Borges, 5

brothel/ 619


(Fifth of seven parts)

Illustration: Alejandro Nudding

Hector Cortes Mandujano


María Esther Vázquez, Borges’ love interest and collaborator, helps him pack a suitcase for a trip. Borges says (p. 1009): “When I saw her in those housework I almost cried. More than love dialogues, which after all are almost the same with any woman, I am moved by the domestic, which is useless for poetry. Do you understand? I felt on the verge of a long habit, of a long tedium, why not, which is true happiness”.

Says Bioy (p. 1013): “Did you know that Melville couldn’t publish anything without the sisters correcting it?” Borges (swinging in the chair and laughing): “Is it true? The sisters! They would have no literary talent. They would be ladies like anyone else, but they would know syntax and spelling”.

Bioy (p. 1018): “A traveler told Borges that at the entrance to Puebla (Mexico) there was an arch, with the inscription:

Welcome to Puebla.

we are not as they say.


Borges (p. 1061): “In Spain, good books did not have descendants. What school was born from Quixote? It was barren.”

Bioy writes (p. 1065): “He communicates to me an Arab proverb: ‘Nothing lasts more than three days’”. Borges comments, after a trip, Colombian expressions (p. 1069): “’Doesn’t a red wine make you happy?’ for ‘Don’t you want a coffee?’ ”.

Borges says on August 25 (p. 1075): “I see less every day. Before, I could cross the street, if it wasn’t an avenue. Now I see almost nothing. I am sure that within a year I will be completely blind.”

“Borges eats at home,” says Bioy. Borges (p. 1078): “In a meeting there is a question about who should go first, Valle-Inclán or Benavente. Angered, Valle-Inclán steps forward, passes and declares: ‘I won’t let a whore pass first!’. Benavente, who had a lisp, answers quietly: ‘I ‘ ”.

Borges, who worked at the Library, says about the author’s manuscripts (pp. 1080-1081): “They want the Library to buy Güiraldes’s manuscripts. The Library has no silver or manuscripts; all the manuscripts are in the General Archive of the Nation. What value do they have? They will allow you to see the corrections for which you completely ruined a text. I asked Mother that if anything happens to me, they destroy all my manuscripts they find. What are they for? So that theses, stylistic works, imbecilities are written”.

About imbecility and its opposite, Borges says (p. 1081): “The first symptom of intelligence is stupidity. Or the mistake…”.

Bioy asks (p. 1085): “Do you put the Divine Comedy above all?. Borges: As for the literary, it is only inferior to the Gospels”. He says on that same page that in Chile “the Spaniards are aggressively called pussies. I did not dare to ask what they call us… They hate us a lot”.

Everywhere there are so-called writers who in reality are only cultural officials who publish, obtain recognition, prizes, contracts through them. Borges is offered the presidency of the PEN Club and he rejects it, because he does not want to be like (p. 1087) “those people who cannot be writers except through boards of directors and congresses.”

Borges tells Bioy (p. 1096) “that Ulyses Petit de Murat, who arrived in Mexico, attended a social gathering, where they told him: ‘Tomorrow we will meet at your house. There will be more than thirty people ‘, and so on. He listened with alarm, until he understood that his The house was the one who spoke, as in the letters: his house, which is the sender’s”.


Bioy writes about Borges’ old age and blindness (p. 1136): “Today Borges did not urinate in the latrine, but on the floor. Because of this bad aim, with pain in my soul I have diverted it from my bathroom to another, which nobody uses.

By an anecdote that Bioy writes, it is explained at the foot of the page that (p. 1144) “to play the violin” is to slaughter. “Colonel Mariano Maza was called ‘violón’, because, after beheading six hundred prisoners, he wrote in the part in which he referred to the fact, that there had been ‘violin and violón’.”


Bioy notes about Borges (p. 1164): “His blindness has increased. He enters a room and stretches out his hand from afar, because now he doesn’t notice the distance that separates him from people. Maybe he doesn’t even see lumps.

Borges (p. 1166): “Some Mexican writers came to see me. Dear teacher, they called me, very rudimentary people, very rude. They want to make a prize more important than the Nobel, since the Swedes do not give the Nobel Prize to writers from here”.

Bioy notes (p. 1167): “I find out that Oliverio Girondo has died. Borges, who knew him better than I, despised him. […] a writer by decision, not by Minerva or muse”.

Borges announces to Bioy (p. 1168) “that in September he is going to marry Elsa Astete.”

Borges thinks, Bioy points out, that the taxi driver who opens the door for him and the one who criticizes him on the front page of a newspaper (p. 1190) “are two faces of the same phenomenon, one without greater significance than the other: ‘The one who It attacks me, maybe he has taken the trouble to know me or read me’ ”.

About decadence (p. 1201) “recites the verses of an epigraph by Ascasubi:

At one time I was a rifle

with which they shot at the target:

I went from a rifle to a ramrod,

from drumstick to rag remover.

It strikes me that Borges tells a dream (p. 1203), which will later become his story “The enemy.” Dream and life, only literary material.


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Borges, 5