Join 3,381 readers in helping fund MetaFilter (Hide)


Borges
January 10, 2007 6:11 PM   Subscribe

Jorge Luis Borges "excerpts from two of the six Norton Lectures that Jorge Luis Borges delivered at Harvard University in the fall of 1967 and spring of 1968. The recordings of these six lectures, only lately discovered in the Harvard University Archives, uniquely capture the cadences, candor, wit, and remarkable erudition of one of the most extraordinary and enduring literary voices of our age. Through a twist of fate that the author of Labyrinths himself would have relished, these lost lectures return to us now--in Borges's own voice." In English - mp3
posted by vronsky (46 comments total) 47 users marked this as a favorite

 
Wow, I'm a big Borges fan. This is wonderful -thanks!
posted by ob at 6:15 PM on January 10, 2007


Nice post, I look forward to listening to these.
posted by Kwine at 6:17 PM on January 10, 2007


Bookmarked.
posted by Wolof at 6:18 PM on January 10, 2007


I think I've heard this on Cd before (I've also heard the Cd recording of him reading his poetry in Spanish, but I think I've heard this too) but I didn't know they were up on the internets.
posted by ob at 6:19 PM on January 10, 2007


Ooooh. I love Borges. Reading his Collected Fictions was a life altering event for me.
posted by Freen at 6:21 PM on January 10, 2007


It isn't much, maybe 15 minutes total, but I thought Borges fans would might enjoy it.
posted by vronsky at 6:23 PM on January 10, 2007


would might?
posted by vronsky at 6:23 PM on January 10, 2007


I second Freen on the Collected Fictions. A singular piece of work.

Thanks vron! 15 minutes is more than I would have had without the link.
posted by spiderwire at 6:26 PM on January 10, 2007


would might?

I would might definitely enjoy this. Thanks!
posted by sleevener at 6:32 PM on January 10, 2007


Awesome, awesome. Thank you.
posted by alteredcarbon at 6:50 PM on January 10, 2007


Thanks for the recommendations of Collected Fictions. I'd been meaning to get better acquainted with Borges ever since I heard this reading (mp3) of his story "The Library of Babel" a few years ago. Going to order a copy now.

Thanks for this great post.
posted by good in a vacuum at 6:56 PM on January 10, 2007 [1 favorite]


I would like to see (or read, I should state) a Borges-style fiction contest -- as it is difficult to read his work and not appreciate the immense value of a well-placed set of parenthesis, hyphen, or footnote -- because his distinctive style is as available to lampoon as Hemmingway but requires a detail-oriented eye to his labyrinth-like structures.

That said, my favorites are "The Garden of Forking Paths" and "Death and the Compass." They are even better in Spanish if you can manage it. And "El Aleph" had me laughing out loud cursing that old man.
posted by peeedro at 7:11 PM on January 10, 2007


Wow, thank you! This is so cool. It makes me want to re-read Tlön, Uqbar, Orbus Tertius.
posted by Verdandi at 7:43 PM on January 10, 2007


Delicious beyond description.

I am, like many, ga-ga over Collected Fictions, but his collected non-fiction's also worth a look. There's all kinds of stuff in it, like Borges' review of King Kong at the time of its release.

I've got the book of poetry from that set of Collected Whatever, but haven't read it, and have no idea if it's supposedly any good or not.
posted by sparkletone at 7:50 PM on January 10, 2007


Thank you thank you thank you! I agree with sparkletone that his Collected Nonfiction is almost as good as his fiction. Ficciones is my favorite collection of short stories and I return to Borges more than any other author. Can't wait to listen to these.
posted by Falconetti at 8:53 PM on January 10, 2007


I'm going to go get his Collected Nonfiction as soon as possible. Thanks for the tip!
posted by Freen at 9:15 PM on January 10, 2007


La resistencia es inútil.

Couldn't help myself. (And yes, I know the pronunciation isn't the same.)
posted by rob511 at 9:17 PM on January 10, 2007


Another Borges work that may be a little harder to find is "A Universal History Of Infamy". Some of his earliest collected writing. I haven't read it in a while, but one story (true) that stuck with me was about a man who posed as an abolitionist in Tennesee or Alabama. He would promise slaves that he would lead them to freedom (and I think they paid him) only to take them across state lines and sell them back into slavery. Always gives me the chills.

