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the Complete Review
the complete review - memoir

With Borges on an
Ordinary Evening
in Buenos Aires

Willis Barnstone

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To purchase With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires

Title: With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires
Author: Willis Barnstone
Genre: Memoir
Written: 1993
Length: 185 pages
Availability: With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires - US
With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires - UK
With Borges on an Ordinary Evening in Buenos Aires - Canada

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Our Assessment:

B+ : quite well done personal view of Borges

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
TLS . 30/4/1993 .
World Lit. Today . Fall/1993 Naomi Lindstrom

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The complete review's Review:

       Willis Barnstone first met Jorge Luis Borges in 1968, and remained close to him until Borges' death in 1986. These memoirs are Barnstone's recollections of their meetings and times together, a personal account that makes for a nice and occasionally informative picture of Borges the man.
       Barnstone -- himself a poet, translator, and Spanish speaker -- takes special interest in Borges' poetry, and much of the book usefully ties Borges' work and life together. The chapters recount various episodes as Borges and Barnstone came together, from their first meeting in New York, to Argentina, various stops on the lecture circuit, and even China, from where Barnstone called Borges and enticed him to plan a visit (one Borges could not, finally, make).
       These are fairly casual vignettes (with one harsh one about the horrors being perpetrated in Argentina in the early 1970s), but Barnstone manages to paint a full picture of Borges during those years, presenting various facets of him, showing him in different settings, as well as providing considerable biographical background. Barnstone usefully addresses Borges complex relationships with his translators and collaborators, such as Anthony Kerrigan and Norman di Giovanni, including a telling episode regarding a rumour about di Giovanni's demise. Adolfo Bioy Casares remains largely in the background, but María Kodama (Borges' longtime companion and last wife) is also presented fairly well.
       Barnstone writes well and fluidly, and the book is an enjoyable and entertaining read. The chapter titles (and the book title) strike us as a tad too elaborate, though in comparison to some of Barnstone's sonnet titles (catchy little numbers like: "Resignation to the Luck of Waking Out of the Night to Scrawl a First Poem and Having a Czech Friend to Read It") he shows great restraint here.
       Borges gave Barnstone the great blurb for his sonnet collection, The Secret Reader:

Four of the best things in America are Walt Whitman's Leaves, Herman Melville's whale, the sonnets of Barnstone's Secret Reader, and my daily corn flakes -- that rough poetry of morning.
       Barnstone, in turn, included several sonnets about Borges in that collection, summing up the man more completely than he manages in this book, describing Borges (in the sonnet Borges) as an "immaculate liar" and concluding:
                                          You are a fraud
and friend, a haunting brain and lonely lord.
       There are no great revelations in this volume, but it is an insightful and often touching account of a friendship, and gives a good picture of the older Borges. Recommended.

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Reviews: Jorge Luis Borges: Willis Barnstone: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       American poet and translator Willis Barnstone was born in 1927. He is a Professor at Indiana University, Bloomington.

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