cover image Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature

Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature

Jorge Luis Borges, edited by Martín Arias and Martín Hadis, trans. from the Spanish by Katherine Silva. New Directions, $24.95 (320p) ISBN 978-0-8112-1875-7

This mesmerizing volume preserves the eclectic, erudite, and charismatic style of Argentine writer Borges (Labyrinths) and his insights on English literature, via his 1966 class at the University of Buenos Aires. Working from the transcriptions of tapes made by students, the editors have reconstructed the course, which traced English literature from its Saxon roots through the 19th century. The 25 lectures, on subjects including Beowulf, Anglo-Saxon elegies, and the novels of Charles Dickens, are bookended by informative essays and extensive, helpful endnotes. Borges moves effortless between subjects, almost overloading the senses with facts, digressions, and interpretations. While the lectures are not all equally compelling, there is enough here to keep the reader moving forward, and Borges’s delight and passion for every author shines brightly. As the afterword explains: “What Borges tries to do as a professor, more than prepare his students for exams, is excite and entice them to read the works and discover the authors.” Over 40 years later, he is still achieving that goal. (May)