January 15, 2006 |
On dec. 27, at 11:31 a.m., agents of the Department of Homeland Security detained me at Miami International Airport and, after searching my briefcase, impounded a speech I was scheduled to deliver at the plenary session of the Modern Language Assn. of America in Washington. Well, not quite. It's true I told this story to about 2,000 professors of language and literature attending a forum on the "Role of the Intellectual in the 21st Century."
October 23, 2005 |
A monster, Jorge Luis Borges says in "The Book of Imaginary Beings," is "nothing but a combination of elements taken from real creatures, and the combinatory possibilities border on the infinite." The lamia, the centaur, the Hydra, the Minotaur -- all taking attributes from two or more creatures -- are here in this rich little bestiary, as well as lesser-known cousins, such as the ichthyocentaur, which lives undersea, and the hippogriff, mingling the lion-eagle of the gryphon with the horse.
June 2, 2002 |
In the short story, "Funes, His Memory," Jorge Luis Borges creates a character, Funes, who has somehow managed to inoculate himself against the ravages of forgetfulness. Thrown from a horse, Funes is knocked unconscious, and--in a sly inversion of the classic amnesia story--awakens to discover not that he's suddenly "missing" weeks or months or years of his life but that he has been granted total recall.
June 3, 2001
Not a single star will be left in the night. The night will not be left. I will die and, with me, the weight of the intolerable universe. I shall erase the pyramids, the medallions, the continents and faces. I shall erase the accumulated past. I shall make dust of history, dust of dust. Now I am looking on the final sunset. I am hearing the last bird. I bequeath nothingness to no one.
September 5, 1999 |
On Aug. 24, Jorge Luis Borges, who died in 1986, would have been 100 years old. So erudite and allusive, Borges seemed always to have been 100 years old. Nevertheless, reading him today we discover that he speaks directly to our postmodern sensibility. Consider a few of his obsessions: Anything expressed in words (religion, philosophy) is fiction; fiction and nonfiction are indistinguishable; meaning is determined by the reader; artists alter the past by making us see it differently; opposites resemble nothing so much as each other.
September 5, 1999 |
You are invulnerable. Have they not granted you, those powers that preordain your destiny, the certainty of dust? Is not your time as irreversible as that same river where Heraclitus, mirrored, saw the symbol of fleeting life? A marble slab awaits you which you will not read--on it, already written, the date, the city, and the epitaph. Other men too are only dreams of time, not indestructible bronze or burnished gold; the universe is, like you, a Proteus.