Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote
Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote
Jorge Luis Borges 1939
Jorge Luis Borges wrote the story “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” in 1939, soon after suffering a serious accident. Borges had until then been primarily a poet and the author of journalistic and critical articles, with little experience in writing short stories. However, after a fall on a staircase that resulted in a head injury, Borges attempted to reassure himself that the accident had not caused the loss of his writing ability, later telling an interviewer, “I thought I’d try my hand at something I hadn’t done.” “Pierre Menard” appeared in the spring 1939 issue of the magazine Sur. With it Borges commenced his production of the stories, or “fictions” as he called them, which influenced much twentieth-century fiction.
“Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote,” like the other “fictions” “The Aleph,” and “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” utilizes the voice of an academic narrator, well-versed in the discussion of obscure details of the literary life of many nations. The story is written in the style of a literary article in an academic French journal. The narrator purports to rectify a number of errors committed by another academic in recording the career of the writer Pierre Menard. According to the narrative, Menard had resolved to write Don Quixote: not to copy the story down as it exists in the version by Miguel de Cervantes, but to arrive at the conditions necessary to write exactly the same story through his own experiences. The narrator compares identical passages from Menard’s Quixote and that of Cervantes, concluding that Menard’s is far superior. Borges’s story, similarly, is doubled: although Borges is clearly interested in the ways in which history and context will always change a text’s meaning, he is just as interested in satirizing pompous conventions of academia and in caricaturing the petty conflicts of the literary world.
Born in 1899 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, to a middle-class family with some English heritage, Jorge Luis Borges grew up among books, libraries, and languages—all of which would figure significantly in his writings. In 1901 the Borges family moved to the Palermo suburb of Buenos Aires, which Borges described as an area of “shabby, genteel people as well as more undesirable sorts.” From 1914 to 1921 the family lived in Europe, and while at school in Geneva, Switzerland, Borges mastered French and Latin to go with the Spanish and English in which he was already fluent. Moving to Spain in 1919, Borges fell in with the avant-garde literary group known as the ultraistas that flourished in Seville and Madrid, and found his calling as a writer.
Returning to Buenos Aires in 1921, Borges founded a literary magazine and a literary review, and began to write poetry heavily influenced by avant-garde thinking in the Hispanic world. He was also employed in public and college libraries. At the outset of the 1930s Borges set a new task for himself: to renew prose fiction in an entirely new, innovative fashion. In 1939 Borges published “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote” and his project, it seemed, was finally realized. With such collections as Universal History of Infamy, Fictions, Labyrinths, and Dreamtigers, Borges transformed the path of twentieth-century fiction. At the same time, he continued to work in libraries and colleges, a career that was detoured in 1946 with the accession of Juan Peron to power in Argentina. Because Borges had sympathized with the Allies in World War II, he was stripped of his library position and “promoted” to the position of head poultry inspector for Buenos Aires’ local markets. Later, though, he regained his earlier position, and became in 1955 Director of the Argentine National Library.
Although he inspired the remarkable Latin American “boom” of writing talent in the post-World War II period, Borges was not seen as an important precursor by many of the “boom’s” leading figures, who disapproved of Borges’ lack of political engagement. Borges was most influential in the United States. During the 1960s, such eminent writers as John Updike and John Barth cited Borges as the very writer whose revolutionary insights and approaches could save American literature from its inertia. Borges, although nearly blind for much of the last part of his life, continued to write stories and poetry until his death in 1986.
The first part of “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” introduces the reader to both the tone and the narrator, both of which are scholarly. The narrator, a French academic, seeks to correct the erroneous and incomplete catalog of the work of an author named Pierre Menard that had been compiled by a Madame Henri Bachelier. The narrator proceeds to enumerate a list of Menard’s “visible” works, which include poems, a number of scholarly works on philosophical and literary topics, a translation, a catalog preface, and other minor academic works.
The narrator then shifts to his primary topic: Menard’s “subterranean, interminably heroic, and unequalled” work, which the narrator feels is “possibly the most significant of our time.” This work consists of “the ninth and thirty-eighth chapters of Part One of Don Quixote and a fragment of the twenty-second chapter.” Justifying the apparent “absurdity” of this statement, the narrator explains, is the purpose of this “note.” Menard did not want to produce another Don Quixote, but the Don Quixote, the narrator stresses. At first, Menard considered recreating the events, circumstances, and cultural surroundings of Miguel de Cervantes’s life in order to “become” the author and therefore be able to create the Quixote again; later, he abandoned this approach as “too easy.” He decided that to remain Menard and still compose the Quixote would be a more arduous and therefore more rewarding undertaking.
The narrator never explains exactly how Menard succeeds in composing these fragments, and instead analyzes Menard’s text. The narrator quotes at length from a letter of Menard’s in which he explains that he chose the Quixote because, as a Frenchman, the book was not prominent in his literary education. The project of rewriting the Quixote is “considerably more difficult” than was the project of writing the novel in the first place, for in Cervantes’ time the work was “perhaps inevitable,” but in Menard’s time it is ”almost impossible.”
The majority of the last half of the section is taken up with an explanation of why the Menard Quixote is “more subtle than that of Cervantes.” Where Quixote simply “indulges in a rather coarse opposition” between chivalry stories and realistic descriptions of seventeenth-century Spain, Menard sets his story in the distant past, yet avoids describing his fictional setting with trite, stereotypical details of gypsies and the Inquisition. A discourse delivered by Don Quixote holding that arms were superior to letters is explicable in the Cervantes text by the fact that Cervantes himself was a soldier, but in the Menard Quixote the idea is distinctly more subtle and ironic. Cervantes’ meditation on history is mere rhetoric while Menard’s is clearly a reaction to the ideas of William James. The narrator concludes by evaluating the impact of Menard. His Quixote has enriched contemporary literature by its technique of “deliberate anachronism and erroneous attributions,” and the narrator recommends applying Menard’s technique in order to “improve” many classic works of literature.
Madame Henri Bachelier writes a preliminary catalog of Menard’s works. The narrator of the story mistrusts her scholarship, and feels that it is especially suspect because it appeared in a newspaper with “Protestant leanings.”
See Henri Bachelier.
Baroness de Bacourt
The Baroness de Bacourt is one of the narrator’s patronesses. She holds Friday salons for writers, which both the narrator and Menard attended, and sees in Menard’s work the influence of Friedrich Nietzsche.
