IN PRAISE OF DARKNESS by Jorges Luis Borges


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Borges is the modern poet who best expresses not the power of the imagination but the seductiveness of the imaginative intellect, not one who evokes emotion raw or lyrical on the page but one who offers a highly idiosyncratic consciousness just prior to the awakening of an emotion or just after the emotion has passed. Immediacy has always been lacking in his works. And yet the world of Borges has its own majesty, its own penetrating cadences and charm, full of spheres within spheres, thought about thought, a parabolic shadow play continually unfolding, doubling back, and then returning (to use one of Borges' persistent motifs) like a river to its unimaginable source. In Borges, of course, there can be no release from these cyclic modes of consciousness: ""I think (what I have thought before)/ that this winter holds in it all winters past,/ back to those of the elders who wrote/ that our way is marked out,/ that we already belong to Love or to Fire."" So when he tells us that ""perhaps universal history is the history of a few metaphors,"" he is really describing his own sparse particular art, his meditative way of eliciting the illusion of freedom or chance from among the iron-bound laws of time, his lonely eloquent way of celebrating the labyrinth that is man's fate. If these new poems have a certain twilit convalescent air, recording Borges' familiar fascination with mirrors and mazes, to which have been added two new themes, ""old age and ethics,"" they nevertheless have the beauty of faded cameos, of museums of shifting forms, as well as Borges' poignant, stoical apprehension of his approaching death: ""I reach my center,/ my algebra and my key. . . . Soon. I shall know who I am.

Pub Date: March 25th, 1974
Publisher: Dutton