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Borges and Space


Bill Richardson

This book examines the relevance of the concepts of space and place to the work of Jorge Luis Borges. The core of the book is a series of readings of key Borges texts viewed from the perspective of human spatiality. Issues that arise include the dichotomy between ‘lived space’ and abstract mapping, the relevance of a ‘sense of place’ to Borges’s work, the impact of place on identity, the importance of context to our sense of who we are, the role played by space and place in the exercise of power, and the ways in which certain of Borges’s stories invite us to reflect on our ‘place in the universe’. In the course of this discussion, crucial questions about the interpretation of the Argentine author’s work are addressed and some important issues that have largely been overlooked are considered. The book begins by outlining cross-disciplinary discussions of space and place and their impact on the study of literature and concludes with a theoretical reflection on approaches to the issue of space in Borges, extrapolating points of relevance to the theme of literary spatiality generally.


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Chapter 2 - City 51


Chapter 2 City To be human is to live in a world that is filled with significant places: to be human is to have and to know your place. — E. Relph1 The ‘significant places’ that filled Borges’s world included one in particu- lar within which he strove to know his place, that is, the city of Buenos Aires, but, more generally, the motif of the city is used in Borges as a way of exploring ideas about significant places. In this chapter, the focus is ini- tially on the city of Buenos Aires, especially in Borges’s early poetry and in the story ‘La muerte y la brújula’, and then broadens out to consider how the motif of the city functions in the story ‘El inmortal’. Borges placed such great store on the city of Buenos Aires, and on the role the city played in his own work, that he could write in an early essay (in Borges 1993: 91): Calles y cosas de la patria. Ojalá en su ancha intimidad vivan mis días venideros. [Streets and houses of the fatherland. May the days that remain to me be lived in their broad intimacy.] Like Joyce in relation to Dublin, Borges is identified worldwide with Buenos Aires; in each case, the respective cities constituted powerful motifs in their writings. Borges spoke of the sense he had that this was where he had to be, indeed where he always was. The city recurs throughout his work, and functions on many...

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