Countess de Bagnoregio
The Countess de Bagnoregio is another of the narrator’s patronesses. Although she used to live in France, she married the international philanthropist Simon Kautsch and moved to Pittsburgh, Pennsylvania.
Although he is dead when the story opens, Pierre Menard is the protagonist of the story. Menard was a minor writer in France in the early part of the 1900s, a symbolist poet and scholar of philosophy. In 1934, Menard decided to write Don Quixote: not to copy the work down, or to write a modern-day Don Quixote, but to actually compose the work as if it had never been written before.
The narrator of this story is never named, but readers learn a number of important things about him. He is probably French, because the story is set is the world of French literary scholarship of the 1930s. He has profitable relationships with at least two patronesses, the Baroness of Bacourt and the Countess de Bagnoregio. He is caught up in the academic world, and sees its small disagreements as very important. In addition, he is willing to draw extended conclusions from seemingly nonsensical data. As a result, he comes across as pretentious, perhaps even silly.
At first reading, “Pierre Menard” gives off an aura of absurdity. Both Menard and the narrator himself are absurd; the first for his inexplicable desire to write something that has already been written, and the second for his bizarre explanations of how two absolutely identical texts can mean completely different things. With these two characters, Borges is trying, among other things, to point out the absurdity of two groups of which he is a member: experimental (or “avant-garde”) artists and scholars. Menard represents the avant-garde artists who flourished in Europe during the 1910s and 1920s, a time in which Borges lived in Switzerland and Spain. Borges knew many of the important figures in these movements.
The character of the narrator represents Borges in his identities as a scholar and librarian. The narrator’s vindictive attitude towards Madame Bachelier mark him as a man obsessed with petty concerns, and his obsequiousness towards his wealthy patronesses demonstrate that he does not have the control over his own career that he craves. By having the narrator explain his own points without any other commentary on them, Borges emphasizes the absurd and nonsensical nature of the narrator’s conclusions. Finally, a close reading of the story indicates the crowning absurdity, that there is no evidence that Menard ever wrote anything. The narrator seems to have inferred that Menard wrote the chapters he discusses based on Menard’s letters proposing to accomplish this and the narrator’s own “discovery” of Menard’s themes in Don Quixote.
Artists and Society
Menard is the epitome of the over-intellectual experimental artist. His works, as listed by the narrator, are minor, arcane, and aimed at a tiny audience of his own contemporaries. He has only published one original poem (which appeared twice, “with minor variations,” in the same magazine in the same year. The only other creative works he produced are “a cycle of admirable sonnets for the Baroness de Bacourt” and “a transposition into Alexandrines” of a poem by Paul Valery.
According to the narrator, however, Menard’s greatest work, and “possibly one of the most significant of our time,” is his composition of Don Quixote. By foregrounding the narrator’s apparently nonsensical praise of a work of Menard’s that no one has ever seen, Borges seems to be criticizing the absurdity and valuelessness of art that is aimed only at a greatly limited audience of fellow-artists and intellectuals. Borges reinforces this criticism by the fact that the narrator is so clearly and so eagerly cut off from society, that he is more eager for the approval and support of the Countess and the Baroness than for the appreciation of a larger audience.
Language and Meaning
Borges subscribed to a philosophical view of language sometimes known as formalism. This view holds that language is not necessarily directly related to reality and that words have a sometimes misleading relationship with the things or actions that they name. However, in this story Borges makes fun of his own beliefs a little. The narrator’s clearly silly explanation of how Menard’s text is more meaningful and complex than Cervantes’ original points out the ways that the “formalist” point of view can be absurd and self-contradictory at times.
Yet there is also a serious side to the narrator’s explanation. The reader, Borges points out, is very concerned with who is speaking, and will grant more or less credence to a text depending on the reputation of the writer. The very same sentence certainly can mean different things, depending on who says it; a child’s complaint about how hard life is, for instance, is much easier to reckon with than that of a philosopher. The narrator of the story is especially concerned with the ways that art depicts the past. The Spain of Cervantes’s work was his own world, and little of his effort went into constructing a fantastic or fictional world. In the “Menard Quixote, ”the setting is the Spain of long ago, a place that has become almost a cliche after three hundred years of trite and stereotypical portrayals of it in plays, books, and paintings. Menard’s accomplishment, the narrator feels, is to be a revolutionary artist, ignoring or rejecting the three centuries of tradition of what 1600s Spain “should” look like. Although Borges certainly points out the absurdity of the “formalist” view taken to an extreme, he also suggests that it can be a very valid way to look at writing.
Point of View and Narration
The narrator of “Pierre Menard” is the driving force both of the themes of the story and of what action there is. Borges uses the first person, but it is not a traditional first-person narration, for the whole story is a parody of a scholarly article, one that might have appeared in a French journal in the 1930s. Like a good writer of a scholarly article, the narrator tries to avoid using “I” as the subject of his sentences. Nonetheless, the narrator’s voice is precisely that of the cloistered “egghead.” He is a pretentious and obsequious intellectual, very concerned with petty academic conflicts and willing to make conclusions that seem very absurd. By using this person’s voice, Borges makes points about how intellectuals and academics tend to shut themselves up in insular disciplines, and how their isolation can lead them to often sound simply silly.
Parody and Satire
“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” is a parody of a scholarly article. Borges employs many of the standard features of academic writing of the 1930s. The narrator, who seems to be a minor literary scholar, begins his article with a criticism of Madame Bachelier, a fellow scholar who has published an “incomplete” catalog of the writings of Pierre Menard, and then continues with a note of gratitude to his patronesses. Borges makes special fun of petty literary squabbles in heavily Catholic France by having the narrator comment that Madame Bachelier’s article appeared in “a certain newspaper, whose Protestant tendencies are no secret.”
The great majority of the parody, though, is of the narrator’s great credulousness and seriousness in analyzing the Menard Quixote. He even says that he is “reading Don Quixote—the entire work—as if Menard had conceived it,” and finds everywhere the mark of Menard’s genius. Through these details, Borges points out the tendency of academics to
Topics for Further Study
- Why might a story mean something different in one time than it means in another time? Why does the narrator of “Pierre Menard” think that Menard’s story of Don Quixote is better, more complicated, or more difficult to produce than that written by Cervantes?
