Postcolonial Borges

23rd November 2017

News, Student news, Alumni news

A new book tracing the political profile and writing of Jorge Luis Borges has been published by Wadham Emeritus Fellow Robin Fiddian.

Covering over six decades of writing by Argentina's most celebrated literary author of the twentieth century, Robin considers Borges’ essays and poetry, as well as the more familiar prose fictions.

Postcolonial Borges refines perceptions of Borges as a political, as well as a philosophical writer and is the first systematic account of geo-political and postcolonial themes in a range of writings by Borges, from the poetry and essays of the 1920s, through the prose and poetry of the 40s, 50s, and 60s, to the stories of El informe de Brodie and the poems of La cifra and other later collections.

Robin was inspired to write the book after teaching works by Borges while at Wadham.

“I taught several works by him over my 25 years at Wadham and it took 10 of those to feel confident that I had a book on him in my range. The enthusiasm of generations of students also helped enormously as I listened to their interpretations, all of which helped me refine my own. I still love reading his work – he has an infinite capacity to please and intrigue.”

In the book Robin analyses the development of a postcolonial sensibility in works such as 'Mythical Founding of Buenos Aires', 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius', 'Theme of the Traitor and the Hero', and 'Brodie's Report'. He examines Borges's treatment of national and regional identity, and of East-West relations, in several essays and poems, contained, for example, in Other Inquisitions and Seven Nights. The theoretical concepts of 'coloniality' and 'Occidentalism' shed new light on several works by Borges, who acquires a sharper political profile than previously acknowledged.

Robin pays special attention to Oriental subjects in Borges's works of the 70s and 80s, where their treatment is bound up with a critique of Occidental values and assumptions. Classified by some commentators over the years as a precursor of post-colonialism, Borges in fact emerges as a prototype of the postcolonial intellectual exemplified by James Joyce, Aimé Césaire (for example), and Edward Said.

From a regional perspective, his repertoire of geopolitical and historical concerns resonates with those of Leopoldo Zea, Enrique Dussel, Eduardo Galeano, and Joaquín Torres García , who illustrate different strands and kinds of Latin American post-colonialism(s) of the twentieth century. At the same time, manifest differences in respect of political and artistic temperament mark Borges out as a distinctive and individual postcolonial intellectual and creative writer.

Postcolonial Borges, Argument and Artistry is published by Oxford University Press

Professor Robin Fiddian

Robin Fiddian graduated with a Master's degree and a Doctorate from Edinburgh University. He is Emeritus Fellow of Wadham College Oxford, having held the post of Tutorial Fellow in Spanish there from 1990 to 2015.

Previously Robin Fiddian taught at University of Strathclyde, University College, Galway, Republic of Ireland, and University of Newcastle upon Tyne. He was Visiting Professor at University of Texas at Austin (1980), University of Virginia at Charlottesville (2002), and University of California at Los Angeles (2007). Robin Fiddian's research interests include modern peninsular Spanish literature, Spanish cinema, and modern Spanish American literature (with special reference to Mexico, Colombia, and Argentina).