Synopses & Reviews
Jorge Luis Borges is one of the seminal figures in twentieth-century literature. His influence on the art of narrative and on the very way people think about writing has been incalculable. All postwar fiction, from García Márquez to Fuentes, Updike to Barth, Calvino to Eco, bears Borges’s imprint—in spite of the fact that Borges did not write a single novel.Born at the turn of the century in Argentina, Borges grew up with cosmopolitan parents who fostered his love of literature—and his active imagination. He spent his early youth in Europe, and though he traveled in literary circles, it was not until he returned to Buenos Aires in the late 1930s that he embarked on a substantial writing career of his own. Ficciones and El Aleph, the collections of short stories on which his reputation is based, were cryptic, playful, and vertiginously imagined. They have become benchmarks of Latin American fiction, paving the way for the Magic Realism that followed. Still, fame was slow to come to Borges, and the stature of his work was not recognized until the 1960s. Blind, living with his mother—who died just ten years before he did—and increasingly unpopular in his politics, Borges attracted extraordinary international attention in his later years that lasted until his death in 1986.Borges: A Life is the first biography to be written in English since Borges died, and from it emerges a picture of a complex man who neither courted fame nor acknowledged the literary revolution he set in motion. Based on firsthand research in Buenos Aires, James Woodall’s portrait depicts the Borges the world never saw: the young pamphleteering poet obsessed by Walt Whitman and Argentine slang; the sexually timid intellectual falling disastrously in love just as he was writing his finest prose; the guru of Latin American letters whose sole aim in old age was domestic happiness. Casting new light on the background to the stories and the poetry, James Woodall also looks at Buenos Aires itself, a city in one of the most dramatic periods of its history. At the center of Woodall’s depiction are the two grand obsessions of Borges’s life: his celibate love of women and his loathing of Argentina’s most charismatic dictator, Juan Perón.
Jorge Luis Borges irrevocably changed the direction of modern literature, and stands as one of the seminal figures in 20th century letters, influencing postwar fiction and philosophy from Garcia Marquez to Fuentes, Updike to Eco, Barth to Foucault. Borges' countless works of poetry, essays, and stories continue to invite readers, into his private world of magical realism and metaphysical speculation.
James Woodall has traveled to the writer's native Buenos Aires and spoken with those who knew him best, including his wife, his sister, and close friends. Woodall's critical analysis of Borges' life and work maps the creative and intellectual development of a writer whose influential imprint is everywhere in modern literature. Lively, colorful, and highly readable, Borges: A Life gives readers an unprecedented look at Borges as both artist and human being.
Includes bibliographical references (p. -311) and index.