- Look at some of the other writers of the Latin American “boom.” What are some of the countries that produced important writers after World War II? What political or social changes happened in those countries that these writers comment on in their works?
- Why is Don Quixote such an important book in Spanish and Latin American literature? Investigate some of the things people have said about this book from the time it was written until now.
- Borges lived during a very tumultuous time in Argentine history. What were the important political events in Argentina from 1900 to 1986? What happened in the 1970s and 1980s? Why do you think many of the Latin American writers who were influenced by Borges criticized his refusal to write about politics?
make often silly and insufficiently substantiated pronouncements and to go to great and torturous lengths in defending those pronouncements.
Although the work makes fun of academics and intellectuals, Borges still is very academic in his composition of this story. Borges includes a number of tantalizing allusions, or references, to real writers and concepts that are closely related to Menard and his Quixote. Menard’s name, for example, is very similar to the name of the French symbolist poet Louis Menard. The magazine in which Pierre Menard publishes his “symbolist sonnet,” La Conque, was a real French journal in which such writers as Paul Valery and Andre Gide published their work. The scholarly works of Menard—his monographs on Boole and Leibnitz, his “examination of metric laws essential to French prose,” and his discussions of logic problems—are all compatible with many scholarly works of the time. Finally, the story’s most important allusion, to Cervantes’s Don Quixote, thrusts Borges’ story into a three-hundred-year old scholarly discourse about the novel—even though Borges, with his usual irony, has his narrator deny that this Quixote is at all compatible with Cervantes’.
Argentina is a remarkably diverse country, and its citizens, like those of the United States, hail from any number of European countries. Borges himself was of both Spanish and English ancestry. When Borges was born in 1899, Argentina was governed by a conservative regime, allied with business and cattle ranching industries. Politicians of the conservative persuasion were forced, during the first years of Borges’ life, to make alliances with so-called “Radicals,” who wanted to reform the country. In 1916, the Radicals gained control of the government in the first truly popular vote the country had ever experienced, and ruled until 1930.
In that year, the military overthrew the civilian government and installed General Uriburu in the presidency. During the period 1930-43, the military held an uneasy balance of power with civilian governments. Argentina remained neutral during World War II. In 1945, Colonel Juan Peron ascended to power in Argentina, and remained in power until 1955, strengthened by the support of the generals and of the Argentine masses, who felt an affinity with Peron’s wife, Eva. Although many Argentines supported Peron, he was an authoritarian leader with little tolerance for dissent. Although he lost power over the state in 1955, Peron retained a great deal of influence in Argentina through his Peronista party and through his pull in the labor unions. Throughout the 1960s and 1970s, Argentina was in a state of upheaval, with Peronistas, generals, and reformers fighting for power.
In March 1976, military officers again took over the government and ruled until after Borges’ death. Their regime was marked by repression, an undeclared “civil war” in which they had tens of thousands of dissenters killed, and a short war with England. In that war, known at the Falkland Islands War, Argentina was forced to give up its claim on the Falklands. Argentina’s history throughout Borges’ life was tumultuous, complicated, and often violent. The fact that Borges, in his writing, rarely addressed these issues made many of his fellow writers resent him a great deal.
European Art 1890-1940
One of the most fervent periods of artistic innovation the world has ever known took place in Europe between 1890 and 1940. In music, painting, sculpture, theater, and literature, dozens of revolutionary movements were born, flourished, scandalized the public, and died, all with a period of months. London and Paris were the centers of all of this experimentation. In painting, the Impressionist movement gave way to the Post-Impressionists, the Primitives, the Fauvists, the Dadaists and the Surrealists; in literature, some of the important movements that made Paris or London their home were the Decadents, the Symbolists, the Imagists, the Vorticists, the Futurists, and the Lost Generation. Although Borges did not live in Paris or London, the spirit of experimentation flooded the continent’s artists, and both in Geneva, where he attended school, and later in Spain, where he fell in with the “Ultraist” movement, Borges absorbed the artistic ferment and brought it back with him to Buenos Aires. Partly as a result of Borges’ importation and dissemination of the European spirit of innovation, the countries of Latin America experienced what became known as the “boom”—an artistic revolution of similar proportions.
When “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” appeared in 1939, the story marked a turning-point for the career of Jorge Luis Borges, a little-known Argentine writer and librarian who had, up to then, concentrated his efforts on Symbolist poetry, critical essays, and short fictional sketches. He had, however, tried his hand at the parodic critical articles of which “Pierre Menard” is such a masterful examples. “Pierre Menard,” Borges noted in 1968, “was still a halfway house between the essay and the true tale.” After “Menard,” Borges’ achievements
Compare & Contrast
- 1939: France, the country in which “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” takes place, is on the brink of war with Adolf Hitler’s Germany. However, feeling secure behind their Maginot Line of defenses along the border with Germany, many French people are unaware of the danger posed by Hitler.
1990s: France and Germany, along with most of the countries of Western Europe, form an alliance known as the European Union. Plans are in place for all EU countries to switch to a common currency by the year 2000.
- 1930s: Before World War II, academics and intellectuals in Europe and America are largely drawn from the upper and upper-middle classes, since few members of the working class are able to afford a college education, both because of tuition and of young peoples’ responsibility to provide for their families. Borges’ narrator refers numerous times to his patronesses, the rich women who presumably sponsor his academic and scholarly work.
1990s: Today, higher education is much more widespread. Most European public universities charge no tuition at all, and in the United States, despite the high cost of college, a larger percentage of young people than ever attend college.
- 1939: James Joyce publishes his final work, Finnegans Wake. The work is in many ways the culmination of the “modernist” movement in art and literature that has been flourishing in Europe since before World War I, and that was an inspiration to many of the writers—including Borges—of the Latin American “boom.”
1990s: Today, much of the experimental work in the arts is done not in writing or painting but in the so-called “new media”—video, electronic music, performance art, and spoken-word performances.
multiplied, and building on the strikingly original techniques of that story, he wrote some of the most memorable pieces of short fiction of the twentieth century.
