February 18, 2004

Borges and Blindness

Category: Literature,Uncategorized :: Permalink

Later on in his “Autobiographical Essay,” Borges talks about going blind:

My blindness had been coming on gradually since childhood. It was a slow, summer twilight. There was nothing particularly pathetic or dramatic about it. Beginning in 1927, I had undergone eight eye operations, but since the late 1950’s, when I wrote my “Poem of the Gifts,” for reading and writing purposes I have been blind.

Blindness ran in my family; a description of the operation performed on the eyes of my great-grandfather, Edward Young Haslam, appeared in the pages of the London medical journal, the Lancet. Blindness also seems to run among the directors of the National Library. Two of my eminent forerunners, Jose Marmol and Paul Groussac, suffered the same fate.

In my poem, I speak of God’s splendid irony in granting me at one time 800,000 books and darkness. One salient consequence of my blindness was my gradual abandonment of free verse in favor of classical metrics. In fact, blindness made me take up the writing of poetry again. Since rough drafts were denied me, I had to fall back on memory. It is obviously easier to remember verse than prose, and to remember regular verse forms rather than free ones. Regular verse is, so to speak, portable. One can walk down the street or be riding the subway while composing and polishing a sonnet, for rhyme and meter have mnemonic virtues (p. 250).

Posted by John Barach @ 5:33 pm | Discuss (0)

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