This is a continuation of a series of posts that begins with an introduction in my previous post:
In an article about the life of Jorge Luis Borges (available here for those who have access to JSTOR), Alastair Reid describes him as a "mapmaker of imaginary worlds." This is a fairly comprehensive job description. To understand what Borges did with literature, it is valuable to see what literature did for him. Borges was intensely interested in books. One of the most important fixtures of his childhood was his father's library, which was largely in English, and introduced Borges to a wide scope of artistic and historical knowledge. He would spend long periods of time immersing himself in the worlds of books and libraries. He eventually became the director of the National Library in Buenos Aires. His role as an avid reader and librarian colored his own approach to writing. His mind was wide open to the possibilities and the expansiveness of liturature, but he was also aware of the artificiality and astractness of the medium. Ficciones, his Spanish title for his collected stories, emphasizes the falseness of his linguistic creations. Although many of these stories play with the fabric of reality, Borges has made a clear distinction between this wordplay and reality. The literary metaphysicians in Tlön Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, of which a further discussion is to follow, as they set aside reality were able to freely determine how to define their imaginary world. Likewise, Borges, in his cartography of his own domain, the medium of books, showed that it could be sculpted into whatever the power of words could make of it.