Reviewing a biography of Jorge Luis Borges in The New York Times Book Review a few years back, David Foster Wallace attacked the standard biographical procedure of mining the lives of writers for clues to their work, and vice versa. Borges’s stories, he insisted, “so completely transcend their motive cause that the biographical facts become, in the deepest and most literal way, irrelevant.”An interesting assessment. After all, in Borges we're talking about a man who was probably denied the Nobel Prize in Literature due to his political beliefs. Indeed, one could argue that Borges' writing was so fantastical because of his stubborn avoidance of the real world. This is a man who enthusiastically endorsed General Pinochet and remained largely ignorant of the horrors of his regime.
I recently read Clive James' essay on Borges in Cultural Amnesia, in which he writes:
Borges did fear the bitterness of reality, and he did take refuge in an invented world... In Borges the near past scarcely exists: in that respect his historical sense, like his Buenos Aires, is without contemporaneity. His political landscape is a depopulated marble ghost-town remembered from childhood, spooky hieratic like the cemetary in Recoleta. Before he went blind he would still walk the streets, but usually only at night, to minimize the chance of actually meeting anyone. In his stories, the moments of passion, fear pity and terror belong to the long-vanished world of knife fighters. Death squads and torture are not in the inventory. The timescale ends not long after he was born.I think I had more to say when I began this post but I've run out of steam. I just saw more of the Palin/Couric interview and I am in such a state of astonishment that my inability to string together a coherent thought is downright Palinian. Anyway, none of this has anything to do with the man we began with, David Foster Wallace. It you would like to read about that him, read this. It's written by Book-Loop's own Bryan Joiner, a fellow who once read Infinite Jest in one sitting, or maybe it only seemed that way.