Borges: A Life by Edwin Williamson
A review of Edwin Williamson's biography of Jorge Luis Borges
Borges once wrote that "All literature is autobiographical, in the last instance." For Edwin Williamson, however, it is autobiographical in the first instance too. He reads Borges' poetry and fiction as sublimations of the Argentine's erotic daydreams and disappointments, or as reflections of conflicted feelings about his country's true national character -- was Argentina best represented by the high-born criollo of relatively pure Spanish blood or by the romantic gaucho and knife-wielding compadrito? Rather surprisingly, especially in a professor of Spanish at Oxford, Williamson appears to have only the slightest interest in, say, "The Zahir" or "The Aleph" as highly original works of art. They are viewed as refractions of their author's emotional crises. When Borges claims The Divine Comedy to be the greatest masterpiece of world literature, his biographer immediately jumps in to point out that Dante's love for Beatrice replicates that of Borges for the poet and novelist Norah Lange. The poetry is regarded as straightforwardly or symbolically confessional, and so mined for insights into the writer's psyche.
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