Jorge Luis Borges
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986) was an Argentine writer and poet born in Buenos Aires. In 1914, his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school and traveled to Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in Surrealist literary journals. He also worked as a librarian and public lecturer. Borges was bilingual, speaking both Spanish and English. He was a target of political persecution during the Peron regime.
Due to a hereditary condition, Borges became blind in his late fifties. In 1955, he was appointed director of the National Public Library (Biblioteca Nacional) and professor of Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1961, he came to international attention when he received the first International Publishers' Prize Prix Formentor. His work was translated and published widely in the United States and in Europe. He died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986.
In 1933 Borges gained an editorial appointment at the literary supplement of the newspaper Crítica, where he first published the pieces later collected as the Historia universal de la infamia (A Universal History of Infamy). This involved two types of pieces. The first lay somewhere between non-fictional essays and short stories, using fictional techniques to tell essentially true stories.
The second consisted of literary forgeries, which Borges initially passed off as translations of passages from famous but seldom-read works. In the following years, he served as a literary adviser for the publishing house Emecé Editores and wrote weekly columns for El Hogar, which appeared from 1936 to 1939.
In 1937, Borges found work as first assistant at the Miguel Cané branch of the Buenos Aires Municipal Library. His fellow employees forbade him from cataloguing more than 100 books per day, a task which took him about an hour. The rest of his time he spent in the basement of the library, writing articles and short stories.
Borges's urbane character allowed him to free himself from the trap of local color. The varying genealogies of characters, settings, and themes in his stories, such as "La muerte y la brújula", used Argentine models without pandering to his readers. In his essay "El escritor argentino y la tradición", Borges notes that the very absence of camels in the Qu'ran was proof enough that it was an Arabian work.
He suggested that only someone trying to write an "Arab" work would purposefully include a camel. He uses this example to illustrate how his dialogue with universal existential concerns was just as Argentine as writing about gauchos and tangos (subjects he himself used).