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Borges and Me

An Encounter

Jay Parini



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14 September 2021
'This is a jewel of a book. Very funny, clever, moving, luminous with love of literature and landscape. Jay Parini's portrait of both Borges and Scotland is exquisite, deeply affectionate, sometimes comically irritable. He uses all a novelist's art, all his smoke and mirrors, to let the great man step shambolically from these pages to trap and beguile us, like a modern Ancient Mariner, with his brilliant, freely associative and heady metaphysics and literary table talk. And all his constant demands. My laughter (at poor Parini's long night in bed with his subject) kept my wife awake. But by the end, I was damp around the eyes; I was sad to let this little cast of characters go...

I read it in a greedy gulp.' - Ian McEwan

In this evocative work of what the author in his Afterword calls 'autofiction' or 'a kind of novelised memoir', Jay Parini takes us back fifty years, when he fled the United States for Scotland. He was in frantic flight from the Vietnam War and desperately in search of his adult life. There, through unlikely circumstances, he met famed Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges.

Borges was blind, in his seventies and frail. Parini was asked to look after him while his translator was unexpectedly called away. When Borges heard that Parini owned a 1957 Morris Minor, he declared a long-held wish to visit the Scottish Highlands, where he hoped to meet a man in Inverness who was interested in Anglo-Saxon riddles. As they travelled, the charmingly garrulous Borges took Parini on a grand tour of western literature and ideas while promising to teach him about love and poetry. As Borges's world of labyrinths, mirrors and doubles shimmered into being, their escapades took a surreal turn.

Borges and Me is a classic road novel, based on true events. It's also a magical tour of an era - like our own - in which uncertainties abound, and when - as ever - it's the young and the old who hear voices and dream dreams.
Imprint:   Canongate
Country of Publication:   United Kingdom
Edition:   Main
Dimensions:   Height: 220mm,  Width: 144mm,  Spine: 31mm
Weight:   433g
ISBN:   9781838850227
ISBN 10:   1838850228
Pages:   320
Publication Date:  
Audience:   General/trade ,  ELT Advanced
Format:   Hardback
Publisher's Status:   Active

Jay Parini is Axinn Professor of English at Middlebury College, Vermont. In addition to New and Collected Poems: 1975-2015, he has published eight novels including The Last Station and Benjamin's Crossing. He has written biographies of John Steinbeck, Robert Frost, William Faulkner and Gore Vidal. He edited The Oxford Encyclopeadia of American Literature and writes regularly for the Guardian and other publications.

Reviews for Borges and Me: An Encounter

Praise for Jay Parini: Inspired . . . a piercing, magnificent novel -- AMOS OZ A poignant and eloquent vision of the great critic's personality and fate -- HAROLD BLOOM An exciting adventure story . . . wholly emblematic of our dark age -- GORE VIDAL The friends who recall Benjamin come across as vivid individuals, but it is Benjamin himself who dominates the book, and he is wonderfully, infuriatingly alive, an intellectual hopelessly out of touch with his ailing body, curiously and tragically blind to the Europe disintegrating around him * * The Sunday Times * * Painstakingly researched and dramatically recounted . . . has something important to say about the role of the intellectual in modern Western Society * * New York Times Book Review * * Not only carefully researched but also, more importantly, thoroughly imagined * * Times Literary Supplement * * The distinguished poet, novelist and biographer rescues Benjamin from obscurity, celebrates his intellectual achievements, ponders his passions and eccentricities, and mourns his passing. As re-imagined by Parini, Benjamin's life story becomes a vivid metaphor for the apocalypse that ravaged the civilized world in the mid-20th century and cost the lives of countless millions of men, women and children, Benjamin among them * * LA Times * * A brisk, moving novel containing a parable without confined itself to a parable's two-dimensionality * * New Yorker * * In a formidable display of intellectual and imaginative sympathy, Parini novelizes the life and death of Walter Benjamin, one of the major literary and cultural critics of the twentieth century * * Publisher's Weekly * * Parini's exquisite achievement, and exquisite is exactly the word for his poet's fluid prose, is that the social criticism he channels through Walter Benjamin in this novel is as troubling today as then * * The Philadelphia Inquirer * *

  • Long-listed for Highland Book Prize (UK).
  • Long-listed for Highland Book Prize 2021 (UK)

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