Thursday, April 26, 2012

Guttersnipe Bookshelf: Borges

Jorge Luis Borges, On Mysticism

edited with an introduction by Maria Kodama
Penguin Classics, 2010

Is this book necessary?  Ninety percent of it is already available in the three canonized volumes of Borges’ fiction, non-fiction and poetry.  What’s new here seemed to me very minor – thumbnail sketches of Santayana and Schopenhauer, and an essay on Berkeley that Borges wrote when he was 24.

Yet I am so glad I bought and read it.  The great canonical volumes of Borges have been made.  They sit on my shelf.  I’m grateful for them.  Now it is necessary to take them apart again.  I was glad to have a focus and a path, a small selection made by no less than Maria Kodama, Borges’ literary executor and widow.

Rereading stories I’d read years before – The Library of Babel, Funes the Memorious, The Circular Ruins, The Aleph -- I found them more amazing than I remembered.  Over the years my small-capacity mind had reduced them to clevernesses, to delightful mental math problems.  They are so much more than that.  I am embarrassed to admit that I thought, “The translation has really been improved.  It is much more fresh.”  I am delusional.  The translation, by Andrew Hurley, is exactly the same.

I do not know if this book is essential, but certainly it is delightful.  I loved to be guided, to have the chance to look again, to carry a little Borges along on the train.  

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