Deep inside the stacks at the University of Texas’s Harry Ransom Humanities Research Center lies a single box containing unpublished letters and handwritten essays by the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. Among the Ransom Center’s 36 million manuscripts and one million books are a Gutenberg Bible, rare first-editions, and holy relics of literature like James Joyce’s hand-corrected proofs of Ulysses. In the past decade alone, the Center has acquired the archives of Don DeLillo, Norman Mailer, Tim O’Brien, David Mamet, and David Foster Wallace. It’s a constant deluge; and every so often a stray file or two gets submerged—sometimes even for decades. The Borges papers were purchased in 1999; twelve years later, they remain uncatalogued. It’s appropriate that Borges has been neglected. For most of his life, the canonical writer of playfully ironic satires (“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”), cosmic mind-benders (“The Aleph”), and sly thought-experiments (“On Rigor in Science”) found little recognition outside Argentine intellectual circles; much of his work had been published first in avant-garde magazines and almost none of it had been translated into English. Observing this state of affairs, the critic George Steiner noted that even basic details about Borges were “close-guarded, parsimoniously dispensed, often nearly impossible to come by, as were [his] poems, stories, essays—themselves scattered, out-of-print, pseudonymous.”
more from Eric Benson at Guernica here.