Wednesday, 11 January 2012

Bilingual Borges

I'm grateful to Kathy Bell for posting a link on Facebook to a fascinating resource that can be found here. It's the audio recording of Jorge Luis Borges' Norton lectures in 1967-68.

I very much recommend a listen, but with a decent pinch of salt: Borges is always provocative, especially in articles, lectures and interviews. He loves playing games, juxtaposing contradictory statements or leading us down blind alleys. They are his ways of challenging us, reflecting his view of the everyday as a labyrinth that he then extends into art. Critics and students of his work often snatch at some quote that seems to sum him up, quite forgetting how easy it is to find him apparently stating the opposite elsewhere. In other words, he's more of a stirrer than a teacher.

In this specific case, these audio files are also particularly interesting as a record of Borges' command of English. His bilingualism is a powerful element in his work - both Hispanic and Anglo-Saxon influences converge in Borges.

When he writes in Spanish, I'm very aware of English-language lexical structures and devices running through his syntax. When listening to his Norton lectures, I can feel Spanish-led thought feeding into how he expresses himself. This duality lends an extra texture and freshness to Borges' use of language, playing a significant role in making him so unique. Instead of diluting his command of language, Borges' bilingualism adds immeasurably to his writing.

No comments:

Post a Comment