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Buenos Aires Travel Guide

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges is considered one of the most important literary figures of the history, some of his influences are European culture, English literature, and writers like Alighieri, Miguel De Cervantes, G. K. Chesterton, Franz Kafka, Rudyard Kipling, Arthur Schopenhauer and H.G. Wells. Borges was a poet, essayist, critic, translator, and short-story writer, his texts serves as vehicles for complex philosophical themes, Borges never won the Nobel Prize.

Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires on August 24, 1899, his full name is Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, his father was a great influence in his life, at the age of two his family moved to Serrano Street in Palermo neighborhood. Palermo, in these times, a poor neighborhood with remains of cabarets and brothels, and stories of compadritos, knife-fights and vengeance, Borges absorb this sights and spell it in his work.

His grandmother was British, and so he learnt English before Spanish, in his childhood he enjoyed Robert Louis Stevenson, Lewis Carroll and G.K.Chesterton, when he was nine years of age, published his first work: a translation into Spanish of "The Happy Prince" of Oscar Wilde.

In 1914, Borges moved to Geneva, where he learned French and German, in 1918, After World War I ended, the Borges family spent three years in Lugano (Switzerland), Barcelona, Majorca, Seville, and Madrid, where he became a member of the Ultraist literary movement headed by Rafael Cansinos Asséns, by this time his first poem was published in the magazine "Grecia".

After his return, his father's friend Macedonio Fernández became a major influence on Borges, one of the biggest influences of Fernandéz on Borges was to teach him to read everything with skepticism, Borges was co-founder with other young Argentine writers of the magazines "Prisma" and "Proa" and was a regular collaborator of "La Prensa" and "Sur" (magazine founded in 1931 by Victoria Ocampo).

In 1923, was published his first volume of poetry "Fervor of Buenos Aires", the book was financed by his father and almost of the three hundred copies were distributed freely. In 1925 appeared his second book of poetry, "Luna de enfrente" (Moon across the Way), in 1929 appeared "Cuaderno de San Martín" (San Martin Notebook), in 1930, "Sur" was publishing the best of contemporary writers, and this marks his break with the avant garde. In 1933, published non-fictional essays, short stories and literary forgeries, those pieces later were collected as "La Historia Universal De La Infamia" (A Universal History of Infamy).

In 1937, Borges get a job as a cataloger at the Miguel Cané branch of the Buenos Aires Municipal Library, it was a disappointing job for Borges, he remained in the library for nine years, nine years of "solid unhappiness" as himself said. Borges finish his work in around an hour and spend the rest of the day reading, writing articles and stories, or translating books into Spanish. In 1938, his father died by a gravely ailment and Borges himself caught a septicemia, he was oscillating between life and death for a month. In 1941, "El Jardin de los senderos que se bifurcan" (The Garden of Forking Paths) was published, the book include "El Sur" (The South), where Borges relate the incident of his accident, he later called this as "perhaps my best story".

In 1944, Borges published Ficciones, a collection of short stories mixed with philosophical essays and metaphorical concepts.

In 1946, when Juan Perón came to power, Borges was fired and designed as "Inspector of Poultry and Rabbits in the Public Markets", certainly because his pro-democratic position and his offenses against the peronists. He immediately resigned, after this incident wrote this: "Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy. To fight against those sad monotonies is one of the many duties of writers". After that blow experience, Borges began a career as a lecturer on English literature, he travelled across Uruguay and Argentina, he was paid well and became a public figure, and unleashed its creativity. In this time, wrote his first collection of intricate and fantastic short stories, in 1949 his second major book, the Aleph, was published. In 1952 Borges published his major collection of essays, called Other Inquisitions.

In 1955, after the overthrow of Perón regime, Borges was named Director of the National Library (1955-1973), by this time he had become almost totally blind, he wrote about this: "Let neither tear nor reproach, besmirch this declaration, of the mastery of God, who, with magnificent irony, granted me both the gift of books and the night".

In 1956 he was named professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires, and taught there for twelve years, with the help of his students and of his mother (she became his personal secretary) he continued his career, writing poetry and learning Old English (Anglo Saxon) language and Old Norse language.

In 1961, Borges received and shared with Samuel Beckett the Prix Formentor Prize, and started his visits to countries around the world, visiting, among others, the homes of Henry James, Rudyard Kipling and HG Wells.

Borges married in 1967, with his old friend Elsa Astete Millán but was divorced after three years.

In 1960 he published a collection of pieces, parables, and poems entitled "El Hacedor" (The Maker, later was retitled as Dreamtigers).

In 1973, Juan Perón, was again elected president, Borges refuses to be part of the government of Perón and immediately resigned as Director of the National Library, he decided spend his time travelling and writing. In 1975, he published "El Libro de Arena" (The Book of Sand), that same year his mother died at 99.

By these years he was often accompanied by his personal assistant Maria Kodama, in 1986, a few months before his death, he married Maria Kodama in Paraguay (Kodama actually has the control over Borges' works).

Jorge Luis Borges died of liver cancer on June 14, 1986 at the age of 86, in Geneva, Switzerland. He rests in the Cimetičre des Rois (Plainpalais).

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