JORGE LUIS BORGES: A Literary Biography by Emir Rodriguez Monegal
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JORGE LUIS BORGES: A Literary Biography

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KIRKUS REVIEW

The celebrated Argentinian writer is well served by this first full biography. Son of a traditional, though supportive Spanish mother and a haft-English litterateur father, ""Georgie"" grows up in Buenos Aires first knowing how to read and write English, and only later Spanish. A youth full of international travel (Father consults eye surgeons for an incipient blindness later to be visited upon the son). The first stirrings of an extraordinarily literary life, limned by reading and writing: avant-garde poet in Madrid and then Argentina again. A clerk's job in a local Buenos Aires library. The first fantastical ""ficciones""--labyrinthine, self-regarding, close-ended (""Fiction,"" comments Monegal, ""became truth because what was invented was not the fact that the story may have happened. . .but that the story pre-existed its telling""). Borges' anti-Peronism, for which he suffered and which ultimately drove him from his library job and into lecturing--and growing renown (after Peron's first departure, Borges was appointed Director of the National Library). Then, the onset of total blindness, driving Borges back into the more composifionally manageable mode of poetry. Monegal candidly declares his 30 years' friendship with Borges; criticism of any sharp contention is largely avoided--but so also is most deadwood, theoretical cant (except for early-chapter lapses that lean a little too hard on Borges' hermetic childhood with post-Freudian interpretations). Borges has to be one of the most difficult writers to biographize--a Hemingwayish life of bluster and action his assuredly is not--but Monegal handles the task with vigor and care, though never finally convincing you that Borges is the major writer such detailed investigation naturally feeds upon.

Pub Date: Nov. 22nd, 1978
Publisher: Dutton