The OF Blog: Borges Month: Leopoldo Lugones (1965; with Betina Edelberg)

Sunday, July 18, 2010

Borges Month: Leopoldo Lugones (1965; with Betina Edelberg)

Earlier this month, I covered two major influences on Jorge Luis Borges' development as a writer, the early 20th century Argentine poet, Evaristo Carriego, who was a friend of the adolescent Borges, and the 19th century Argentine epic poet, José Hernández, whose 1872-1879 masterpiece, Martín Fierro, still resonates strongly today in Argentina.  There was a third major Argentine influence, Leopoldo Lugones, however this influence is a much more muted and even contradictory one than the others.  It is this fact, which co-author Betina Edelberg notes in her preface to the 1997 edition of this 1965 release that intrigued me.

Lugones was one of the leading proponents of Modernismo in Argentina during the first decades of the 20th century.  Renowned as a short fiction writer from his earliest 1890s stories until his death by suicide in 1938, Lugones' sometimes symbolist stories, full of strange and vaguely threatening entities such as the eponymous creature in his 1906 short story, "The Bloat-Toad."  Lugones' use of metaphors to create atmospheric and sometimes dark fiction influenced writers of the generation following him, including Roberto Arlt and to a much lesser extent Borges.

In this short biography, Borges and Edelberg acknowledge Lugones' influence on Argentine letters.  However, it quickly became apparent during the text that there was this sense of reluctance on the authors' part (Edelberg notes in her preface that she and Borges clashed a few times over how to portray Lugones as a person and as an important writer) to convey just what it was about Lugones' writings that they saw as being key to understanding his impact on Argentine literary circles decades after his suicide.

In reading this, I felt that the authors' differences of opinion made this a rather drab reading affair.  I have read some of Lugones' stories and while those fictions were okay to some extent, I did not, upon my initial reading a few months ago, really gain much insight into why these fictions were held to be exemplary by succeeding generations of Argentine writers.  Unfortunately, this biography sheds very little light on this mystery.  It felt as though it were a story of a life told in half-measures, too reluctant to delve into what must have been an interesting enough subject for its authors to consider writing about to a public audience.  Leopoldo Lugones is by far the weakest of Borges' non-fictions that I have read and although a second reading in the near future might improve my opinion, for now it certainly would be considered by me to be among Borges' lesser works.


Vampiregrave said...

It's interesting that while you post this i just finished reading Off-Side, written by Gonzalo Torrente Ballester. One of the characters in this book is a writer called Leopoldo Allones, that shows some similarities with the description you provided above.

Lsrry said...

Interesting indeed! Is Off-Side something that might be of interest to me?

Vampiregrave said...

Well, it is an interesting read, from an often overlooked author. He is relatively well know for his book La saga/fuga, but i didn't read that one yet.

As far as i know he met Borges, not sure if they were friends.

About Off-side, i can say his character drawing is excellent, and that he sometimes blends reality with moments of fantasy (usually a mix of fantasy, history and the character imagination). The book has some references to spanish authors and social-economic aspects but, at least in the edition i read, those references are explained by the translator.

Lsrry said...

Sounds like the sort of book I'd love to read, so I'll probably place an order in the next few days. Thanks!

Vampiregrave said...

You're welcome ;)

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