What is it, some kind of saucy…?
STOP! Stop right there. Borges is probably one of the greatest writers – and certainly one of the greatest literary minds – South America and the world has produced. Seven Nights is a collection of seven essays based on lectures Borges gave in 1977. They circulated in unofficial form until Borges reviewed and approved a text for publication.
The mind of Borges – and we really are dealing with a man whose output was as pure a distillation of the jumps and bounds and associations the mind is capable of as you are ever likely to encounter – was essentially a library. And by library, I’m talking The Library of Congress, Alexandria, Unseen University…It’s also the mind of a librarian whose professional life was spent as the Director of the National Public Library in Buenos Aires, a blind man who read voraciously, unendingly and creatively.
Seven Nights, unlike the diamond-like condensation of the stories, is the poet Borges stretching out – avuncular, exploratory, playful and following his nose. He ranges across Dante, Nightmares, Buddhism, the Kabbalah, the Thousand and One Nights, back to Dante and much, much more, all within a slender volume of just over a hundred pages.
Why should I read this?
You will learn something. Learn a lot, in fact. I’ve always wanted to read Dante but Borges impelled me to finally run out, buy a random translation of the Inferno and get on with it. He presents readings of the great and ancient that are those of a reader, not a critic. Every line is quotable and inspiring.
Truly, fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently
Each man has his own unique face and with him dies thousands of events, thousands of memories, all of them too human.
I would say of the Inferno, that Hell is not a nightmare; it is a torture chamber.
Borges’ stories have sat by my bedside for many years in a variety of editions. I’ve read them over and over again and find something new each time. I’d never heard of Seven Nights and ran across it by accident in the marvellous London Review Bookshop near the British Museum. It’s the nearest I’ll ever come to the presence of the man himself.
No clever stuff. If you care about books, you need everything by Borges. And if you’re curious about Dante, the lodestone through this fabulous and fabular labyrinth of a collection, start here.
You’ll come out the other side dizzy with possibilities and with a reading list a yard long. Actually, that’s not really a downside is it?
Did I mention I love Borges?