Harvard College Library

Jorge Luis Borges, Houghton Exhibition Explores his Life and Literature

Jorge Luis Borges, (1899-1986) Argentine author and icon. Photo taken by Annemarie Heinrich.

January 9, 2003 -- The Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) is sometimes referred to as a recluse bookworm. In contrast, he is also thought of as a pop culture icon; a hero to Mick Jagger. Borges is author, translator, avant-gardist, and expert in Medieval Anglo-Saxon literature. He was a man who hid in the solitude of libraries and a man who was considered a political threat in 1970’s Argentina. The traveling exhibition, Borges/The Time Machine, now on display in the Edison and Newman Room of Houghton Library, attempts to bring together the diverse roles played by Borges during his life and reveals a man who left traces across continents, across literary genres, across centuries.

The exhibition, drawn from the holdings of the San Telmo Foundation, Buenos Aires, includes manuscripts, letters, family photographs, books written and owned by Borges, newspapers, and periodicals. It is divided into five sections that represent different aspects of Borges’s life and work. The first, Books and Weapons, addresses Borges’ childhood in Argentina where he learned English in his father’s library and contains Borges’ first manuscript, an essay, written in English, on Greek mythology. The next, The Avant Garde, explores Borges as a young man in Spain. Borges and Others illuminates his literary and political relationships, while Borges and the Media illuminates Borges’ relationship with the media, including articles about him and by him printed in pop culture newspapers and magazines. Finally, The World as a Library includes copies of Borges own contributions to the literary world that surround his life. The exhibition runs until March 15.

In addition, Houghton Library is staging a complementary exhibition in the Amy Lowell Room entitled, Jorge Luis Borges at Houghton Library, which features items from Houghton’s own Borges collection. Borges was a Charles Eliot Norton Professor of Poetry at Harvard in the late ‘60s. Afterward, his connection with Harvard continued and it appeared in several of his poems and stories. Included in the exhibition is a copy of El otro, a story in which Borges meets his eighteen-year-old self on a bench beside the Charles River. The exhibition also includes first editions, letters, and manuscripts. Notable is his correspondence with Victoria Ocampo, a close friend of Borges, editor of the influential literary magazine Sur, which debuted many of Borges writings, and publisher of several of his books. This exhibit will be on display through March 2003.

This story appears courtesy of the Harvard College Library Communications Office
Copyright © 2004 President and Fellows of Harvard College