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The Passion of an Endless Quotation

Lisa Block de Behar, William Egginton

Publication Year: 2003

Borges cites innumerable authors in the pages making up his life’s work, and innumerable authors have cited and continue to cite him. More than a figure, then, the quotation is an integral part of the fabric of his writing, a fabric made anew by each reading and each re-citation it undergoes, in the never-ending throes of a work-in-progress. Block de Behar makes of this reading a plea for the very art of communication; a practice that takes community not in the totalized and totalizable soil of pre-established definitions or essences, but on the ineluctable repetitions that constitute language as such, and that guarantee the expansiveness—through etymological coincidences of meaning, through historical contagions, through translinguistic sharings of particular experiences—of a certain index of universality.

Published by: State University of New York Press

Title Page, Copyright Page

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pp. i-iv


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pp. v-vi

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pp. vii

I would like to thank the following people for the time and expertise they generously provided: Rosemary Geisdorfer Feal, Jorge Gracia, Michael Rinella, and Diane Ganeles for their enthusiastic response to my proposal; David Johnson for his invaluable criticism of earlier drafts; Bernadette Wegenstein for her comments on the introductory essay; Miguel Fern

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The Interpretive Fix and the Fixations of Fiction: The Ars Interpretans of Lisa Block de Behar

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pp. ix-xvi

Barthes once wrote that the only way to read a work of passion is withanother work of passion. What was true for Barthes is equally true forLisa Block de Behar, whose three or more decades of scholarly activityhave produced an imposing body of scholarship on the work of JorgeLuis Borges, but more important and more urgently have resulted in theinvention of a new way of thinking about the activity of reading, and the...

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1. First Words

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pp. 1-3

Even at the risk of falling into redundancies from the start, one would have to recognize, once again, the gravitation of quotations in Borges’s universe, where, unbeholden to time, though without eluding the facts of their origin, quotations allow for the repetition of several discourses at once. On more than one occasion, Borges affirmed the literary fatefulness of his destiny and, assuming that task, recognized the precedence...

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2. Variations on a Letter Avant-la-lettre

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pp. 5-14

If the aesthetic, theoretical, and hermeneutic present is debated in the face of the indeterminacy of works that slip between the expansive spaces of a disputable disciplinary topography; if epistemological definitions question its limits and its doctrinal and methodological foundations; if questions of taxonomy challenge the rigidity of inventories that fail to encompass the inventions they seek to classify; nor oppositions justify...

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3. Paradoxa Ortodoxa

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pp. 15-30

In “Vindication of Bouvard and Pécuchet”1 Borges considered Flaubert’s work to be a “deceptively simple story”; we could apply a similar consideration to his story “The Gospel According to Mark.”2 But the coincidences between Flaubert’s work—an aberration, according to some, “the greatest work of French literature and perhaps of all literature,”3 according to others—and Borges’s story are recognizable as something...

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4. On “Ultrarealism”: Borges and Bioy Casares (The Interlacing of the Imagination and Memory on the Thresholds of Other Worlds)

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pp. 31-41

Given the circumstances, it would perhaps have been more suggestive, and certainly more appropriate, to propose a title derived from “Un drame bien parisien,” the novella by Alphonse Allais presented for the first time in Le Chat Noir1 in 1890, a quite disconcerting piece of the gaité française, which Allais had nourished with a “poetic imagination situated somewhere between Zeno of Elea and that of children.”2 As is known...

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5. A Complexly Woven Plot: Borges, Bioy Casares, Blanqui (Conjectures and Conjunctions at the Limits of Possible Worlds)

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pp. 43-54

It could be even redundant to try to glimpse via “The Celestial Plot,” the story by Adolfo Bioy Casares, the possibilities of connection between the parallel worlds favored by fiction. The narrator recounts something more than the flying “accidents” of a pilot, of one who risks a crossing between one real space and another, similar, more or less new, more or less other. In this sidereal, literal, austral plot, the stars—the letters and signs—...

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6. Theoretical Invention in Fiction: Marvels, Miracles, and the Gazes of Miranda

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pp. 55-69

For some time now theory is spoken of as if of a voyage, a veering, or rather, if one takes into account, within the same semantic field or sea, the twists of an interpretation adrift or oriented by a jetty, a quebramar in Portuguese, the jet

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7. The Ironies of a Blind Seer

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pp. 71-91

When dealing with more than one vision, with a divided vision, or with a diffuse blindness, it would not be difficult to allude, despite the passage of several decades since its publication, to a binary that, in its English title enables as much the acuities of insight as the limitations of blindness. Verified by the facts and the reflections that analyze them, the foresights of Borges, those surprising anticipations of his intellectual...

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8. Symbols and the Search for Unity

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pp. 93-105

For some years now it has seemed of interest to me to invoke the genies of place. Close to Hollywood, Los Angeles,1 it would have been opportune to speak of the angels to whom today’s reflection2 and imagination3 have dedicated so much recurrent attention. I do not know if it was satellite networks or the ubiquitous messages of an explosive mediatic communication or the readings of Walter Benjamin or the...

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9. The Paradoxes of Paradoxes

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pp. 107-121

In this case it would be valid to modify the formula of the Hebrew superlative, since it is not only a question of distinguishing a level of superiority that exalts a king of kings for being the greatest, or a song of songs that was the best and is his. Despite these grammaticized excellences, it is necessary to point out that the superlative used here is not applied in order to exalt in the same way. Similarly, Borges announces...

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10. Vox in Deserto: Borges and the Story of Sand

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pp. 123-132

We would again have to allude to the writing of Borges, considering it a writing avant la lettre, insofar as it anticipates and prescribes the imagination and thought determining the historical, political, theoretical, and aesthetic tendencies that define ambivalently the culture of the second half of the last century, finalizing that century, that millennium, and other...

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11. The Mystery of the Name

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pp. 133-140

In one of Borges’s best known stories, the one that continues to be— with reason—his most quoted story, resigning himself to the uselessness of all intellectual exercise, or demanding it, the narrator affirms: “A philosophical doctrine is at first a verisimilar description of the universe; the years go by and it is a mere chapter—when not a paragraph and a name—of the history of philosophy. In literature, that final caducity is...

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12. The Imagination of Knowledge

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pp. 141-148

It does not seem unlikely to presume that it was here, in Switzerland, in Lugano, that Borges read Der Golem, the novel by Gustav Meyrink. Next to the lake that submerges these mountains, inverting them in the water in the same way, his late reflections, less symmetrical, similarly slow, return from time. As Rodr

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13. The Place of the Library

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pp. 149-164

It is rather curious that “The Library of Babel”1 is one of Borges’s stories in which, if indeed literature is referred to, as in so many other of his writings, those references to books, stories, quotes, are less numerous and more trivial than one might have predicted. The library of a narration that lacks literary references continues to be a library? The narrator describes the place, the administration of space, aspects and details of...


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pp. 165-200


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pp. 201-206

E-ISBN-13: 9780791487631
Print-ISBN-13: 9780791455555
Print-ISBN-10: 0791455556

Page Count: 222
Publication Year: 2003

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Borges, Jorge Luis, -- 1899-1986 -- Criticism and interpretation.
  • Quotation in literature.
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