Since you requested my memory of Borges, I sought to set it down in the events Señor. May God preserve you!
Del Mar Del Ser
Borges as a child believed the dreams of the mirror world. You would have thought him its patron saint. He endured his myths of the sword and Argentine, acts of the Minotaur, confessions of labyrinth and the veneer beneath, like the protectorate of his mother with whom he traveled in her old age. His absurdities compensate in the virtual for imprisonment in the natural. Escape came only when he consummated the toast with Maria Kodama. To her he gave the deep self to wonder, what journalists worldwide would try to record as his last breath, but she knew nothing of their final flight to Geneva.
Borges escaped his fame, his nation, himself. He stumbled from conflict with underworlds to familiar, to simpler locales of The Book of Sand and likeable professors. He was a hobbit before adventure at ease in his home, and after, when he returned from the imaginary to the real, he was Ransom from Mars, a golden philologist walking the hedge. He loved the domestic with eldritch intrusion. Tranquilities short lived! The greater and the less confronted Borges on Belgrano Street, even in Texas, on Florida Street, at Leiden, in Cambridge. The known erupted with visions of the unbelievable world.
We want to survive the quest, before and after, but maybe get only moments between. These moments get us through Señor. When Macedonio married, who worked two jobs and had an infant, he had worked all evening when his spouse called that midnight to declare her leaving. She demanded you appear for his return at dawn. Two days later, when he would have killed himself, blown up the house, landlady and all, you divined it and the medicos carried him out and lay him on the lawn. That whole night before you recused yourself unknowing, inbetween the moments to meditate the Psalms that over and over say "wait," "wait on the Lord," "wait all the day."
I meditate with you Don Esteban like any fictional Borges would with another self. What counsel can we give the child who becomes a man of eighty? Believe! Are we eternal? Finish the work and let us pray. It is given my friend to confront our past fundamentalisms. A biographer would say that only the most acute estrangement from the past could inspire such a story as Borges saw himself on that park bench, and in another, twenty three years before or after, on a bed in Room 19, "August 25, 1983," "older, withered, and very pale -- lay I, on my back."
Blake had this recourse eternal, told Butts, "I can alone carry on my visionary studies in London unannoy'd, & that I may converse with my friends in Eternity, See Visions, Dream Dreams & prophecy & speak Parables unobserved & at liberty from the Doubts of other Mortals." To seek a dialogue between our doubts, our older and younger selves, in that eternal conversation of Father and Son in Psalm 16, "the path of life," we remember blind Milton took dictation of the muse abed and versified it to his daughter next day.
This is the work we know, to wait in sleep to speak, to wake and write the unseen. Borges pretends he is a professor at Lahore confronting the riddle in "Blue Tigers." Under patina of the world he finds spiritual fable, the quest for knowledge and power, but not one at which he wants to succeed, for it makes all who do so different. They cannot relate to the ordinary. The wise take eternity in measure. Readers of Borges stay in the normal, not press to the eternal Milton in his dreams, Blake in his musing, Yeats in his raving. Borges plays Pythagoras and Paracelsus, all the mystic toys, but what if he attained, what if he became the thing he acts? Is it not to say it would be as if he had never been?
Allegories tantalize becoming in the moment we read. We feel we've had a taste of Spinoza, Leviathan, creation, dragon, but in "Blue Tigers," he puts the stones back into the hand of God again, avoids the supernatural, takes the domestic back. Take us out, but bring us back!
When the stones fall through that hand to the mind of God, and the memory of Shakespeare is transmitted by phone, ["Shakespeare's Memory"] Hermann Sörgel is himself again: "the stone wishes to be stone, the tiger, tiger -- and I wanted to be Hermann Sörgel again." This is what he told me, "I wanted to be Borges, I who was Borges!" Always, after invoking the self, return. Everyone experienced in the loss of life knows the restoration of the commonplace is the greatest gift of all.
Muy Estimado, Borges, Kafka, Yeats leave a crystalline thought in those last works. We start and end with the ends of books until enthusiasm, youth and ignorance are baked away. The dregs are better than the froth, the raw distillate in Blake's Jerusalem, Yeats' Ben Bulben, Shakespeare's Memory. The neophyte is invited to Jerusalem, unfiltered by the reprobate. Called to love Chapman, Marlowe, and Icelandic sagas, Borges' affection takes counsel with the sober Blake "the Author hopes the Reader will be with me, wholly One in Jesus our Lord," a devotion that flowers Smart and Herbert, Hopkins and Donne. Who will dispute?
I do not name names. Borges told me to expunge his biography and gain anonymity. He never says it of himself or he says everything. In 1962 Borges sat next to me in the Panama airport, silent, but not so blind, twenty, forty, eighty in the absolute.
Let us be kind to one another my friend as we lose our lives. What shall we say to contradiction beyond a handful of poems cast at the future, as you, Don Esteban, have said is your future against the protectorate, to write the undiscovered self to idiots of the fourth Reich and the Universe.
Borges collected his medals, the approval of Updike. An ant looked up at a gopher to applaud, but did not consummate laughing love, until Maria. At last he retired to memory, order, the domestic deep yearning of his soul, not to paranormal numbers or stones that multiply. Life is different from imagination. In life there is death. Borges, nihilist of decades, questioned if there might not be afterlife to Maria - unless you think no child can be a nihilist and if no child no poet.
We take the child's view. Borges in Geneva invites priest and minister, takes absolution, a final turn domestic, quells imagination with life, hedges the Pascal wager, but the turmoil of his estate in the next decade shows how the disordered can harm the real. That's what happened to the medals.
Giambattista Marino Rubino del Sur
(Borges' Escape appeared in an unformed cut in Elimae June 2007 motivated by an exchange with its editor, the don Esteban to whom the letter is addressed.)