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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 4 - Identity 109


Chapter 4 Identity ‘Place’ places man in such a way that it reveals the external bounds of his existence and at the same time the depths of his freedom and reality. — Martin Heidegger1 Heidegger’s point about the significance of ‘place’ for human beings high- lights the relevance of spatial locations in terms that connect our awareness of the transience of life with an ability to ref lect self-consciously on the fact of our location. In this chapter we examine how, in Borges, identity is seen as both transcending place and as being contingent on it. We are where we are – in the South The Borges-f lâneur of Fervor de Buenos Aires, discussed in Chapter 2, articulates in those poems an intimate engagement with his native city, evoking its atmosphere and using its squares, streets and districts as a sounding-board for his own sense of the mysteries of life and death. The poetic voice addresses dif ferent parts and elements of the city, creating an implicit dialogue, in which, in a strange sort of quietude, they appear to give back to the poet hints and suggestions about who he is and how he might define himself and the parameters within which he is living. The verses relate, in other words, the self and the concrete circumstances in which the self exists. They are at one and the same time an acknowledgement of 110 Chapter 4 the significance of place and spatial location in the life of the individual and an...

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