Borges on Writing

I am always interested to hear the process by which the writers I respect go about their writing.  This is what Jorge Luis Borges has to say in the foreword to his 1969 collection, In Praise of Darkness:

“I do not have an aesthetics.  Time has taught me a few tricks – avoiding synonyms, the drawback to which is that they suggest imaginary differences; avoiding Hispanicisms, Argentinisms, archaisms, and neologisms; using everyday words rather than shocking ones; inserting circumstantial details, which are now demanded by my readers, into my stories; feigning a slight uncertainty, since even though reality is precise, memory is not; narrating events (this I learned from Kipling and Icelandic sagas) as though I did not fully understand them; remembering that tradition, conventions, the rules, are not an obligation, and that time will certainly repeal them – but such tricks (or habits) are most certainly not an aesthetics.  Anyway, I do not believe in those formulations that people call an aesthetics.  As a general rule, they are no more than useless abstractions; they vary from author to author and even from text to text, and can never be more than occasional stimuli or tools.”

1 comment
  1. John Jantunen said:

    “…narrating events…as though I did not fully understand them”

    This for me is precicely the key to good writing. It’s the only way to surprise yourself as a writer. And without surprising yourself, there is no one one can do the same thing for the reader without resorting to cheap gimmickry.

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