Patrick Kurp in The Quarterly Conversation:
Borges—as with Aristotle, one name will do—migrated to North American shores early in the 1960s and was identified by critics as a doubly exotic species—a “Latin American” and a spinner of such metaphysical tales as “Funes the Memorious,” “The Library of Babel” and “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.” The field-guide classification has largely stuck. With Beckett and Nabokov, he has been taxonomized as a senior precursor to the trendy “meta-fiction” practiced half a century ago by such juniors as John Barth and Donald Barthelme. Without benefit of his Argentine context, critics have misunderstood this deeply tradition-minded and allusive writer, and failed to notice we had a major poet on our hands, an elegant Spanish-language alternative to the odious Pablo Neruda.
Born in 1899, Borges began writing poems as a boy and published his first volume of verse, Fervor de Buenos Aires, in 1923, a decade before he started writing his best-known ficciones. Throughout his life (he died in 1986) Borges deemed himself principally a poet, secondarily a writer of fiction. In his prologue to a revised edition of Fervor (1969), Borges said he had “moderated its baroque excesses” and “eliminated sentimentality and haziness.” He declined to renounce his younger self, however, and said: “At the time, I was seeking out late afternoons, drab outskirts, and unhappiness; now I seek mornings, the center of town, peace.”