I was asked recently to write an essay on my favourite writer, Jorge Luis Borges (who, as it happens, inspired my forthcoming book with Influx Press, Imaginary Cities). If you know Borges’ writing (and if you don’t, I envy you for being able to read it for the first time), you’ll know that a conventional essay wouldn’t quite suffice. The following is my attempt to write an essay on Borges through what is not expressly said but instead hinted at or pointed to. It’s the only fitting way, I think, to begin to do him justice (if you haven’t read Borges, start with Labyrinths and you’ll soon find, in a strange way, you already have).
All the essays we will never write on Jorge Luis Borges.
On all the books he didn’t read.
On all the books he didn’t write.
On the library of lost books from Archimedes’ On Sphere-Making to Hemingway’s suitcase.
On the photography of Borges’ dreams (after Tesla).
On the Minotaur’s blueprints for escape.
On reading the auguries from the smoke of the burning Library of Alexandria.
On the black hole at the foot of the Reichenbach Falls.
On Borges’ vampiric fear of mirrors.
On infinite Shakespeares on infinite typewriters, attempting to write The Origin of the Species.
On the devil’s footage of the temptation of St. Anthony.
On Scheherazade’s aubades.
On the lost languages in which no books were written.
On Hyde as Jekyll’s alibi.
On the transcripts of Babel.
On the reality of Socrates and the forgery of Plato.
On the poetry of Morse code.
On the holy trinity of the Mórrígan.
On wunderkammer as magic.
On the confessions of the hungry ghosts.
On Orpheus’ melodies.
On The Isle of Dogs.
On the unrecorded conversation between Boccaccio and Chaucer.
On the conscience of doppelgängers.
On echoes in the catacombs.
On the plotting of song-lines.
On the drunkenness of Obatala.
On Hamlet’s father as demon.
On the things Gilgamesh saw in the deep.
On cycles in the Shahnameh.
On the hieroglyphs which meant nothing.
On the disappearance of De Quincey’s Anna.
On the location of the isle of the lotus-eaters.
On games in the Siri Sandhi.
On where be dragons.
On the memoirs of B. Traven.
On the inhabitants of Quixote’s windmills.
On ‘hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stevenson.’
On the ambitions of golems.
On the secret mythology of Nüshu.
On the beauty of the tesseract.
On the stories before literature.
On the stories after literature.
On Borges as Minotaur.
On the couple in the corner of Bruegel the Elder’s The Triumph of Death.
On the songs of the Children’s Crusade.
On the Messiahs who failed.
On the nautical charts from the Ship of Fools.
On the likelihood that Jorge Luis Borges never existed.
continued ad infinitum overleaf