Friday, November 16, 2007

Borges on Writing, by Thomas di Giovanni

It may be worth your while to skip this book about Borges and just read Borges. But that wouldn’t be very Borgesian, and there are a few interesting ideas to be found here. Unfortunately, even the line by line analyses of poems and stories fails to reveal much about Borges as a writer, except to show that he writes much like everyone else does (or should): carefully, with great attention to detail, and with immense forethought.

The best parts of this book are the discussions of translation. Borges modeled his Spanish on English, which made his Spanish seem esoteric, and his translations into English more difficult. Many translators and translations are discussed, but because di Giovanni was Borges’ personally selected translator, their discussions are particularly insightful.

I wish, however, that the material chosen for discussion had been different. I’m not so knowledgeable about Borges’ poetry, since the woman I loaned the book to absconded with it to Mexico (true story). But the fiction? I wish they’d discussed “The Shape of the Sword…”

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