The model of Borges fiction

by Paul Burmeister

An ars poetica can be broadly understood as a statement defining the ultimate values—what is good and desired—for the form of a thing. In her very helpful volume on the writing of Jorge Luis Borges (Verso, 2006), critic Beatriz Sarlo describes Borges' ars poetica as including the construction of perfect plots. She notes that Borges equated a well-constructed plot with a kind of moral imperative—that a plot be pleasurable, have formal elegance and possess or demonstrate an unworldly order.

I find this model to be operational or aspirational to my own imperfect efforts at making art. That my images or artifacts aim at a viewer experience that is pleasurable, intimate and embodied—this is my ars poetica?

Borges and his reader's reader

by Paul Burmeister

Re Borges' theoretical fiction: Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote

In her splendid study (1993) of Jorge Luis Borges, Argentine cultural critic Beatriz Sarlo examined and uncovered Borges' important position as a thinker on the edge of things. Among the works discussed is an early short story in the form of review, Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, which provides necessary details about a fictitious writer's (Menard) efforts to rewrite an exact copy of Cervantes' original masterwork. Ultimately, Menard does not come close to completing his copy, having finished only identical fragments—two chapters and parts of a third. Still, the reviewer finds Menard's Quixote to be "more subtle" and "infinitely richer" than Cervantes' original. In Menard's passages the reviewer recognizes Menard's style and something of his voice and credits Menard with having enriched "the halting and rudimentary art of reading." What Borges has achieved in this economically dense fiction is to call into question assumptions about identity, authorship, and originality. I recommend Pierre Menard for this achievement and also for its demonstration of Borges' dry humor and effortless use of the perfect detail.