Ironically, although he was a father-figure for the great Latin American “boom” in literature after World War II, Borges was not admired by many of the writers he inspired. His lack of political commitment and his own cultural background, which he felt to be as much English as Argentine, caused writers such as Gabriel Garcia Marquez to feel much devotion to Borges. Mario Vargas Llosa said in 1967 that “I have always had a problem justifying my admiration for Borges,” and Marquez remarked that “I have a great admiration for him. I read him every night. He is a writer I detest. His is a literature of evasion.” His unwillingness to engage in political activity might have sprung from the day, in 1946, when the new Argentine dictator Juan Peron took Borges’ job from him; at any rate, Borges opposed the student movements of the late 1960s that were the touchstone for so much of the “boom” writing.
Consequently, it was the critics and writers of the Anglo-American world who most eagerly promoted Borges’ work. Such American writers as John Updike and John Barth admired his experimentation, seeing in it a way out of the stagnation in current American writing. In his essay “The Literature of Exhaustion,” Barth specifies just where the most important paradox and irony of the story lies, and feels that this seeming dead end is where the work is most triumphant: in “Pierre Menard,” Borges “writes a remarkable and original work of literature, the implicit theme of which is the difficulty, perhaps the unnecessity, of writing original works of literature. His artistic victory is that he confronts an intellectual dead end and employs it against itself to accomplish new human work.” Martin Stabb, though, disagrees, and writes in his book on Borges that “Pierre Menard” is primarily “a masterful parody of the critical establishment” and that the “narrator’s comment on Menard’s principal achievement occupies that tenuous middle ground between high-powered critical intelligence and rampant sophisticated lunacy.”
Most of the commentary on “Pierre Menard” focuses on the story’s treatment of the question of language and of relationships between works of literature. The Belgian-American critic Paul de Man, in his essay “A Modern Master,” points out “Pierre Menard’s” roots in duplicity and misleading the reader, commenting that the knowledgeable reader will first think that Menard is meant to represent Paul Valery, then has this notion demolished when he reads that Menard has written an anti-Valery polemic. For de Man, the story is “such a complex set of ironies, parodies, reflections, and issues that no brief commentary can begin to do them justice.” Pierre Machery, in “Borges and the Fictive Narrative,” sees Borges as proposing that reading can never exhaust all of the meanings of a work. “The book is incomplete because it harbours the promise of an inexhaustible variety,” he points out, referring to the narrator’s diverse readings of the identical passage from Cervantes and from Menard. Part of this incompletion or inexhaustibility results from the fact that Borges will always grant that the reverse of any idea he asserts might be as valid as his own idea.
Margaret Boegeman, writing on “The Swerve from Kafka by Borges,” argues that Borges always inserts a degree of uncertainty and contradiction into his stories. “I think one should work into a story the idea of not being sure of all things, because that’s the way reality is.” Similarly, the narrator of “Pierre Menard” describes Menard’s “resigned or ironical habit of propagating ideas which are the strict reverse of those he preferred.”
Robert Scholes writes in “The Reality of Borges” that Pierre Menard is “in one sense Borges’ greatest hero and in another his greatest fool.” After trying his hand at original writing, Menard has despaired of the possibility of literary creation. His way out of the futilities of his time is to become another, to live in another period entirely and to write the masterpiece of another era. Tying this to the philosophy of “formalism,” Scholes asserts that “Borges is reminding us in this tale that there is no meaning without a meaner. Language always assumes a larger context.” Where all of these critics agree, though, is that this story brings out some extremely interesting questions about the relationship between writers, the works they produce, and the readers that read those works. How and where the last group should find the meaning of those works, Borges points out, is a much more complicated question than it first seems.
Barnhisel is a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Texas at Austin. He also has published articles on Ezra Pound in academic journals and critical anthologies. In the following essay, he describes “Pierre Menard” as a story of ideas rather than of human relationships.
Jorge Luis Borges, the courtly blind Argentine, became in the 1960s probably the best-known and most respected foreign writer in the English-speaking world. Before the other writers of the Latin American “boom” had gained any fame, Borges was lecturing around the world and holding visiting professorships at prestigious American universities. In America, Borges was held up by such leading literary figures as John Updike, Paul de Man, and John Barth as the best hope modern fiction had to get beyond what they felt was its stagnation. Today in North America and to a growing extent in Latin America, Borges has passed into the realm of “classic” writers to become a figure of unquestioned achievement and importance. However, in Latin America Borges’ place was much more precarious. His refusal to speak out against the repressive Argentine government earned him the enmity of such younger writers as Gabriel Garcia Marquez.
“Pierre Menard” is an excellent example of Borges’ unwillingness to address political issues. In 1939, when the story was written, the world was careening rapidly towards war, and France, where Borges set his story, was soon to be invaded and occupied. However, Borges ignores all of this and chooses to write a satire on intellectual and academic pretensions and petty disagreements. Borges endured the savagery of the Peron government and,
What Do I Read Next?
- Borges’ most important collection in English, Labyrinths, contains most of his best-known “fictions,” including “Pierre Menard,” “The Lottery in Babylon,” “The Garden of Forking Paths,” “Emma Zunz,” and “Funes the Memorious.” The work is essential for anyone with an interest in Borges.
- Miguel de Cervantes’ Don Quixote is the inspiration for Borges’ story and the most important work of fiction in the Spanish language. Although long, this novel about the adventures of an old man, deluded into thinking he is a knight, and his “squire” Sancho Panza retains its ability to amuse, move, and even shock readers, almost four hundred years after its first appearance.
- The Complete Stories 1883-1924, by Franz Kafka. Kafka, a Jewish writer from Prague in Central Europe, composed dozens of short stories and “parables” that, in their surrealism and concern with questioning the limits of what fiction should be, are often compared with Borges’ “fictions.” Especially interesting are “The Metamorphosis,” “In the Penal Colony,” “The Hunger Artist,” and “Give It Up!”
- Perhaps the best-known writer of the Latin American “boom” of which Borges was a founder is Colombia’s Gabriel Garcia Marquez, winner of the Nobel Prize for Literature. Marquez’s One Hundred Years of Solitude is his most classic work, and recounts the saga of the Buendia family, patriarchs of a small village.
- Another Latin American short story writer who, like Borges, has been called a practitioner of the “postmodern” is Clarice Lispector. This Brazilian author’s collection Soulstorm (1989) anthologizes a number of her short, astringent pieces.
- One of Lispector’s most important American admirers is the New York short story writer Grace Paley. Her Collected Stories (1994) exhibits much the same terseness and dislocation that Borges’ stories engender in the reader.
