“The central fact of my life has been the existence of words and the possibility of weaving those words into poetry.” Jorge Luis Borges, This Craft of Verse
These are the six Norton Lectures that Jorge Luis Borges delivered at Harvard University in the fall of 1967 and spring of 1968.
Born in 1899, Borges was by this time almost completely blind (only a single color— yellow, “the color of the tiger” — remained for him), and thus addressed his audience without the aid of written notes. Probably the best-read citizen of the globe in his day, he draws on a wealth of examples from literature in modern and medieval English, Spanish, French, Italian, German, Greek, Latin, Arabic, Hebrew, and Chinese, speaking with characteristic eloquence on Plato, the Norse kenningar, Byron, Poe, Chesterton, Joyce, and Frost, as well as on translations of Homer, the Bible, and the Rubaiyat of Omar Khayyam. Though his avowed topic is poetry, Borges explores subjects ranging from prose forms (especially the novel), literary history, and translation theory, to philosophical aspects of literature in particular and communication in general. Throughout, Borges tells the very personal story of his lifelong love affair with the English language and its literature, ancient and modern. In each lecture, he gives us marvelous insights into his literary sensibility, tastes, preoccupations, and beliefs.
Whether discussing metaphor, epic poetry, the origins of verse, poetic meaning, or his own “poetic creed,” Borges gives a performance as entertaining as it is intellectually engaging. A lesson in the love of literature and language, this is a sustained personal encounter with a literary voice for whom the twentieth century will be long remembered.