Wednesday, August 27, 2008


Argentina Series Resumed:
Day 10, second day of VII Jornadas "Borges y los otros"

On the very day of my parents 65th wedding anniversary, I was in Buenos Aires attending a professional conference, the day I read my paper: La trayectoria de Aureliano: análisis del cuento borgeano "Los teólogos".

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986), Argentina's number one representative writer, should have won the Nobel Prize in Literature and was forever a nominee, but at the time they considered him unfit for the honor due to his supposed political views.

Another assumption about him, widely proclaimed, was that he was an atheist. The more I read his writings the less I believe that claim. His English grandmother taught him the Scriptures and he himself delved deeply into the truths of the Bible. His inquisitive intelligence led him to read widely, to study and question all religions, analyze and play with theoretical concepts. These became the premise for many of his short stories.

The piece I chose, because I was attracted to the title, is one of his lesser known writings, and even so when googled leads to endless pages on the internet. The story takes place in the 5th century Roman Empire; two theologians are battling heresies; the one is so driven by envy and jealousy of the other that years later he is able to contrive an accusation that leads to his rival being burned at the stake. Ironically his own death came also by fire and in heaven they were both alike to God. It is one of Borges' more complex but ever fascinating stories.

I have always enjoyed the challenge of reading Borges, like putting together a puzzle. I soon found out that Dora, my hostess, shared my interest. In fact she had first hand knowledge of him.

Some time in 1976 or '77, Borges came to their town to speak. The old theatre was packed, standing room only. By then he was already blind and was led in by his sister. It was raining. The table reserved for them had a tin can to catch the drips from a leak above. He was staring in raptured silence. When he began to speak he thanked them for arranging such a beautiful inspirational moment where the steady drip carried him back to childhood memories. When offered to move to another table, he declined.

Dora remembers how journalists insisted on asking him if he was an atheist; it became the standard expected question. She also recalls hearing Borges' response:
--Para Ud., ¿qué es el ateísmo? ... ¿Ud piensa que yo escribo como ateo sin reconocer la autoridad máxima que hay en la vida? [What do you think atheism is? Do you believe I write like an atheist who disregards life's maximum authority?]

On another occasion she heard him say, "No puedo contender con el Creador...un día lo veré." [I cannot contend with God...I will see him one day.]

His unaffected humble attitude was recognized by all.

On that occasion in Coronel Suárez, when they wanted to know what gift could they give him, he asked to taste dulce de leche con pan casero--a taste of the typical caramel spread on homemade bread.

So how did my scholarly adventure end? The paper was well accepted, but sure enough the standard assumption was brought up, "But wasn't Borges an atheist?" Another gentleman in the audience answered and spoke at length on the subject of Borges and God. He is writing a book about Borges and the Bible!


Kim said...

Very interesting!
I shall have to read his short stories once I'm more adept with the language.
Oh, and I LOVE your banner! Such a great photo.

rita said...

Thanks, Kim!
You can also read him in English.
Oh, but I have so much to learn about blogging.
Right now I'm trying to install blog patrol...

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rita said...
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rita said...

For those interested in Borges and Contemporary Argentine Literature, I received an announcement of a Master's program to be offered at the Fundacion Internacional Jorge Luis Borges. Go to

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