MSU acquires massive Jorge Luis Borges collection

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BILL CASTANIER

The Michigan State University Library has taken a huge leap forward in its collection of Latin American-focused literature with the acquisition of articles, ephemeral documents and audio recordings by Jorge Luis Borges.

Borges was an Argentine short story writer, poet and essayist and is considered one of the most important writers of magical realism. His career spanned over 65 years, and despite losing sight at 55, he made a significant mark in literature – especially with his interconnected short stories marked by dreams, fictional writers, mazes. and mirrors.

His most important works are “Ficciones” and “El Aleph”, which were published in the late 1940s. After the onset of blindness and never having learned braille, Borges concentrated on lecturing and poetry, where he could dedicate the work to memory while writing.

In the 1960s, his work was discovered after it was translated into English. At this time, former MSU professor Donald Yates became the translator of Borges’ first collection of fiction to appear in English. Yates and Borges would become longtime friends, and in 1976 Yates was instrumental in bringing Borges to MSU as a visiting professor. Borges died in 1986 and Yates in 2017.

During this time, Yates amassed a collection of documents relating to Borges. Today, this material fills over 19 boxes and includes everything from rare manuscripts, correspondence, photographs and ephemeral documents, which become the basis of the Donald Yates Spanish American Literature Collection at MSU.

“This is one of the most important collections of Borges’ work in the world,” said Leslie McRoberts, Murray & Hong Special Collections Manager at MSU. “Everyone should read their work. It mixes intense landscapes and interconnected lives, where time and space are infinite and where we all exist simultaneously.

Interestingly, one of his short stories, “Garden of Forking Paths,” which first appeared in Ellery Queen’s Mystery Magazine in 1948, helped him gain recognition from the Mystery Writers of America. In 1976, the group awarded him the Special Edgar Allan Poe Award. Borges’ writing lends itself particularly well to the mystery and science fiction genres. One of her short stories was first published in Fantasy Universe, which is a science fiction magazine.

Some critics believe Borges was the originator of the hypertext novel, due to his focus on marrying intricate mazes of time and reality, which often had no beginning or end.

Borges’ personal life and political beliefs often led to his loss of favor among the ruling class in his home in Argentina. His country of origin has seen many political upheavals, some of which have led him to be relegated to dishonor.

He was virulently anti-fascist and openly critical of Adolf Hitler – not always a good thing in Nazi-friendly Argentina – and openly criticized the Nazis’ use of children’s books to fuel anti-Semitism and the rewriting of history. . During the reign of Argentina by President Juan Peron, a loot system led to Borges being removed from a library post and assigned to inspecting rabbits and chickens. During the military overthrow of Peron in 1955, Borges became the director of the National Library of Argentina. He would later become an open critic of the country’s military junta.

Later Borges would be considered a genius at mixing fantasy with folk heroes and historical figures. In “The Library of Babel” he created a fictitious library that contains each 410-page book. Borges had the amazing ability to write across genres while using his modified reality literary technique.

Borges has also contributed greatly to the body of work on Argentinian folklore – written about gauchos, outlaws, dance and literature. His mind was fertile and he created a bestiary for his work “Book of Imaginary Beings”.

Borges’ deeply philosophical approach to writing resulted in the creation of the philosophical term “Borgesian Conundrum,” which essentially asks whether a writer writes a story or whether history writes it.

“MSU now has an epic collection of its work, which will be available to researchers for research,” McRoberts said. “The collection will help researchers answer the question: what was he thinking?”

McRoberts said Borges’ collection, like the work of many other MSU Special Collections authors, including articles by Lev Raphael and Richard Ford, will help researchers and readers better understand the writing experience.



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Kehoe Young

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