- Vladimir Nabokov, a Russian expatriate who lived in the United States, Germany, and France, among other places, wrote stories that are reminiscent of Borges’ works in that they plunge the reader, without introduction, deep into the mind and concerns of a character who is, more often than not, of an academic or scholarly bent. In 1995, The Stories of Vladimir Nabokov made available all of his brilliant and lapidary pieces.
- In Stories and Texts for Nothing, Samuel Beckett experiments with the short story form in much the same way that Borges does. Beckett’s novel Murphy also uses many of Borges’ techniques, especially the incorporation of various types of arcane knowledge as an essential element of the story.
later, of the military junta and their “dirty war” against dissenters, but did not acknowledge the horrors. Other writers in Latin American countries suffering under dictatorships considered the refusal of a public intellectual like Borges to address these issues reprehensible. Borges’ whole career was characterized by this, and exemplifies the willful refusal to recognize and protest against repression in favor of a purely artistic accomplishment.
Yet, for those readers who do not subscribe to the idea that art must address social and political issues, Borges’ work is of unquestioned mastery. In his essay for the Dictionary of Literary Biography, Alberto Julian Perez remarks that Borges’ two most lasting contributions to literature are his “creation of stories whose principal objective is to deal with critical, literary, or aesthetic problems” and his “development of plots that communicate elaborate
“The narrator’s explanation of how Menard’s text is more meaningful and complex than Cervantes’ original indicates the ways that the ‘formalist’ point of view can be absurd and self-contradictory at times.”
and complex ideas that are transformed into the main thematic base of the story, provoking the action and relegating the characters—who appear as passive subjects in this inhuman, nightmarish world—to a secondary plane.” Borges is not a writer who is particularly concerned with the details of human interaction. He is a writer of ideas, and it is ideas that drive his “fictions.” Perez even states that Borges treats these ideas as characters in themselves, “exaggerat[ing] characteristics, deforming them and provoking a comic response in the reader who identifies with the critical point of view of the satirist.” In his book Paper Tigers, John Sturrock argues that Borges “writes as bookishly as he lived, refusing to play the game which writers of fiction habitually play of making us think they write not out of books but out of their deep, direct experience of human life. They forget to what a high degree their experience of life is interpreted for them by their experience of reading.”
Borges is an important precursor of the “postmodern” movement. The notion that books influence the way we experience life just as much as life influences the way we read books is an essential component of the “postmodern.” “Borges uses metalanguages, quotations, intertextuality, parody and imitation,” Perez explains in the Dictionary of Literary Biography. “The real being of characters and objects do not necessarily coincide with their appearance.” In “Pierre Menard,” Borges accomplishes both of these aims of the postmodern. By writing a story that masquerades as a scholarly article, Borges causes us to think about what makes a “real” short story, and also about the conventions of the scholarly article. Many of Borges’ stories, especially those he wrote in the late 1930s and early 1940s, use these same techniques.
With his extensive experience as a librarian and an academic, Borges was well aware of the idea of “intertextuality,” or how all books form a sort of interconnected net, each referring to other books and no book able to stake out a place entirely of its own. “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote” satirizes scholarly writing and the classic novel, as well as pointing out the parasitic manner in which scholarship relies on creative work and current writing relies on older writing. The article is not only dependent on Menard’s text for its own existence, it needed Madame Bachelier’s “erroneous” article in order to come into being. Pierre Menard’s project is another logical conclusion of that realization: for if one’s book is necessarily going to refer to other books, why not make it simply an extended reference to another book?
Although the work is certainly a parody, there are a number of very serious issues relating to language and meaning that Borges addresses. Borges subscribed to a philosophical view of language sometimes known as “formalism” that says that language has no direct relation to reality and that words have a sometimes misleading relationship with the things or actions that they name. In this story Borges makes fun of his own beliefs a little. The narrator’s explanation of how Menard’s text is more meaningful and complex than Cervantes’ original indicates the ways that the “formalist” point of view can be absurd and self-contradictory at times.
Yet Borges is not entirely facetious about formalism. In reading, Borges points out, we are very concerned with who is speaking, and we will grant more or less intelligence to a text depending on what we think of a writer. When Cervantes wrote Don Quixote, many of the philosophical ideas common in intellectual discourse today had not yet been developed. For this reason, the narrator finds the passage in “Menard’s” Quixote to be much more complex and profound than the passage in the original—for after all, he is telling us, Cervantes could not have known of these concepts, and therefore could not have embedded them in his novel. Menard, an intellectual and avant-garde artist, was certainly familiar with these ideas, and consequently they must be in the text.
The underlying issue, then, is to what degree we must know something about how, when, and by whom a work of literature was composed in order to know what it means. While the narrator thinks that these conditions—which we might call a work’s “circumstances of composition”—entirely determine what a work means, Borges’ view is more difficult to identify. He probably does not agree wholly with the narrator, since so much of the story is devoted to making fun of this narrator for his isolation in the world of academia. Yet once we learn something about Borges, then we learn that it would make no sense for him to believe that literary works somehow exist out of time, and that (for example) we could read Aristotle as if his works contained references to quantum physics or Soviet Communism.
“Pierre Menard” makes fun of the very kind of scholarly discussion that it invites. By alluding to the very difficult and complicated philosophical issues that Menard wrote on during his lifetime, the narrator makes it necessary for himself to discuss these kinds of issues, and by extension we, also, need to address them in any reading of this story. However, as Martin Stabb points out in his book on Borges, “anyone who has the temerity to write about Borges” ‘Pierre Menard’ will, of course, run the risk of doing just what the story’s pompous, self-important narrator attempted, namely, to seek fame and recognition vicariously through association with ‘the great man.’” The equations recede before us: Menard seeks his fame by latching onto Cervantes, the narrator seeks his through Menard, Borges the author makes his name through characters like this narrator, and critics will attempt to make their fortunes by writing on Borges. It begins to seem nihilistic, to say the least.
However, Borges is not so nihilistic and absurd as all this. While he certainly wants to point out how all written works “piggyback,” to some extent, on other works, he also appreciates the separate world created by just this web of intertextuality. Borges’ formalist beliefs will not allow him to grant any claim of “truth” to any written text, but one gets the impression that “truth” is not of primary importance to Borges. Borges, the librarian, the child whose memories of childhood center on books and languages, prefers to live in that entirely interconnected web of books. Another of Borges’ most famous stories, “The Library of Babel,” describes an almost infinite library in which all possible combinations of letters, spaces, words, sentences, and chapters exist, and where people wander endlessly, searching for the volume that will explain their lives to them. Whether Borges sees this universe of texts as a dream or a nightmare is lost somewhere in the web of references and allusions that make up his fictions.