My copy has a amazing cover of a winged demon with a laughing skull head dancing on top of a labyrinth.
posted by vronsky at 9:25 PM on January 10, 2007


peedro:That said, my favorites are "The Garden of Forking Paths" and "Death and the Compass."

I haven't read The Garden of Forking Paths (the title sounds enticing), but La muerte y la brújula is definitely my second favorite story of Borges' next to El sur. It's suspenseful the whole way through, and even the inconsequential characters are memorable. Ah...

Any Borges fan will appreciate Los conjurados, a collection of poems he wrote late in his life. I'm not sure that an English translation exists (it is certainly difficult material to translate), but it's worth learning Spanish to be able to read it. :)
posted by invitapriore at 11:27 PM on January 10, 2007


Holy smoking madonna and child! Thanks!
posted by 3.2.3 at 11:38 PM on January 10, 2007


vronsky - The collected fictions includes pretty much all of his writing, including "A Universal History Of Infamy". This book is amazing, you should buy it if you don't have it.
posted by scodger at 12:38 AM on January 11, 2007


Wow! I absolutely love Borges writings, I would have never found this.
I feel so privileged to live in an age where I can hear the voice of such a literary luminary!
Thanks!
posted by archae at 12:45 AM on January 11, 2007


The last In Our Time is on Borges.
posted by johnny novak at 1:11 AM on January 11, 2007


I have Collected Fictions, but I'm not sure I really like it. There's something about Andrew Hurley's translation that doesn't work so well for me. The other translations I've read, particularly the ones in Labyrinths, have an arcane, esoteric feel to them which to me seems more appropriate for a writer like Borges. The best example I can think of is from 'The Lottery in Babylon':

Collected Fictions: I have known that thing the Greeks knew not - uncertainty
Labyrinths (from memory, because I lent someone my copy, so it might be a little wrong): I have known what the Greeks did not - incertitude

There's something about the word 'incertitude', something confusing and baroque, that seems wholly appropriate for a writer like JLB whose every story is itself a bit of a puzzle. I can't read Spanish, though, and it may be that Hurley's translations are actually more true to the originals. It's just a small personal judgement of mine probably based on nothing more than the fact I read Labyrinths first. That is the book I recommend to anyone who I think will like Borges, anyway.

Interesting article on the critical reaction to the book here, with links to several reviews.
posted by A Thousand Baited Hooks at 1:15 AM on January 11, 2007


Borges described the Falklands War as "Two bald men fighting over a comb." He rocked.
posted by rhymer at 2:29 AM on January 11, 2007


Thanks for this post—wonderful to hear his voice again!

Borges was the speaker at my high school graduation. Eat your hearts out, suckers.
posted by languagehat at 5:22 AM on January 11, 2007


I can't wait to get home and download these - nice one vronsky!
posted by algreer at 6:15 AM on January 11, 2007


Borges was the speaker at my high school graduation.

Jesus, really? Did you get to meet him?
posted by ob at 6:35 AM on January 11, 2007


If you like this, check out the goodness that awaits you if you pay a visit to my next door neighbors at Harvard's Woodberry Poetry Room. (Second link includes a few free samples.)
posted by Horace Rumpole at 6:50 AM on January 11, 2007



"Borges was the speaker at my high school graduation."

Mouth drops open.
posted by vronsky at 7:00 AM on January 11, 2007


Jesus, really? Did you get to meet him?

Yup. Yup. I have personally inscribed copies of Antologia personal and El Aleph. But how many times do I have to tell you: don't call me Jesus!
posted by languagehat at 7:03 AM on January 11, 2007


I am Borges.
posted by johnny novak at 7:20 AM on January 11, 2007


ATBH - as a non spanish speaking fan, you nailed it. I have the collected works, but like Robert Frost said, "Poetry is what is lost in translation."

from the amazon page -

" Throughout, Hurley's translation is crisp and assured (although this reader will always have a soft spot for "Funes, the Memorious" rather than "Funes, His Memory.")"

