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Borges, Swedenborg and Mysticism


William Rowlandson

Jorge Luis Borges was profoundly interested in the ill-defined and shape-shifting traditions of mysticism. However, previous studies of Borges have not focused on the writer’s close interest in mysticism and mystical texts, especially in the Swedish mystic Emanuel Swedenborg (1688-1772). This book examines the relationship between Borges’ own recorded mystical experiences and his appraisal of Swedenborg and other mystics. It asks the essential question of whether Borges was a mystic by analysing his writings, including short stories, essays, poems and interviews, alongside scholarly writings on mysticism by figures such as William James. The book locates Borges within the scholarship of mysticism by evaluating his many assertions and suggestions as to what is or is not a mystic and, in so doing, analyses the influence of James and Ralph Waldo Emerson on Borges’ reading of Swedenborg and mysticism. The author argues further that Swedenborg constitutes a far richer presence in Borges’ work than scholarship has hitherto acknowledged, and assesses the presence of Swedenborg in Borges’ aesthetics, ethics and poetics.


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Conclusion - Confronting the shadow: The hero’s journey in ‘El Etnógrafo’


Conclusion – Confronting the shadow: The hero’s journey in ‘El Etnógrafo’1 Artists are magical helpers. Evoking symbols and motifs that connect us to our deeper selves, they can help us along the heroic journey of our own lives. — Joseph Campbell, Pathways to Bliss An art that does not heal is not an art. — Alejandro Jodorowsky, The Way of the Tarot I’ve always been a great reader of Jung. — Borges, Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges Borges’ later fictions have received far less critical attention than his well- known publications of Ficciones (1944) and El Aleph (1949). Bell-Villada (1999: 260), for example, dismisses El Informe de Brodie as ‘rather slight’, suggesting that: ‘Because none of the material in Dr. Brodie’s Report even approaches the level of the Ficciones or the stories in El Aleph, there is little reason to discuss any one piece in detail’. The prose pieces of Elogio de la sombra and the tales of El libro de arena and La Memoria de Shakespeare are, with notable exceptions, often overlooked. This can be explained partly by the enigmatic and at times pseudo-realist character of these later fic- tions, which may fail to evoke the labyrinthine complexity and literary puzzles of his earlier pieces. This to me is a scholarly oversight, as I feel that 1 An earlier version of this conclusion was published as an article in Journal for Romance Studies: ‘Confronting the Shadow: The Hero’s Journey in Borges’ “El Etnógrafo”’, 12/2 (summer 2012), 17–32. Many thanks...

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