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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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Epilogue 197


Epilogue Space is the breath of art. — Frank Lloyd Wright1 While space is obviously the ‘breath of art’ in architecture, we may conclude from the foregoing chapters that it also breathes life into literary products, and in particular, into narrative works. Literature creates meaningful spaces, realms of the imagination within which human stories unfold, so that sequences of events, developments of plot and idea, and life’s vicissitudes are traced not only by temporal means but also spatially. Ultimately, this bespeaks a relation with ‘reality’ that is inescapable. There is a convention- ally-accepted view of Borges as a highly-literate pedant, absorbed in abstract thought, oblivious of the world around him and unconcerned with the practicalities of living. This caricature, encouraged by much of what Borges wrote about himself, contains a germ of truth. Borges’s background and upbringing meant that he had little need to bother about how to provide a living for himself, and he lived at one remove from practical domestic issues; Wilson (2006: 112), for instance, observes that Borges ‘never went shop- ping or did the laundry or cooked’. The fact that Borges’s most significant writings include so many stories centring on philosophical speculations also reinforces this image of the writer, and ensures that he is frequently viewed as being out of touch with reality. One of the aims of the preceding chapters has been to demonstrate how, contrary to that prevailing view of Borges, our author manages to write material that comments, adroitly and insightfully, on the actual...

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