Another thing that pisses me off about the Collected Fictions - the book itself has untrimmed edges. Why??? To lend it an air of "authenticity"? To save publishing costs? I have a friend who put his in a vice and used a file to smooth the edges. Evertytime he opens the book, there is a tiny dust storm, but he says that it is worth it.
posted by vronsky at 7:27 AM on January 11, 2007


And I am not trashing the book by any means, it is a great resource. But Borges fans should search out different translations. Some definitely capture the baroque modernism of Borges better than others.

Personal Anthology that L-hat mentions is my fave. There is an Penguin edition that is easy to find, but I swear that I used to have a Modern Library hardback that I can't find anymore. The internet has drawn a blank, but someday i will find it. (or did I just dream this - I don't know)

The cover of Dreamtigers is what first drew me to Borges.
posted by vronsky at 7:41 AM on January 11, 2007


"an Penguin"? - figures I would screw up every sentence in my first "literary" post.
posted by vronsky at 7:43 AM on January 11, 2007


vronsky: This Modern Library collectors' site doesn't seem to think there have been any Borges titles in the series. But don't lose the dream!
posted by languagehat at 8:20 AM on January 11, 2007


Would Might!
Might Would!
Shibboleth?
posted by sisquoc15 at 8:23 AM on January 11, 2007 [1 favorite]


Yup. Yup. I have personally inscribed copies of Antologia personal and El Aleph.

Wow that's fantastic. But, yeah, I'll stop calling you Jesus now...
posted by ob at 8:30 AM on January 11, 2007


Love Borges. No, that's not my opinion, it's a command!

Sean Kernan included several essays by Borges in The Secret Books. Borges' writing juxtaposed against Kernan's rich photographic work was a wonderful combination.

Since then, I've been adhering myself to collected works by Borges where I find them.

( On that note, Shadow of the Colossus feels very much like Borges to me. Vast, beautiful, labyrinthine. Overwhelming. )
posted by Kikkoman at 9:57 AM on January 11, 2007


"Borges was the speaker at my high school graduation." — Mouth drops open.

Mine too. That's amazing. You guys must have been an advanced bunch. The week I was lucky enough to see him, he was talking at colleges.

p.s. languagehat, did you converse with him in Old Norse?
posted by LeLiLo at 1:55 PM on January 11, 2007


You guys must have been an advanced bunch.

Nah (though of course we were more so than kids today), we were just conveniently located in Buenos Aires, so all he had to do was take a short drive. I'm pretty sure we talked in English; my Spanish was good in those days, but he enjoyed using his English.
posted by languagehat at 2:30 PM on January 11, 2007


Some people may be interested to know that the audio cd these are lifted from may be available on one of the larger bittorrent sites, the one that has to do with hunting.
posted by scodger at 5:32 PM on January 11, 2007


from a review of "With Borges" by Alberto Manguel an interesting (and short) book about being hired to read to Borges as he lost his eyesight.


"Borges had known he would turn blind from an early age and finally lost his site in 1957. He was a voracious reader of a wide range of books and Manguel lists some of the titles that were housed in the modest flat Borges shared with his mother, Doña Leonor (who called him Georgie, which was his Northumbrian grandmother's nickname for him), Fanny, their maid, and Beppo, the big white cat. Borges, it transpires, loved Stevenson, Chesterton, Henry James and Kipling, and he loved the Arabian Nights, the Bible, epics like Njals Saga, Homer and Virgil: "epic poetry brought tears to his eyes." He disliked "faddish" literary theory blaming French literature "for concentrating not on books but on schools and coteries."
posted by vronsky at 8:15 PM on January 11, 2007


I haven't gotten into Borges yet, but people often bring him up whenever I mention Calvino! My first taste of Borges was The Book of Sand, which is fascinating metafiction to say the least.
posted by Lush at 11:20 PM on January 11, 2007


I love borges, but reading the collected fictions, after a while, his stories got a little bit same-y. They're not even stories, really, more like thought experiments.

I have always thought that someone (Charlie Kaufman?) needs to make a movie out of The Secret Miracle. It was one of the few stories that had an emotional core in addition to the flashy semiotic games.
posted by empath at 6:19 AM on January 12, 2007


Well, after the torrent is finished, I have about 5 hours worth of Borges lectures, giving me a lot of stuff to think over. Thanks for the post.
posted by scodger at 8:56 AM on January 12, 2007


« Older So cute, I could just eat 'em right up!...  |  You know this... Newer »


This thread has been archived and is closed to new comments