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But writers have their soft spots, and in 1971 Borges freely stipulated as much in responding to the question of a Columbia University student about the role of politics in writing: I think a writer’s duty is to be a writer, and if he can be a good writer, he is doing his duty.
To this he replies with a definitive “no”: You shall forget your parents’ tongue and learn the tongue of Paradise. Your brother shall work with you, he whose face you haven’t seen before.
so wholly atypical of Borges’s oeuvre in general, one might be tempted to label them outliers.
For example, I am a conservative; I hate the Communists; I hate the Nazis; I hate the anti-Semites, and so on. In “The Aleph,” one of his best-known stories, a melancholy narrator stumbles upon the mythical single point at which everything in the world can be viewed and appreciated at once: “the only place on earth where all places are seen from every angle, each standing clear, without any confusion or blending.” The promise of the Aleph, even as it ultimately proves illusory, is that a single person can somehow gain access to, and connect with, the infinite complexity of mankind and the universe.
But I don’t allow these opinions to find their way into my writings—except, of course, when I was greatly elated about the Six-Day War. In “The Aleph,” Borges draws on several Jewish and specifically kabbalistic symbols: Ezekiel’s description of the divine chariot (one of the biblical touchstones of classical kabbalah); the kabbalistic term “,” the Limitless One, which refers to God’s unknowable and undefinable ultimate essence; and of course the use of the Hebrew alphabet itself, which he terms “the sacred language.” True, he intersperses these references with others to Persian mysticism, esoteric mathematical theories, , and numerous other texts and traditions.
In 1934, the Argentinian magazine It may not have been especially noteworthy for a modernist author to admire such Jewish contributors to Western culture as Heinrich Heine (who converted to Christianity) or the Polish-born Brazilian actor and comedian Elias Gleizer, or even Charlie Chaplin—who, though not a Jew, could be seen as a stand-in for any number of Jews who distinguished themselves in Hollywood and in comedy, often taking Gentile-sounding names.
Autobiographical Essay Borges New Yorker
Indeed, the choice of Heine and Chaplin suggests a liking especially for those Jews who have transcended, or even shed, their Jewish identities.his month, a new Spanish volume was published about Jorge Luis Borges’s relationship to Judaism—timed to be released 50 years after his first visit to Israel at the personal invitation of David Ben-Gurion.The book, titled , explores the great Argentinian writer’s various Jewish connections.Even if the poet isn’t quite sure where precisely Israel fits into this labyrinth, or into his own personal psychohistory, he holds that the Jewish people transcend time in a way that other nations do not.Even Christianity, he reminds us, testifies to the importance of Israel.To understand what that is, it’s helpful to have some familiarity with his work more broadly.Borges’s fiction, seen by many scholars and critics as the precursor to literary postmodernism, plays with perspective, with the boundaries that separate reader from writer, with the reliability of his frequently mysterious narrators, and indeed with the frequently uncertain meaning of his parables.I brought home the conviction of having been in the oldest and the youngest of nations, of having come from a very living, vigilant land to a half-asleep nook of the world.Indeed, one of his 1969 poems (“Israel, 1969”) explores just this paradox of the Jewish people’s simultaneous youth and antiquity, reflecting upon the “sweet insidiousness” that allowed Judaism to survive in various diasporas by resisting the swirling political currents around it, and that sprang into renewed life with the creation of the modern Jewish state: But surely, the poet queries momentarily, the Jewish people’s perpetual outsider status and constant focus on the preservation of the past must have bred a certain national spiritual languor? You shall build the homeland with swamps, you shall erect it in deserts.And as for Borges’s later extension of this admiration to the Jewish state, and his understanding of the role in Jewish history of its victory in the Six-Day War, these are nothing short of remarkable.When it came to Israel, his suspicion of nationalism seemed to disappear.