[lit-ideas] Borges, "the Riddle of Poetry"

  • From: Lawrence Helm <lawrencehelm@xxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: Lit-Ideas <lit-ideas@xxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 24 Nov 2015 18:35:50 -0800


I've been reading /Borges, This Craft of Verse; /which consists of the Charles Eliot Norton lectures he gave in 1967-1968. On page eight (in the Lecture "The Riddle of Poetry") he wrote-said "Seneca wrote against large libraries; and long afterwards, Schopenhauer wrote that many people mistook the buying of a book for the buying of the contents of the book. Sometimes, looking at the many books I have at home I feel I shall die before I come to the end of them, yet I cannot resist the temptation of buying new books. Whenever I walk into a bookstore and find a book on one of my hobbies -- for example, Old English or Old Norse poetry -- I say to myself 'What a pity I can't buy that book, for I already have a copy at home.'"

I stopped after reading this to ask Google when Borges became blind: 1955. I then felt in urgent need of an Argentinian to explain why Borges would speak-write the words above if he was blind. Was there someone always with him? There must have been. How could he wander about in a strange bookshop without someone leading him and reading the titles for him? Was that "someone" someone who would read to him at home? Is his "looking at the many books I have" therefore merely a simplification to avoid derailing his lecture by having his audience focus on his blindness rather on his words? I have been derailed long after the fact. Perhaps I'll pick up another old issue of the NYROB and wait for word from Buenos Aires.


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