Explores Borges’ infatuation with Jewish history and culture.
Finalist for the 2016 Foreword INDIES Book of the Year Award in the Religion category
A Seminary Co-op Notable Book of 2016
In this volume, award-winning cultural critic and controversial public intellectual Ilan Stavans focuses his attention on Jorge Luis Borges's fascination with Jewish culture. Despite not being Jewish himself, Borges wrote essays, poems, and stories dealing with various aspects of Jewish history and culture—from the Holocaust to Kabbalah and from Franz Kafka to the creation of the State of Israel. In periods when anti-Semitism in Argentina was on the rise, Borges was clear in his refutation of such xenophobia, and when Jewish writers were hardly available in Spanish, he was among the first to translate them. Throughout Stavans's discussion of these topics he weaves in personal anecdotes on reading Borges for the first time, hearing him read in Mexico, and looking for him in Buenos Aires. No fan of Borges's classic oeuvre will ever see his legacy in the same way after reading this book.
Ilan Stavans is Lewis-Sebring Professor in Latin American and Latino Culture at Amherst College. He is the author of many books, including Quixote: The Novel and the World and The United States of Mestizo.
"This volume … will be of greatest interest to scholars of Borges and of Argentine literature. " — CHOICE
"At long last, our magisterial Jorge Luis Borges is given his full due as Jewish creator. With a prose that sings, Stavans invites us on a spectacular intellectual odyssey into the mind of Borges as honorary Jew—as outsider whose poetry, prose, and philosophical mediation has swept so many of us to the very edges of reason, the self, culture, and the world. " — Frederick Luis Aldama, author of Why the Humanities Matter: A Commonsense Approach
"This deeply personal, playful, and unexpected meditation on the Jewishness of Jorge Luis Borges illuminates not just Borges's Jewish sensibilities but also Ilan Stavans's somewhat contrary approach to his own Jewishness. It is also an affectionate love letter to a literary lion whose love for Jewish ideas, literature, and culture was not always returned. Imagining Borges as the luminary writer imagined himself opens a wonderful new window onto Borges's rich and beautiful soul. Can a non-Jewish writer like Borges write Jewish literature? In this case, as Stavans suggests so convincingly, the answer is a resounding, 'Si!'" — James E. Young, University of Massachusetts Amherst