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New Left Review 31, January-February 2005

Efraín Kristal on Edwin Williamson, Borges. A Life. The personal chagrins and political conversions of Argentina’s greatest writer, from youthful lyrics on the Red Guard to elderly pleasantries with Pinochet, and final recusances.



In 1968 Gabriel García Márquez famously acknowledged that, despite loathing Jorge Luis Borges’s political views, he read him every night. He was alluding then to Borges’s outspoken opposition to the Cuban revolution, and perhaps also to his condemnation of Juan Perón at a time when some Argentines sought to redeem the authoritarian populist as an emancipator of the working class. Borges’s politics, however, were far from reaching their nadir in the late 1960s. In 1976 he greeted General Videla’s coup with public expressions of support, and accepted honours from the Chilean dictatorship, including a private dinner with Pinochet. In a matter of months, Borges had lent his considerable prestige to two of the most infamous regimes in Latin America. He continued in the same vein, openly taunting his enemies on the left and centre by disparaging political and literary figures from Che Guevara to Federico García Lorca. As Edwin Williamson underscores in his sedulously researched biography of the Argentine fabulist, Borges’s political declarations ‘would cause irreparable damage to his reputation at home and abroad’.

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Efrain Kristal, ‘The Lovelorn Librarian’, NLR 31: £3

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