The Biographers’ Encounter with Jorge Luis Borges: Authentic or Total?

  • Ceyda Elgül

Abstract

This study sets out from the mutual concerns that biographers and translators face during the process of recreating a source for a new audience. It presents translation and biography writing as analogous forms of rewriting. Both biographers and translators are compelled to overcome the dilemma of the truth of the source vs. the authenticity of the rewrite. This requires them to consider matters such as fluency, (in)visibility, objectivity, fullness, accuracy, and competitiveness. Although each biography and translation offers unique solutions to these matters, they propose themselves as the “total”—exact, transparent, ultimate—representation of the source. Hence the rewriter’s claim to authenticity. Based on this conceptual framework, in this paper I study the biographies Jorge Luis Borges by Jason Wilson and The Man in the Mirror of the Book by James Woodall as “authentic translations” of Jorge Luis Borges that aim to be the “total” English-language version of Jorge Luis Borges’ life story. I discuss the subjectivities the biographers manifest in their works and the way in which each biography seems to present itself as total by highlighting different qualities depending on its biographer’s agency.

References

Aizenberg, Edna. “Jorge Luis Borges.” Revista de estudios Hispanicos 43, 2009, pp. 442-443.

Borges, Jorge Luis. Labyrinths. Translated by Donald E. Yates & James E. Irby, New Directions, 1964.

González Echevarría, Roberto. “Man Without a Life.” The New York Times, 31 August 1997, archive.nytimes.com/www.nytimes.com/books/97/08/31/reviews/970831.31gonz01.html. Accessed 10 July 2018.

Hodder & Stoughton. www.hodder.co.uk. Accessed 26 May 2018.

Lefevere, André. Translation, Rewriting, and the Manipulation of Literary Fame. Routledge, 1992.

Mars-Jones, Adam. “If All Literature is Autobiographical, the Notion of Autobiography Comes Close to Being Meaningless.” The Observer, 21 Jun 1996, p. 15.

Mulderig, Gerald P. “Telling Life Stories: The Rhetorical Form of Biographical Narratives.” Life Writing: Autobiography, Biography, and Travel Writing in Contemporary Literature, edited by Koray Melikoğlu, ibidem-Verlag, 2006, pp. 35-47.

Pearson, Lon. “Jason Wilson, Jorge Luis Borges.” Chasqui, 38(2), 2009, pp. 230-231.

Pindar, Ian. “Watched Pots: Jorge Luis Borges by Jason Wilson.” The Guardian, 26 August 2006, www.theguardian.com/books/2006/aug/26/jorgeluisborges. Accessed 26 March 2018.

Reaktion House. www.reaktionbooks.co.uk. Accessed 26 May 2018.

Schifino, Martin. “Best Before His Blindness.” Times Literary Supplement, Apr. 4, 2008, p. 27.

Sexton, David. “No sex please, he’s nearly British.” The Spectator, 29 Jun 1996, pp. 29-31.

Stavans, Ilan. “Bi(bli)ographies: The Remains of Jorge Luis Borges.” Transition, no. 74, 1997, pp. 62-76. DOI: https://doi.org/10.2307/2935374

“The Man in the Mirror of the Book: A Life of Jorge Luis Borges.” The Economist, 20 July 1996, p. 7.

Venuti, Lawrence. “The Translator's Invisibility: The Evidence of Reviews.” In Other Words: Journal of the Translator's Association, no. 4, 1994, pp. 16-22.

Wilson, Jason. “Books: Life Member of the Gaucho Club.” The Independent, 6 Feb. 1999, www.independent.co.uk/arts-entertainment/books-life-member-of-the-gaucho-club-1069037.html. Accessed 26 May 2018.

Wilson, Jason. Jorge Luis Borges. Reaktion Books, 2006.

Wilson, Jason. “Becoming a Hispanist.” New Spanish Books, www.newspanishbooks.com/feature-article/jason-wilson-becoming-hispanist. Accessed 26 May 2018.

Wong, Nicholas. “The Man in the Mirror of the Book: A Life of Jorge Luis Borges.” Contemporary Review, no. 271, Sept. 1997. www.thefreelibrary.com/The+Man+in+the+Mirror+of+the+Book%3A+A+Life+of+Jorge+Luis+Borges.-a020236236. Accessed 6 November 2018.

Woodall, James. The Man in the Mirror of the Book: A Life of Jorge Luis Borges. Hodder & Stoughton, 1996.

Published
2018-11-28
Section
Articles