers (1976–1979) 428

31. The Music of Japan (1979–1981) 441

32. Deconstructing the Nation (1980–1983) 452

33. The Weaver of Dreams (1984–1985) 468

34. Creating an End (1985–1986) 481

Epilogue 490

Glossary of Argentine Terms 493

Notes 495

Bibliography 537

Index 551

Product Details

ISBN:
9780670885794
Subtitle:
A Life
Other:
Williamson, Edwin
Author:
Williamson, Edwin
Publisher:
Viking Adult
Subject:
General
Subject:
Literary
Subject:
Caribbean & Latin American
Subject:
General Biography
Edition Description:
Hardback
Publication Date:
20040803
Binding:
Hardback
Grade Level:
General/trade
Language:
English
Pages:
592
Dimensions:
9.60x6.46x1.76 in. 2.12 lbs.

Related Subjects

Fiction and Poetry » Literature » A to Z

Borges: A Life
0 stars - 0 reviews
$ In Stock
Product details 592 pages Viking Books - English 9780670885794 Reviews:
"Publishers Weekly Review" by , "Only one of the most paradoxical men of 20th-century Spanish-language letters could have authored an equally complicated literary work such as Labyrinths. And Jorge Luis Borges's life (1899 – 1986) imitated his art. In this dynamic biography, Spanish literature scholar Williamson (The Penguin History of Latin America) pieces together the life of Argentina's elusive literary master against a backdrop of the country's history and the author's oeuvre. While Borges was known as a rebel of narrative form and a crusader against conservative politics, Williamson argues that in spite of his ultracerebral writing style, he lived and died with very ordinary regrets. Borges was the son of battling parents from opposing political parties and the grandson of some of Argentina's most revered military generals. Williamson shows the young writer (whom he nicknames 'Georgie' for effect) as a weakling and social recluse, unable to defend himself from the world's bullies. Ultimately, Borges chose the pen over the valiant dagger, so often used in his family's bloody history, as a means of protection. Later in life, displeased with his early books of essays, he set out to buy and burn all available copies. With just the right balance of fact and insight to make for a composed and not overly inflated biography, Williamson's psychoanalysis of Borges in love and in alienation is compelling. Replete with the most detailed facts about the air surrounding Borges, the book maintains human drama without overloading on unnecessary facts to create a poignant overview of a peculiar man. (On sale Aug. 9)" Publishers Weekly (Copyright 2004 Reed Business Information, Inc.)
"Review A Day" by , "In this altogether first-rate biography, Edwin Williamson identifies [an] element in Joyce that kindled an answering spark in Borges. The Irish, Borges wrote, 'have always been famous agitators of the literature of England.' Might it not be possible, then, that a young writer in Spanish, in a Spanish ex-colony at the other end of the world, could also raise a body of work that would resonate in the wider tongue, and bring the local practice of letters one step beyond the national, the folkloric, and the epic?" (read the entire Atlantic Monthly review)
"Review" by , "[A] richly psychological, dynamically intellectual, and deeply affecting portrait of an often anguished and inhibited man who, through heroic perseverance and spiritual conviction, found salvation in writing and transformed literature for all time."
"Review" by , "Edwin Williamson's new life of the great writer Jorge Luis Borges...is thoroughly engrossing, and fans of the Argentine's ficciones will want to read it without delay."
"Review" by , "Borges is a wonderful biography with a point....Almost an oral history, the book is a fine discussion of Borges's involvement in Argentine politics, literary life, fame, travel, as well as political redemption when, finally, he opposed the military, protested the abuses, and demanded human rights."
"Review" by , "[T]he best guide to the intertwined life and writings of the most important Spanish-language author of the 20th century."
"Review" by , "Edwin Williamson delivers an impressive and nuanced portrait of a complicated man, even as he grounds Borges' career so thoroughly in the writer's turbulent emotional life and personal travails that his book does, in fact, serve as an exercise in demystification."
"Review" by , "The big problem with Borges: A Life is that Williamson is an atrocious reader of Borges's work; his interpretations amount to a simplistic, dishonest kind of psychological criticism."
"Synopsis" by , Based on an unprecedented range of interviews and new research, this is the first biography to encompass the entire life of short story writer, essayist, and poet Jorge Luis Borges, who revolutionized Latin American literature.
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