Source: Greg Barnhisel, for Short Stories for Students, Gale, 1998.
Aburawi A. Elmajdoub and Mary K. Miller
In the following excerpt from a longer essay, the authors discuss challenges presented by the narratives of both “Garden of Forking Paths” and “Pierre Menard.”
For Borges, the world is a book always being written. “Pierre Menard” centers upon such writing. In this case, Menard begins to write Don Quixote. In order to get past commonplaces of fiction and everyday reality, Borges constructs this story to appear illogical, irrational, and devoid of meaning. It is made of fragments, and it is totally unconcerned with the daily world. The reader has to fall into this labyrinthine reality and to thread his way out.
Pierre Menard, to begin, filters to us through a narrating critic of sorts. This critic considers himself a reliable connection between Menard and his audience. He rests his qualifications upon a correspondence-based friendship with Menard. He also alleges approval of his remarks from two of Menard’s supporters: The Baroness de Bacourt and the Countess de Bagnoregio. A list of Menard’s visible works comes to us through this narrator. We see the writer’s vita, as it were: sonnets; alexandrines; a proposal for measuring French prose; translations of two Spanish works; discourses on philosophy, logic, and chess; a work in two editions centering upon Achilles and the tortoise called Les Problemes d’un Problem; journal articles concerning Valery; plus evidence of literary homage to his supporters.
Menard sounds precise, metered, structured, rational, calculating, and tenured. The narrator-critic sounds nervous, possessive, sentimental—actually, reminiscent of the glimpses that he gives us of the Countess de Bagnoregio. Early on, he has told us with regard to Menard that “Error is trying to tarnish his Memory.” “Decidedly,” he states, “a brief rectification is inevitable.” He fears that the errant bibliographer Madame Henri Bachelier is corroding the dead Menard’s image; he shall, on the other hand, restore the author to a livelier state. The narrator then passes from the required, expected, conventional works of Menard to a literary coup: Menard, enjoying the ongoing presence given him by Borges and his readers, perpetuates the earth-swallowed Cervantes, dead since 1616. We have the words of our narrator, excerpts of letters from Menard, and Menard’s creation of Chapters Nine, Thirty-eight, and portions of Twenty-two Don Quixote. Part One, from which to construct our assessment of his effort.
We learn that Menard did not wish to compose another Don Quixote, nor did he wish to copy the original one. Don Quixote exists because Cervantes, his publisher, and his readers created it. Menard, taking up a favorite Borgian theme, assumes that his creation of Quixote is just as possible as our daily creations of external world, God, chance, time and space. Menard tells the narrator in a letter that the only difference in his creation and the philosophic creations of God, Chance, and Space is that he did not choose to “publish in pleasant volumes the intermediary stages of . . . work.” Debating how best to accomplish his creative breakthrough, Menard—so the narrator tells us—prefers remaining Menard while arriving at Quixote rather than attempting to be Cervantes. Our critic leads us to a keener appreciation of Menard’s choice:
The fragmentary Don Quixote of Menard is more subtle than that of Cervantes. The latter indulges in a rather coarse opposition between tales of knighthood and the meager, provincial reality of his country; Menard chooses as “reality” the land of Carmen during the century of Lepanto and Lope . . . In his work there are neither bands of gypsies, conquistadors, mystics, Philip and Seconds, nor autos-da-fe. He disregards or proscribes local color. This disdain indicates a new approach to the historical novel.
Also, in this complex story (novel) by Borges (Menard), we learn that part of Menard’s success in recreating the Quixote, at least Chapter Thirty-eight, lies in Menard’s unquixotic habit “of propounding ideas which were the strict reverse of those he preferred.” The author of the Cervantes-Quixote, having fought for Spain much of his life, allows his hero honestly to lament the disappearance of the horse and the lance in individual tests of courage and zeal. The Menard-Quixote, written by a French contemporary of Bertrand Russell, speaks up for arms because irony rules in modern literary circles while massive, impersonal arms rule the secular day.
When Menard coincides with Cervantes in Chapter Nine of Quixote, however, he means what he is saying about history. Cervantes conceives history quite differently, perhaps, although the words are identical in both the Cervantes and the Menard Quixotes:
. . . la verdad, cuya madre es la historia, emula del tiempo, deposito de las acciones, testigo de lo pasado, ejemplo y aviso de lo presente, advertencia de lo por venir.
[. . . truth, whose mother is history, who is the rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, example and lesson to the present, and warning to the future.]
Where Cervantes is conceivably lauding history and truth as fixed, reliable entities—the former leading to the latter—Menard is focusing upon history’s inventiveness, its persuasiveness which leads its believers to derive certainty from illusion. In lieu of striving for a historical truth, Menard’s invention takes the vintage words of Cervantes (words which have an appearance of fixity, of historical character) and demonstrates their effervescence and fluidity. For Cervantes, a Spanish exponent of valor, history could offer temporal assurance and attractiveness, but historical truth, for France’s Menard “is what we think took place.” As Borges has stated elsewhere, “It is what we judge to have happened.” History is one of our most ingenious inventions, surpassed only perhaps by Menard’s Quixote.
These two stories “The Garden of Forking Paths” and “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote” weave varying configurations of inventiveness. Cervantes and Borges existed in the realm of daily fiction—that time-encased capsule often called “external reality.” Because these authors got beyond the strictures of time in their fiction, adventurous readers can travel labyrinths that circle and wind beyond daily, sensory illusion. Borges creates a Menard who perpetuates the spirit of the old don. Literature impels. As John Sturrock declares, Menard “shows an advanced understanding of what the Borgesian literary man should be expected to understand, that to criticize is to create.” Squired by a nervous narrator, Menard is a worthy candidate for the Quixotic succession. Tilting on the Cervantian plain, Menard coaxed an ink-stained Rocinante past Chapters Nine, Thirty-eight, and Part or Twenty-two of the Quixote One. His discovery of ambiguous, evolving language has Dulcineic overtones. Created, creative Quixote and Menard expand time through an ongoing combustion with readers. This conflagration explodes reality as an old fiction needing new quests.
