Tuesday, June 14, 2005

Rereading Borges

The first time I remember having heard the name Jorge Luis Borges was in Spanish class my senior year of high school. He gave me more headaches — literally — than the other authors combined that year. Reading and analyzing his short stories seriously made my brain hurt. It's possible that part of that had to do with the meds I was on (antidepressants and the like were attempting, with limited success, to make me feel less sad), the depression itself, and/or the fact that I was going to graduate summa cum laude and gain admission to my mom's alma mater if it killed me (but let's not talk about that right now). However, I doubt that those factors deserve the blame for making my head hurt while reading Spanish literature for the first time. I think it was the adjustment to reading literature in something other than English, the many frustrating (and absolutely necessary) consultations of a lexical nature, the endless labyrinth references (it felt like I was in one, for heaven's sake, without the hint that I should always turn to the left at breaks in the path), and the difficulty I had telling between genres. Determining whether something was a detective story (like "La muerte y la brújula") or if it was something else with very weird things were going on ("Las ruinas circulares", "La Biblioteca de Babel", and just about everything else we read that year), or both, wasn't easy, especially when you can't always tell where the story is going until the last page.

Oh, dear. I'm abusing parentheticals. (Must exercise restraint.)

So, I graduated from high school and went off to college with slightly unpleasant memories of reading Sr. Borges. I remember venting about not liking his writing to one of my professors at some point. She listened and calmly predicted that I'd grow to like Borges, because he seemed to her like a type of writer I'd really enjoy. I remember thinking to myself, "Self, the chances of that occuring are about as good as you going off antidepressants. As in, nonexistent."

A few years transpired between then and now, and I found Ficciones on my "it would be a very good move to read this now" list for this summer. As it was a short book and from my preferred side of the Atlantic and time period, it went near the top of the queue. I finished it Monday night after reading it on and off for roughly a week (and those of you who have noticed the All Consuming part of my sidebar knew I'd been reading it). The verdict... I found it fun.

My prof was right. I've ended up enjoying Borges. Additionally, I can no longer complain that his short stories send me in search of quiet and a dark room. In the end, the chances of me liking his short stories were as good as me getting off antidepressants. I actually got off them before rereading Borges.