Tuesday, April 12, 2011

National Library Week Library Heroes: Jorge Luis Borges

Born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, in 1899, Borges was one of Latin America's great men of letters. He was best known for his esoteric short fiction, rich in fantasy and metaphysical allegory. More importantly for this post, he also served as the director of the National Library in Buenos Aires from 1955-1973.

Borges took his first library job in 1937 and called it "nine years of solid unhappiness," feeling that the work was menial and dismal. Libraries, nevertheless, crop up from time to time in his work, notably in "The Library of Babel," in which Borges creates a literary cosmos:
Everything is there: the minute history of the future, the autobiographies of the archangels, the faithful catalogue of the Library, thousands and thousands of false catalogues, a demonstration of the fallacy of the true catalogue... the truthful account of your death, a version of each book in all languages, the interpolations of every book in all books.
Borges's appointment to the position of director of the National Library came just after the fall of Peron. Around this time he was also appointed to the National Academy, and was made professor of English and North American literature at the University of Buenos Aires. He devoted more time to these duties as his eyesight began to fail. He eventually became blind, and turned back to poetry, which he had neglected since the 1920s.

Jorge Luis Borges died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986.

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