Like Ts’ui Pen, Stephen Albert, Menard, and the Borgian reader can flow, suspend, and proliferate in everwidening circles, fusing past and future to make an ongoing “now” in a challenging, reader-impelled, assimilative fiction.
Source: Aburawi A. Elmajdoub and Mary K. Miller, “The ‘Eternal Now’ in Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths’ and ‘Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote’,” in The Durham University Journal, Vol. LXXXIII, No. 2, July, 1991, pp. 249-51.
Gene H. Bell-Villada
In the following excerpt from a longer essay, Bell-Villada discusses the theme of intellectual absurdity in “Pierre Menard.”
“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” similarly deals with an invented intellectual, a minor symbolist poet who, standing at the end of a tradition, also hits upon an elaborate and striking notion, one as novel as it is useless. As happens with Runeberg in his later years, Menard is totally taken up by his project, an obsession that might suggest madness were Menard depicted at closer quarters. Despite their differences—Runeberg is a somberly respectable academic, Menard a precious, turn-of-the-century decadent—both live single-mindedly for their manias: “writing” the Quixote in one instance, “rehabilitating” Judas in the other.
In format the story is a postmortem literary appreciation, an apology for Menard’s life written shortly after his funeral. The unnamed narrator who looks back upon Menard is a snobbish reactionary (his initial paragraph flaunts his aristocratic ties and snipes at Protestants, Masons, and Jews), a very French type of polemicist still found in the pages of the right-wing Action Francaise. The catalog he gives of Menard’s published works (each item of which is a delight) furnishes what Borges called “a diagram of [Menard’s] mental history.” Menard’s mental space is conspicuously narrow, his subjects completely self-contained—pure poetry, symbolic logic (item f in the catalog), metrics (i, j), chess (e, g), even a project for an artificial poetic language (b). This introversion inevitably turns self-reflexive; for instance, the apocryphal retranslation into French of Quevedo’s translation into Spanish of a devotional work originally in French (Borges’s footnote), the study of metric patterns in French prose as evidenced in the prose of an author who had denied such patterns (j) and, of course, the revealing title Les problemes d’un probleme (m).
Indeed, much of Menard’s work is so minute as to be pointless, for example, transposing Valery’s greatest poem into a different metre (o) or improving the game of chess by eliminating one pawn (e)
“At work in Borges’s story is the thorny question of how much there remains to ‘say’ in literature and how much material there is left with which to say it.”
and then rejecting the proposal! Menard’s “obstinate analysis” of poetry, his fascination with syntax (item n) and punctuation (s), and his concomitant belief that “censuring and praising” are merely “sentimental operations” that have “nothing to do with criticism” (n) all suggest a lifeless formalism, an effete nihilism in which basic questions of meaning and of value have lost their place. The one exception to this fine-grained claustrophobia is Menard’s attack on his friend Valery, a piece expressing the exact opposite of Menard’s feelings; this rather primitive incursion into irony later becomes a key to explicating and evaluating Menard’s unpublished masterpiece.
The latter work happens to consist of two chapters from Don Quixote, Menard’s texts being identical to those of Cervantes, yet with not one copied word in them. The narrator now recalls the steps by which Menard arrived at this undertaking. Inspired by a casual idea of Novalis about achieving total identification with an author, Menard first considers reliving Cervantes’s life and forgetting three hundred years of European history. This project he discards as too easy because his aim is to create his own Quixote, not as Cervantes but as Pierre Menard. He also contemplates the possibility of immortality, a situation that would inevitably result in his writing of the Quixote (another “Borgesian” play on that old fancy about monkeys, typewriters, and Hamlet). Menard eventually realizes that, having gone through Don Quixote at age twelve and knowing Cervantes’s other works from more recent reading, his own mind perceives the Quixote in the same dim way that any author senses within himself a book yet to be written. This is Menard’s point of departure; after thousands of drafts, most of them put to flames before the narrator’s eyes, Pierre accomplishes a tiny fraction of his self-appointed task.
The narrator now builds a cunning edifice of evaluation. As he sees it, the Quixote is an achievement surpassing that of Cervantes. Unlike the latter, a Spaniard who simply relied on his national experience and native tongue, Menard was a twentieth-century Frenchman faced with an array of deceptively quaint stereotypes (conquistadors, gypsies, Carmen) and a seventeenth-century foreign language. Yet another difficulty overcome by Menard was the portrayal of the knight debating the question of arms versus letters. The original Don Quixote came down on the side of arms, an obvious and easy recourse for Cervantes, a seasoned ex-soldier. On the other hand, for a bookish man of letters like Menard to have so convincingly defended arms is (according to the narrator) an awe-inspiring feat. Menard’s capacity for transcending personal limits and praising soldierly values has been attributed, among other things, to the influence of Nietzsche and especially to the penchant for stating opinions contrary to his own—the precedent of course being his “attack” on Valery.
Now comes what may be Borges’s most notorious conceit. The narrator quotes two long passages dealing with Truth and History, one by Cervantes, another “by” Menard. These two passages are absolutely identical. Not so, this is but apparent, says the narrator, who dismisses Cervantes’s words as empty rhetoric but extols Menard’s as contemporary in their outlook and Jamesian in their pragmatism; he therefore judges Menard superior! (On the other hand, he praises Cervantes’s prose style as natural and direct, but faults Menard’s language as “affected” and “archaic!”) After some further reminiscing on Menard’s speculations, the narrator finishes his account by pondering a new technique of reading, one that employs “deliberate anachronism” and “erroneous attribution”—that is, disregarding history, conceiving the Aeneid as pre-Homeric and the Imitation of Christ as if written by Celine or Joyce.
This literary mock-memoir was Borges’s first major story; with its wealth of ideas and wit, it stands among his liveliest and best pieces. On one level, “Pierre Menard” is a clever parody of literary criticism and its sectarian debates, philosophical battles, and ardent attacks and vindications; Borges himself, with his own aesthetic to uphold, was often a willing participant in such critical activity. Borges’s unnamed narrator, an amateur critic, puts to work many forensic tools—learned allusion, sly sophistry, sarcasm, nostalgia—all with a view to explicating and indeed justifying the monumental but futile product of an eccentric precieux. . . .
