Jay Parini, an esteemed literary biographer and executed novelist, calls his wonderful new book, Borges and Me, “a kind of novelistic memoir”—an apt description of a story that recounts decades-vintage reminiscences with their “contours more advantageous and distorted inside the usual way by way of time and retelling.”
A hapless street trip with eccentric, iconic Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges anchors Jay Parini’s novelistic coming-of-age memoir.
At the middle of the memoir is a sequence of comic episodes from a once-in-a-lifetime experience. In 1971, while he become a graduate scholar in Scotland, 23-year-antique Parini become conscripted to appearance after the brilliant Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, then in his 70s and blind. What transpired become a misbegotten street journey to the Highlands, with younger Parini guiding the growing older genius as they drove to Inverness on a doubtful mission.
The adventure changed into rife with mishaps. During a restless night spent in a widow’s dowdy bed-and-breakfast, Parini had to guide the incontinent Borges on numerous trips through the antique woman’s bedroom to apply her shared toilet; a capsized boat cast the pair into Loch Ness; a scary tumble landed Borges in the hospital. As Parini chronicles their misadventures with the hilarity of hindsight, he palpably re-creates his youthful anxiety and Borges’ personal once in a while infuriating sanguinity.
Parini had simplest a vague perception of who Borges become and certainly no familiarity together with his fantastical writings while he turned into coerced into looking after the septuagenarian. The young American had come to St. Andrews ordinarily to break out the draft all through the Vietnam War; for the duration of his stay, ominous letters from the draft board, forwarded from home, piled up unopened in his desk drawer, unnoticed however making their presence felt like Edgar Allan Poe’s tell-tale heart.
Indeed, Borges and Me, for all its fascinating anecdotes of the week spent with the iconic author, is at its center Parini’s own coming-of-age memoir, in addition to an acute reminiscence of a confusing time in America. The younger model of Parini wears his insecurities on his sleeve, awkwardly navigating the arena of women (with continual hopes of losing his virginity) even as scrambling for a feasible doctoral topic within the face of indifference from his instructional adviser. His plans to study the work of the lesser-regarded after which still-living Scottish poet George Mackay Brown culminate in a face-to-face meeting with Brown, sadly sans Borges.
Despite his frequent exasperation with the enigmatic Latin American author, Parini in the long run forms a special bond with Borges. (Many of the locals they come upon assume they're father and son.) Borges and Me, its name an homage to the Argentine’s personal exploration of identity, Borges and I, offers a loving portrait of this singular writer, adding nuance to the legacy of the legendary fabulist’s existence and work.