Morten Høi Jensen at The Quarterly Conversation:
A groundbreaking new volume published by New Directions, Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature, offers unprecedented insight into the writer’s lifelong relationship to the English language, as well as an affecting portrait of the Argentine master as lecturer. These twenty-five classes on English literature were recorded by a small group of students in 1966 and later edited by two leading Borges scholars, Martín Arias and Martín Hadis. They have now finally been rendered into English by the incomparable Katherine Silver. Naturally, “English literature” as defined by Borges is highly idiosyncratic and inescapably, well, Borgesian: the book opens with a study of the Norse and Anglo-Saxon inheritance and go on to deal with central figures of English literature proper—Samuel Johnson and Samuel Coleridge, William Wordsworth, and William Blake—before bottlenecking into character studies of Borges’s all-stars: Thomas Carlyle, Robert Browning, William Morris, and Robert Luis Stevenson.
Reading this book, one gathers that Borges’s initial fears of lecturing—he had to overcome both stammer and shyness—eventually gave way to genuine enthusiasm. Colloquial expressions—“Let’s dig into Beowulf”—help convey a sense of what it must have been like listening to him.