Also at work in Borges’s story is the thorny question of how much there remains to “say” in literature and how much material there is left with which to say it. Though Borges himself has never expressed doubts about the infinite possibilities of language and the imagination, his character Pierre Menard stands within a set of circumstances hardly favorable to newness and originality. As Borges observed over French radio, Menard suffers from “an excess of intelligence, a sense of the uselessness of literature, as well as the idea that there are too many books.” Coming as he does at the end of a literary period, Menard is weighed down by tiredness and scepticism. This is perfectly illustrated by Pierre’s literary methods: his writings, which show no hint of any larger theme of his own, build exclusively upon the achievements of others. The Quixote project simply pushes his derivative tendencies to their ultimate conclusion. . . .
One of the most striking instances of the “Pierre Menard effect” can be found in Woody Allen’s Play It Again, Sam, which opens by showing in its entirety the closing scene from Casablanca. The relationship of that emotionally charged episode to Woody Allen’s comic plot completely alters the meaning of the original Moroccan airport melodrama. The culminating point of a familiar Bogart-Bergman love-and-war saga is thereby transformed into the wistful and jocose opening scene of Woody’s bittersweet schlemiel satire.
In Borges’s story, however, such practices and notions are carried to their ultimate and absurd extreme: the complete and unmodified re-production of an earlier work. The idea is intriguing, though of course unrealizable in practice. To present as new art a moustachioed Mona Lisa or a giant soup can—artifacts which at least differ somewhat from their originals and whose natures are immediately evident to the naked eye—is one thing, but to pass off an entire preexisting novel as one’s own requires an added measure of brazenness or naivete. Borges, on the other hand, writes about someone actually doing this, comments on it with an implied aesthetic resembling the one formulated above, and, to cap the whole joke, defends an act of creation that is as admirable as it is useless. Although Pierre’s own grandiose project is by itself a dead end (a fact aptly symbolized by the thousands of preliminary drafts he brought out and burnt), “his” Quixote raises countless questions about the relationship between art, history, and originality, between received tradition and individual talent.
The arguments set forth by Menard’s unnamed encomiast are a mixture of sound thinking and sophistry, but then, Borges’s story is an extended satire of the intellectual patterns, formal subtypes, and sophistries of the genre of literary criticism. The opening paragraph, with its reactionary mumblings, captures the passions of ideologically motivated aesthetics. The narrator’s personal praise for Menard is in the tradition of the posthumous literary eulogy often printed in small literary journals. The list of Menard’s visible works recalls many a philological enumeration or catalogue raisonne. The account of how Menard came to write Don Quixote is a genetic explanation usually found in literary biographies. The suggestion that Menard glorifies war under the “influence” of Nietzche is a recognizable critical commonplace. On the other hand, the assertion that Menard’s pro-war statements are ironic is itself an ironic imitation of a ruse by which a critic might justify works whose social doctrines make him uncomfortable (for example, Celine’s anti-Semitic Bagatelles pour un massacre or Michael Cimino’s anti-Asian The Deer Hunter). In the manner of historicist scholarship, the narrator finds in both Cervantes and Menard the philosophical ideas of their respective times. Last but not least, in his final paragraphs Borges prophetically satirizes the ahistorical structuralists of the future, with their synchronic and reversible perceptions of the entirety of world literature, their emphasis on reader rather than author and their attraction for words like “palimpsest.” (Critics like Gerard Genette, in apparent disregard of Borges’s general spirit of humor and parody, have built entire theories on the fanciful notions played with in “Pierre Menard.”)
Borges’s utilization of the Quixote in this context is by no means accidental. Cervantes’s masterpiece, itself one of the great parodies, has been called the “Rohrschach blot” of art criticism, a work in which readers see what they want to see or what history conditions them to see. Literary commentators over the years have repeatedly read into Don Quixote the chief preoccupations of their own time and culture. Hence, eighteenth-century rationalists thought of Cervantes’s would-be knight as an insensate fool; romantics esteemed him as a noble idealist fighting against an imperfect world; a religiously inclined Dostoevski saw in Don Quixote a figure of Christian purity and goodness; Marxists and other sociological critics see the knight as a representative of a decaying aristocracy clinging to superannuated feudal-chivalric values; Americo Castro, in his existentialist phase, saw Don Quixote as the individual who consciously and actively chooses to define himself and become a knight; and American interpreters, living in a world of uncertainty and flux, comb Cervantes’s text for the finer ironies, the nuanced interplay between deceptive appearance and illusive reality. When Menard’s commentator detects Jamesian pragmatism in Cervantes, he unwittingly falls in with a venerable old critical tradition.
Source: Gene H. Bell-Villada, in his Borges and His Fiction: A Guide to His Mind and Art, University of North Carolina Press, Chapel Hill, 1981, pp. 122-28.
Barnstone, Willis, editor. Borges at Eighty: Conversations. Bloomington: Indiana University Press, 1982.
Barth, John. “The Literature of Exhaustion.” In Critical Essays on Jorge Luis Borges, ed. Jaime Alazraki. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1987.
Boegeman, Margaret. “From Amhoretz to Exegete: The Swerve from Kafka to Borges.” In Critical Essays on Jorge Luis Borges, ed. Jaime Alazraki. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1987.
de Man, Paul. “A Modern Master.” In Critical Essays on Jorge Luis Borges, ed. Jaime Alazraki. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1987.
Macherey, Pierre. “Borges and the Fictive Narrative.” In Critical Essays on Jorge Luis Borges, ed. Jaime Alazraki. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1987.
Perez, Alberto Julian. “Jorge Luis Borges.” In Dictionary of Literary Biography Vol. 113. Detroit: Gale Research Co., 1992.
Scholes, Robert. “The Reality of Borges.” In Critical Essays on Jorge Luis Borges, ed. Jaime Alazraki. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1987.
Sturrock, John. Paper Tigers: The Ideal Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1987.
Alazraki, Jaime. Critical Essays on Jorge Luis Borges. Boston: G.K. Hall and Co., 1987.
An excellent collection of primarily Anglo-American essays on Borges, from a number of perspectives. Alazraki also edited a Spanish-language collection on Borges with different critical essays included.
Stabb, Martin S. Borges Revisited. Boston: Twayne Publishers, 1991.
Stabb provides a brief overview of Borges career and short discussions of his important works. A good introduction to Borges’ place in the Latin American “boom.”
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