Biography of Jorge Luis Borges

Borges was born into a middle-class family in Buenos Aires, Argentina in 1899. He was purportedly inspired by his father's substantial library. His father, according to Borges, was a failed writer. His mother was also inclined toward literature, and was responsible for Spanish translations of the works of Nathaniel Hawthorne. Jorge Luis Borges read in both Spanish and English as a boy, and was published in a Buenos Aires journal at the age of 9 for his Spanish translation of The Happy Prince, by Oscar Wilde.

In 1914, Borges moved with his parents to Switzerland so that his father could be treated for his degenerative eye condition - the same condition which would lead to Borges' own blindness later in life. While in Switzerland, Borges continued his education, learning French and German and receiving a baccalauréat from the College de Geneve in 1918.

The Borges family traveled throughout Spain and Switzerland until 1921, in order to avoid political instability in Argentina. While traveling, Borges studied Gustav Meyrink, Guillaume Apollinaire, Arthur Schopenhauer, and Filippo Tommaso Marinetti. He also had occasion during this time to meet Spanish authors Rafael Cansinos Assens and Ramon Gomez de la Serna.

In 1921, Borges returned to Buenos Aires with his family. Lacking formal education, Borges pursued literature, and had essays and surrealist poetry published. Fervor de Buenos Aires, his first collection of poetry, was published in 1923.

Over the next several years, Borges' writing moved more in the direction of existential and phenomenological discourse, expressing influence by Sartre, Heidegger, and Husserl. He became a regular contributor to Sur in 1931, and an editor for the literary supplement of Critica in 1933.

His eyesight eventually began to fail due to his degenerative condition inherited from his father. As this impeded his capacity to write, he took up public lecturing for supplemental income. His mother took down his stories by dictation when he lost his sight altogether. He was subsequently appointed Professor of English and American literature at the Argentine Association of English Culture, and the President of the Argentine Society of Writers. He also took up screenwriting in the fifties, including "Invasión," "Los Orilleros," and "El Paraíso de los Creyentes."

Starting in 1956, Borges was an instructor at the University of Buenos Aires, as well as Director of the National Library. He retained his position as university instructor for the rest of his life, but resigned his post as library director when Juan Peron returned to power in Argentina. This was due to Borges' opposition of Marxism, Peronism, and Communism.

Borges passed away in Geneva in 1986 as a result of liver cancer.


Study Guides on Works by Jorge Luis Borges