Jorge Luis Borges was a pioneer of abstract thought and was labeled by his contemporaries as “irreal”. He was a deeply imaginative thinker and writer and challenged many of the preconceived notions that defined writing and thinking during the middle of the 20th century. His prose was free and abstract, yet intellectual and simple. “You have wakened not out of sleep, but into a prior dream, and that dream lies within another, and so on, to infinity, which is the number of grains of sand. The path that you are to take is endless, and you will die before you have truly awakened.” His views of reality and time were complex and he investigated the topic through thought provoking stories and poems. To Borges, time revolved in a cyclical fashion and everyone was repeating the same actions over and over. Even more abstract, he proposed that everybody was actually just one being living out all the possible existences. Furthermore, he viewed man’s attempts to understand reality and existence as vain and nonsensical because of the chaotic and infinite nature of the universe. His style of writing not only challenged the formulaic approach to writing, and popular theories about the complexion of the universe, but he also confronted political ideologies that were popular in Argentina and other countries.
Borges was a key revolutionary amid the political turmoil in Argentina during the middle of the 20th century. At this time in history, Marxist thought was increasingly popular and the then president of Argentina, Juan Perón, had established a ruling era based off of these capitalistic fueled principles. Perón was an advocate of corporate socialism or nationalism (state controls big business and what is good for corporate groups is good for the individual members of society) and was enforcing his dogma through the State. Borges’ aversion to this style of governing was evident through his writing; he believed that “the individual should be strong and the State should be weak” and that he “couldn’t be enthusiastic about theories where the State is more important than the individual.” Thus, he was adamantly opposed to the Perón regime and Peronism, and lead a counter-movement, called SADE, in an attempt to restore intellectual freedom to the people of Argentina and disrupt the political progression of Peronism.
Although he was a well-known figurehead concerning the political issues of Argentina, he is most famous for his literary accomplishments. Despite his current popularity, Borges was relatively unknown for the majority of his life, especially outside of Argentina. In 1961, Borges (62 years old) received the Prix International award, was named Commendatore by the Italian government, and appointed a position at the University of Texas at Austin and toured the U.S. These distinctions elevated Borges’s reputation as a scholar and he became notable internationally. In 1962, two of his anthologies, Ficciones and Labyrinths, were translated and published in English. Next, Borges toured across Europe further increasing his repute. He would continue to be recognized with awards for the remainder of his life, including a special Edgar Allan Poe Award, the Balzan Prize, the Prix mondial Cino Del Duca, the Cervantes Prize, and the French Legion of Honour. By the end of his life, Borges was famous in many literary circles and had his work translated into multiple languages and dispersed all over the world.
Borges was so influential to post-modern literature that an entire genre has been dedicated to his name. Borgesian literature is anything that embodies the deeply imaginative and erudite concepts associated with reality, time, labyrinths, identity, and infinity that Borges manifested. He was an author of indisputable genius and an activist who fought to uphold his moral principles and restore autonomy to the Argentinean people. Mario Vargas Llosa, a well-known writer and thinker from Chile, acknowledged that the Spanish language was instantly “purified” and “intellectualised” by Borges’ writing. Thus, Borges had a dramatic effect on the politics of Argentina, the literary world, philosophical ideologies, and his mother-tongue; all of which resulted from his fantastical stories that blurred the lines between fact and fiction, reality and make-belief.