Member 16
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Alborz Kamalizad (M)
Los Angeles, US
Immortal since Feb 20, 2007
Uplinks: 0, Generation 1
An artist has got to be careful never really to arrive at a place where he thinks he's at somewhere. You always have to realize that you're constantly in the state of becoming. ~ Bob Dylan
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    Reading Borges Reading
    Project: The Total Library
    This post is meant for those who are in the strange habit of finishing what they start. All others need not read further.

    In With Borges Alberto Manguel describes his childhood experiences reading aloud for the then blind and always great author and book lover, Jorge Luis Borges. It's a very quick, one-sit read. I've put together a few excerpts which lead to a wonderfully paradoxical revelation about Borges in the last sentences.
    From my very first visits Borges's apartment seemed to me to exist outside of time, or rather, in a time made up of his literary experiences [...] These were his points of reference, his history and his geography: the present seldom intruded. For a man who loved to travel but who could not see the places he visited [...], he was singularly uninterested in the physical world except as representations of his readings. The sand of the Sahara or the water of the Nile, the coast of Iceland, the ruins of Greece and Rome, all of which he touched with delight and awe, simply confirmed the memory of a page of the Arabian Nights or the Bible, of Njals Saga or of Homer and Virgil. All these "confirmations" he brought back to his apartment.
    Sometimes he himself chooses a book from the shelves. He knows, of course, where each volume is housed and he goes to it unerringly. But sometimes he finds himself in a place where the shelves are not familiar, in a foreign bookstore for instance, and here something uncanny happens. Borges will pass his hands over the spines of the books, as if feeling his way over the rugged surface of a map in relief and, even if he does not know the territory, his skin seems to read the geography for him. Running his fingers over books he has never opened before, something like a craftsman's intuition will tell him what the book is that he is touching, and he is capable of deciphering titles and names which he certainly cannot read. [...] I can vouch for the fact that there exists a relationship between this old librarian and his books which the laws of physiology would judge impossible.
    For Borges, the core of reality lay in books; reading books, writing books, talking about books. In a visceral way, he was conscious of continuing a dialogue begun thousands of years before and which he believed would never end. Books restored the past. "In time," he said to me, "every poem becomes an elegy." He had no patience with faddish literary theories and blamed French literature in particular for concentrating not on books but on schools and coteries. Adolfo Bioy Casares once told me that Borges was the only man he knew who, concerning literature, "never gave in to convention, custom or laziness". He was a haphazard reader who felt content, at times, with plot summaries and articles in encyclopedias, and who confessed that, even though he had never finished Finnegans Wake, he happily lectured on Joyce's linguistic monument. He never felt obliged to read a book down to the last page.

    Much to the ridicule of my friends, I rarely read a book down to the last page myself. In these passages I've found solace regarding my reading habits and ammo against my friends' taunts. If the first few chapters and plot summaries are good enough for Borges, they're good enough for me damnit.

    Wed, Mar 5, 2008  Permanent link

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    folkert     Wed, Mar 5, 2008  Permanent link
    I'm glad I usually read an article through to the last paragraph, otherwise the point of your post would have been lost on me entirely. Just sayin...
    alborz     Wed, Mar 5, 2008  Permanent link
    I have ammended my post with a facetious warning regarding your concern.
    folkert     Wed, Mar 5, 2008  Permanent link
    Thanks. I enjoyed reading your post, btw.
    Wildcat     Thu, Mar 6, 2008  Permanent link
    I took lots of pleasure from your post Al, I am in the habit of keeping lots and lots of books in different places and opening them at random and see what comes to mind, Borges was a giant that taught us that the life of the mind is the final arbiter and not conventions.

    "No one is anyone, one single immortal man is all men. Like Cornelius Agrippa, I am god, I am hero, I am philosopher, I am demon and I am world, which is a tedious way of saying that I do not exist."

    Jorge Luis Borges "The Immortal" (1949)