In English at last, Borges’s erudite and entertaining lectures on English literature from Beowulf to Oscar Wilde
Writing for Harper’s Magazine, Edgardo Krebs describes Professor Borges:“A compilation of the twenty-five lectures Borges gave in 1966 at the University of Buenos Aires, where he taught English literature. Starting with the Vikings’ kennings and Beowulf and ending with Stevenson and Oscar Wilde, the book traverses a landscape of ‘precursors,’cross-cultural borrowings, and genres of expression, all connected by Borges into a vast interpretive web. This is the most surprising and useful of Borges’s works to have appeared posthumously.”
Borges takes us on a startling, idiosyncratic, fresh, and highly opinionated tour of English literature, weaving together countless cultural traditions of the last three thousand years. Borges’s lectures — delivered extempore by a man of extraordinary erudition — bring the canon to remarkably vivid life. Now translated into English for the first time, these lectures are accompanied by extensive and informative notes by the Borges scholars Martín Arias and Martín Hadis.
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.