Borges's writings are models of succinct power; by temperament and by artistic ambition, he was a minimalist, given to working his wonders on the smallest scale possible.
All the same, in his intellectual bearing Borges was a skeptic, critical of but not disparaging or cynical toward the truth claims of systematic philosophical or religious thought.
He was at once a genuine artist and a judicious, sympathetic critic.The posthumous publication of This Craft of Verse, Borges's 1967 Norton Lectures, reacquaints us with his splendid critical faculties.
The volume is a welcome gift, too, reminding us of Borges's generous insistence on identifying with his fellow readers, who are ever ready to be transported by their love for literature.
The lectures transcribed and collected here -- with their frequent quotations from the European languages, both ancient and modern -- were delivered extemporaneously, performances made possible by Borges's own powers of recollection (which were, it need hardly be said, formidable).In life and in literary manner Borges was a cosmopolitan, his range of reference almost inexhaustibly wide.
The lectures conclude with a statement of Borges's own "poetic creed." This slim but profound volume, however, ranges much farther afield.
Borges serves up intriguing asides on the novel, on literary criticism and history, and on theories of translation.
Ultimately, his comments touch on the largest questions raised by literature and language and the thornier puzzles of human communication.The lectures convey Borges's evident delight in English and his eloquence and ease in the language, even when facing a distinguished audience of native English speakers.
But perhaps that is not so surprising, after all, for Borges carried on a lifelong love affair with the English language and the literatures of the British Isles and North America.
And the study of Old English became a hobby to which Borges remained passionately devoted until his death.
The English language he counted as his second (and perhaps even preferred) home.Since the 1960s, when the then relatively obscure Buenos Aires writer was first introduced to English-speaking readers in translations of the classic Ficciones and the anthology Labyrinths, it has been apparent that Borges survives the ordeal of translation without obvious loss.
Borges's style is classical: concise, understated, cleanly cadenced, strict in its devotion to the old-fashioned values of clarity and logical order.
Whether in his native Spanish or in his adopted English, Borges is a writer and lecturer who impresses us with his singular intellectual wit, charm, and refinement.This Craft of Verse makes an exquisite addition to a distinguished series and offers, moreover, invaluable insights into the mind and work of a true modern master.