Borges and Me
LONGLISTED FOR THE HIGHLAND BOOK PRIZE
In this evocative work of what the author in his Afterword calls ‘autofiction’ or ‘a kind of novelised memoir’, Jay Parini takes us back fifty years, when he fled the United States for Scotland. He was in frantic flight from the Vietnam War and desperately in search of his adult life. There, through unlikely circumstances, he met famed Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges.
Borges was in his seventies, blind and frail. Parini was asked to look after him while his translator was unexpectedly called away. When Borges heard that Parini owned a 1957 Morris Minor, he declared a long-held wish to visit the Scottish Highlands, where he hoped to meet a man in Inverness who was interested in Anglo-Saxon riddles. As they travelled, the charmingly garrulous Borges took Parini on a grand tour of western literature and ideas while promising to teach him about love and poetry. As Borges’s world of labyrinths, mirrors and doubles shimmered into being, their escapades took a surreal turn.
Borges and Me is a classic road novel, based on true events. It’s also a magical tour of an era – like our own – in which uncertainties abound, and when – as ever – it’s the young and the old who hear voices and dream dreams.
This is a jewel of a book. Very funny, clever, moving, luminous with love of literature and landscape. Parini's portrait of both Borges and Scotland is exquisite, deeply affectionate, sometimes comically irritable . . . The young Parini's painful writing ambitions are beautifully wrought . . . It's hard to conceive of how an old and frail blind man could have had such psychological force, such unworldly innocence, such redeeming sway over others, but Jay Parini persuades us fabulously in a high-style Borgesian marriage of fiction and history -- IAN McEWAN For readers who already admire Borges, this memoir will be a delicious treat. For those who have yet to read him, Parini provides the perfect entry point to a writer who altered the way many think of literature * * New York Times * * A classic comic-philosophical road story, playfully conscious of its own traditions . . . Many of the book's loveliest passages are pure geography; as he drives, Jay describes to Borges the passing landscapes of Scotland, to which Borges adds literary and historical context. The pressure to capture Scotland in words for the great Jorge Luis Borges forces Jay to think about language in a new way, to "up his game" as a poet, and this artistic journey, occurring alongside their physical journey, becomes the book's emotional backbone . . . A fun, tightly crafted, tender-hearted literary adventure [and] an improbable tale that, like many improbable tales, happens to be true * * Wall Street Journal * * I don't think I've read any book recently with such outright and unalloyed enjoyment. Jay Parini's wry, ridiculously funny and beautifully written memoir is a literary road trip par excellence. It will open your eyes wide and blow your mind. Devastatingly honest, darkly crazy and deeply touching, this is that rare sort of book: finish it, and you just want to start it all over again -- PHILIP HOARE Ironic, funny, adorable . . . What a wonderful book! It gave me so much pleasure to read it -- ERICA JONG Praise for Jay Parini: Inspired . . . a piercing, magnificent novel -- AMOS OZ A poignant and eloquent vision of the great critic's personality and fate -- HAROLD BLOOM An exciting adventure story . . . wholly emblematic of our dark age -- GORE VIDAL The friends who recall Benjamin come across as vivid individuals, but it is Benjamin himself who dominates the book, and he is wonderfully, infuriatingly alive, an intellectual hopelessly out of touch with his ailing body, curiously and tragically blind to the Europe disintegrating around him * * The Sunday Times * * Painstakingly researched and dramatically recounted . . . has something important to say about the role of the intellectual in modern Western Society * * New York Times Book Review * *
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