JORGE LOUIS BORGES 

b1899-d1986

 

 

Shakesperes Memory published in Spanish in 1983 and in English by the New Yorker in 1998.  

This story, that may well have been Borges last work, centres around a literary author who acquires Shakespeare’s memory in a supernatural exchange that becomes his fatal deal with the devil. It is a refection on memory that questions the location of artistic creation.

 

Narrated in the first person and retrospectively by our main protagonist Hermann Sörgel who addresses the unknown reader directly, we begin with a setting filled with Sörgels mystical anticipation. He believes that through the possession of Shakespeares's memory he will be able to have the privileged insight into the genius that makes the author's work possible. However as he slowly remembers as Shakespeare, his own memory gradually disappears, leaving him with an uncertainty of self and a delirious mind. The wish turns to a haunting nightmare as he is finally keen to release himself from the gift.

 

In the protagonists process of remembering Borges places ideas about what memory might be and how it works. H e mentions De Quincey who envisions memory as a palimpsest, calling to mind a constant rewriting of information that although erased in the process is inherent and may become present in unexpected moments. Then, through St Augustin he pictures memory as a cavern, an unknown cypher. 

 

Throughout the story there is deliberate action taken by Borges to underline the unnecessary action of mentioning facts as dates to an understanding of the whole. There is constant inability to remember, an awareness of something that is indefinable, as if the absence of knowledge would fruit a more meaningful insight. Further reinforced is the idea that the individual cannot be identified with being the sole bearer of genius, it is seen instead as something that transcends the single person and is encapsulate by the text itself.

 

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