Jorge Luis Borges is best known in the English-speaking world as a writer of stories and essays, but it was as a poet that he first became known in his native Argentina. His Selected Poems gathers together translations of his poetry by a number of different highly talented hands. I opened it with some trepidation, wondering whether the poetry could possibly be as good as the fiction: I’m delighted to report that it is every bit as good.
The Selected Poems prints the Spanish original of each poem on the left and the English translation on the right. The translators have done a fine job of transporting Borges’ characteristic concerns and his clarity of expression from Spanish to English. Borges’ great interests – time, the infinite, doppelgangers, the mortal hazard posed by mirrors – are as omnipresent in the poetry as in the prose, but are expressed with even greater economy in the poetry, which swoops between the private and the universal with almost dizzying facility.
Borges’ work is at once funny and profound, tragic and comic, mired in dread and rife with beauty. In my opinion, Jorge Luis Borges was the greatest writer of the twentieth century.
Some Borges links