Silvia Zimmermann on Borges at BRLSI

Silvia Zimmermann del Castillo is a fully-fledged Argentine intellectual; not only a novelist and poet but also the Director of the Argentine chapter of the Club of Rome, a worldwide think tank leading discussion on development issues. Her literary credentials include three books and most of all her long and fruitful association with the acclaimed Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. She was in fact Borges’s favourite pupil and later his assistant. BRLSI and the Bath Latin American Network brought Silvia to Bath to share her direct knowledge of Borges and give a talk on Borges or the Art of Reading.
One of the key arguments of the talk was how what we read shapes what we write. Borges did not believe in literary plagiarism as he argued that each author reads, assimilates, processes and re-elaborates in his or her own way the content and concepts of previous readings. By inserting excerpts in different language, narrative and social contexts, a given author is not quoting but creating new meanings. Borges’s work was indeed influenced by his many readings and the Argentine author proudly recognised and emphasised his use of the work of prominent writers. Four examples were discussed during the talk. Borges drew from Dante Alighieri, Giovanni Papini, Thomas de Quincey and Gilbert K. Chesterton. In all of them Borges appreciated styles, nuances and ideas that he borrowed to create new artwork and forms of expression.
Answering questions from the audience Silvia stressed the modernity of Borges and his great relevance to contemporary forms of literary communication, such as internet and electronic platforms and devices. Borges’s sharp, directed and almost fragmented style seems to be especially fit for transmission through fast and concise messages without losing its depth of thinking or its capacity to prompt longer and long-lasting reflection.
Gian Luca Gardini