To reach a deeper understanding of Borges as a human being and as a writer, students began by reading and discussing what he had written about himself, for example, his “An Autobiographical Essay”, written in English, in 1970, to be published in The New Yorker; as well as his essay “Borges y yo” and some of his poems and autobiographical stories like “Poema de los dones”, “Poema conjetural”, and “El otro”.
You can find here links to these Borges’ works, and to a video produced by Spanish television, based on his short story “El otro”, which faithfully reproduces the text written by Borges.
An Autobiographical Essay: http://www.newyorker.com/magazine/1970/09/19/autobiographical-notes-argentine-writer)
Borges y yo (read by Borges): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=PCrH7LL5KT8
Borges y yo (text in Spanish): http://www.literatura.us/borges/
Borges and I (text in English): https://www.sccs.swarthmore.edu/users/00/pwillen1/lit/borg&i.htm
Borges at the National Library, already blind
Poema de los dones (read by Borges): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=rLetEcu5rmM
Poema de los dones (text in Spanish): http://poesi.as/jlb0402.htm
Poem of the Gifts (text in English): https://thefloatinglibrary.com/2009/01/06/poem-about-gifts-j-l-borges/
Poema conjetural (read by Borges): https://youtu.be/7gONk8prjRw
Poema conjetural (text in Spanish): http://poesi.as/jlb0506.htm
El otro (text in Spanish): http://www.lamaquinadeltiempo.com/prosas/borges01.htm
El otro, (video): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sPvc51Cb530
The other (text in English): http://www.lamaquinadeltiempo.com/prosas/borges01.htm
While looking for links to these readings, I found this version of “Otro poema de los dones” whichI find so beautiful, I include it here, though we did not we read in class.
“Otro Poema de los dones” is a moving Borgesian catalog of the gifts Borges appreciates having received in his life (recited by Jansenson in Buenos Aires, 2011)
Otro poema de los dones (recited, beautifully, in Spanish) https://search.yahoo.com/yhs/search?p=el+poema+de+los+dones&ei=UTF-8&hspart=mozilla&hsimp=yhs-002
“Another Poem of the gifts” (text in English): http://icelines.blogspot.com/2013/05/tuesday-poem-by-jorge-luis-borges.html
A second approximation students had to the perspective of Borges about himself and his work was to read and discuss the last interview Borges gave, before leaving Buenos Aire for Geneva, where he died a few months later, in 1986. In that interview, Borges talks with Amelia Barili about his life and his way of thinking. It was published in The New York Times under the title “Borges on Life and Death”.
Borges on Life and Death (interview): https://www.nytimes.com/books/97/08/31/reviews/borges-barili.html
Students also watched and discussed the documentary “Los libros y la noche”, produced in 1999 by Argentine director Tristan Bauer. This documentary is built entirely on Borges quotes from his books and from interviews and conferences he gave, as well as by images of his life, his family and the Buenos Aires he lived in; it includes also stagings of fragments of his best known stories and poems.
“Los libros y la noche” helped students to have concrete images of Borges and the people and places that he speaks about in his essays and autobiographical poems. Furthermore, when students watched the documentary again, towards the end of the semester, they were pleased to recognize in it echoes of the Borges’ writings we had discussed, and identify fragments of his brilliant thought and sources – in his work – from which those quotes had been taken. Here is a link to it.
Los libros y la noche (documentary):