As an early Bloomsday treat, here is a brilliant essay by Carlos Gamerro on Borges and Joyce (what Borges took from Joyce, what he disliked, their differences and what they shared) and much more. Full text here below – if you would prefer to print and read, download it here The Aleph and the Labyrinth (42). Gamerro is in tune with Borges’ humour and his boldness. And I’m sure many readers will be relieved to know Borges didn’t believe the right way to know Ulysses was by reading it all. Enjoy!
The Aleph and the Labyrinth by Carlos Gamerro
Borges was, if we believe his claim, the first writer of the Spanish language to read Ulysses:
“I am the first traveler from the Hispanic world to set foot upon the shores of Ulysses, a lush wilderness already traversed by Valéry Larbaud, who traced its dense texture with the impeccable precision of a mapmaker. I will speak of it with the license my admiration lends me and with the murky intensity of those ancient explorers who described lands new to their nomadic amazement, and whose stories about the Amazons and the City of the Caesars combined truth and fantasy.” (TL: 12)
This was written in 1925, in an article entitled “Joyce’s Ulysses”. The previous year Borges had attempted what might be the first translation of a fragment of this wild continent: the last two pages of Molly Bloom’s monologue. If we consider Ulysses was published in 1922, this was quite precocious indeed, and the young Borges had perhaps the right to boast.
Of course, when claiming he had read Ulysses, he had to face the inevitable question all self-proclaimed Ulysses readers sooner or later have to face, even today: yes, I know, so have I, but have you read it all? Have you been able to finish it? Borges confessed he hadn’t, “and yet”, he said, “I know what it is, with that bold and legitimate certainty with which we assert our knowledge of a city, without ever having been rewarded with the intimacy of all the many streets it includes.” (TL: 12)