The OF Blog: Borges Month: Otras inquisiciones (1952)

Wednesday, July 14, 2010

Borges Month: Otras inquisiciones (1952)

Out of all of his two dozen or so non-fiction collections, Otras inquisiciones (1952) is perhaps the longest of Jorge Luis Borges' books, at nearly 300 pages in the paperback edition I own.  It is an expansion of earlier thoughts on various literary motifs and on authors and there is a degree of kinship with his 1925 collection, Inquisiciones

I am approaching the point here in Borges Month where what I have said about his 1920s and 1930s essay collections could be repeated in this brief overview.  Borges again returns to pondering questions of immortality, the circularity of time, cabalistic  readings of the Holy Scripture, this time with more erudition and less reliance on conveying directly his own personal fascination with these subjects.  It is interesting, however, to read what Borges in his 20s had to say about Quevedo and the subtle differences in approach and theme in talking about him in his early 50s.  The same holds true for discussions of Walt Whitman and Miguel Cervantes.

Otras inquisiciones also contains an interesting essay on homicide and suicide, embedded within a discussion of John Donne's Biathanatos.  Borges, in several essays, also expounds upon his admiration for H.G. Wells, an author he has cited before as being one of the main influences on his desire to become a writer.  Other authors examined with this collection include Oscar Wilde, George Bernard Shaw, William Beckford, Franz Kafka, Paul Valéry, Nathaniel Hawthorne, G.K. Chesterton, and Samuel Coleridge.

It is hard to pick which one of these many fine essays are worthy of reading.  In part because there is a uniformity to these essays, as Borges would strike a conversational tone, such as that of a favorite professor presenting a casual and yet informative lecture to a class.  There are a few citations and quotes taken from the authors mentioned above, but the focus is more on how each of these have had an impact on Borges more than on providing footnotes on the genesis of these classic works.  This format makes for an easy read, similar to 19th century biographies and histories, as I have noted in a previous essay on an earlier Borges collection.  Otras Inquisiciones builds upon these earlier collections, helping create a continuum for those who are curious to explore the evolution of Borges' literary criticism.

No comments:

Add to Technorati Favorites