Reading Borges after Benjamin
Allegory, Afterlife, and the Writing of History
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Together with original readings of some of Benjamin’s finest essays, this book examines a series of Borges’s works as allegories of Argentine modernity.
This book explores the relationship between time, life, and history in the work of Jorge Luis Borges and examines his work in relation to his contemporary, Walter Benjamin. By focusing on texts from the margins of the Borges canon—including the early poems on Buenos Aires, his biography of Argentina's minstrel poet Evaristo Carriego, the stories and translations from A Universal History of Infamy, as well as some of his renowned stories and essays—Kate Jenckes argues that Borges's writing performs an allegorical representation of history. Interspersed among the readings of Borges are careful and original readings of some of Benjamin's finest essays on the relationship between life, language, and history. Reading Borges in relationship to Benjamin draws out ethical and political implications from Borges's works that have been largely overlooked by his critics.
Kate Jenckes is Assistant Professor of Romance Languages and Literatures at the University of Michigan.
"In Kate Jencke's clearly written and often persuasive book, Borges scholars finally encounter a sustained study of the remarkable parallels and intersections in Borges and Walter Benjamin's thought … Jenckes [skillfully] intertwines Benjamin's thinking with Borges's texts; so skillfully, in fact, that one might finish this book wondering how it was ever possible to read Borges before Benjamin." — Variaciones Borges
"This book is a clever turning point in our contextual readings of Borges; it suggests the need to come back to the texts in order to move forward. Departing from an early poem on a family gravestone, Kate Jenckes unfolds Borges's notion of a national allegory, ironically illustrated by lives of eternal infamy. From there, Jenckes manages to engage Borges and Benjamin in a lively conversation. The reader will be part of it, thanks to this discreet, persuasive argument." — Julio Ortega, Brown University