Out of Context

Historical Reference and the Representation of Reality in Borges

Out of Context

Book Pages: 232 Illustrations: Published: March 1993

Subjects
Caribbean Studies, Latin American Studies, Literature and Literary Studies > Literary Criticism

In 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.

Praise

“Convincing in its fresh appraisal of the political and historical contexts of Borge’s short stories, this study overturns ‘irrealist’, ‘art for art’s sake’ critical readings of his work. . . . Balderston’s maverick use of critical theory and reading of Borges only further illuminates what is so transgressive and defiant in the polished mirrors of Ficciones and El Aleph.” — Forum for Modern Language Studies

"This is a very well written book that takes a controversial view of the 'context' of Borges's work: namely that a very wide panoply of history plays a crucial role in Borges's fictions." — Maria Rosa Menocal, Yale University

"This re-focus on Borges will be a timely update, given the 'new-historical' climate of current criticism in this country. And, given the writer at hand, at the hands of an ideal reader like Balderston, historical points show up from the most literarily sensitive symptomatic readings." — Doris Sommer, Harvard University

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