Out of Context: Historical Reference and the Representation of Reality in Borges

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Duke University Press, Mar 12, 1993 - Literary Criticism - 216 pages
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DIVIn Jorge Luis Borges's finely wrought, fantastic stories, so filigreed with strange allusions, critics have consistently found little to relate to the external world, to history--in short, to reality. Out of Context corrects this shortsighted view and reveals the very real basis of the Argentine master's purported "irreality." By providing the historical context for some of the writer's best-loved and least understood works, this study also gives us a new sense of Borges's place within the context of contemporary literature.
Through a detailed examination of seven stories, Daniel Balderston shows how Borges's historical and political references, so often misread as part of a literary game, actually open up a much more complex reality than the one made explicit to the reader. Working in tension with the fantastic aspects of Borges' work, these precise references to realities outside the text illuminate relations between literature and history as well as the author's particular understanding of both. In Borges's perspective as it is revealed here, history emerges as an "other" only partially recoverable in narrative form. From what can be recovered, Balderston is able to clarify Borges's position on historical episodes and trends such as colonialism, the Peronist movement, "Western culture," militarism, and the Spanish invasion of the Americas.
Informed by a wide reading of history, a sympathetic use of critical theory, and a deep understanding of Borges's work, this iconoclastic study provides a radical new approach to one of the most celebrated and—until now—hermetic authors of our time.
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Contents

Introduction History Politics and Literature in Borges
1
Menard and His Contemporaries The Arms and Letters Debate
18
The Labyrinth of Trenches without Any Plan in El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan
39
Prague March 1939 Recovering the Historicity of El milagro secrete
56
Cryptogram and Scripture Losing Count in La escritura del dios
69
Going Native Beyond Civilization and Savagery in Historia del guerrero y de la cautiva
81
On the Threshold of Otherness British India in El hombre en el umbral
98
Behind Closed Doors The Guayaquil Meeting and the Silences of History
115
Conclusion
132
Notes
139
Works Cited
185
Index
205
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About the author (1993)

Chair of the Latin American Studies Association Task Force on Gay and Lesbian Issues,

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