Dancing on the Sand

29 June 2008

I have been reading Collected Fictions, an anthology of the prose fiction of Jorge Luis Borges.

The translator, Andrew Hurley, has increasingly struck me as a pirouetting fool, and this after-noon I encountered what may be the definitive illustration of this foolishness.

The first paragraph of Night of the Gifts places an event of Borges's life near the intersection of Calle Florida and Piedad. Hurley presents us with the datum that Piedad's name was changed to Bartolomé Mitre in 1906, and Hurley proposes to date the story accordingly, taking a swipe at Borges for pretending that he might have participated meaningfully in a discussion of Platonic ideals at or before the age of seven.

Well, the second paragraph describes a character as elderly, and in the third paragraph that character says that in the summer of 1874 he was about to turn 13. At the time that Piedad's name was changed, that character would have been about 45. It's rather unlikely that Borges would call such man elderly (especially as Borges himself would probably have been in his seventies when he wrote the story).

In other works, Borges or his characters often use older names for places. Here, forgetful, defiant, or indifferent, he uses the older name for a street, in spite of the declarations of city officials. Woo hoo.

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