6 Success Strategies of Jorge Luis Borges
August 24th, 2017
Jorge Luis Borges was born 118 years ago today, on August 24, 1899. The Borges Boom shows no signs of decline: his literary influence remains strong, he is quoted and referenced in a variety of contexts, and books by and about him continue to be published. Last year marked the 30th anniversary of the Argentine author’s death. On December 7, 2016, the Library of Congress presented a fascinating conversation, now available on video, with Borges’ widow María Kodama and University of Maryland professor and longtime Borges scholar Saúl Sosnowski. (I wrote about my connection to Saúl, author of Borges y La Cábala: En búsqueda del verbo, in the 2010 post 111 Years of Jorge Luis Borges.)
In the spirit of my 2013 post 7 Self-Management Secrets of Jorge Luis Borges, consider these strategies, which I contend were crucial to Borges’ success (during his life and beyond); even if he may not have considered them to be strategies!
1. Teaching and learning. Borges was famous for his erudition, imagination, intellectual curiosity and scholarship. Teaching was a natural outlet, as demonstrated in the 2013 book Professor Borges: A Course on English Literature, based on lectures he delivered in a 1966 course at the University of Buenos Aires. Teaching, whether full-time, part-time, adjunct or volunteering; in-person or online, is a rewarding path open to increasing numbers of knowledge workers.
2. Versatility. Besides teaching, Borges wrote fiction, non-fiction and poetry (though he did not write novels). We are increasingly called on to become versatile in our creative output, including audio/video capabilities, and working within continually evolving online formats.
3. Adaptability and Resilience. In a particularly cruel twist for this lover of books, Borges went blind for the last thirty or so years of his life. One of his strategies to adapt to these circumstances was to find people to read to him. Ideally, we won’t have to face similar problems, but developing an ongoing sense of becoming adaptable and resilient will make a big difference if we do.
4. Libraries. Although he served as Director of Argentina’s National Library, Borges also wrote quite a bit about the importance of libraries, and the use of them was crucial to his work. Despite the wealth of resources available in libraries of all types, most people do not utilize their power to full advantage.
5. Super-Portfolio. Borges could point to a vast body of work that now gets collected and collated in print and on various websites. Whether or not we are as prolific, we can do the same in our own field.
6. Legacy. Besides his books and articles, we can draw on and study Borges’ prodigious output via outlets such as the Borges Center at the University of Pittsburgh. No one is immortal, but creating work that lives on beyond one’s death assures that future generations will benefit from what we create.
In the June 14, 2016 file “Why Jorge Luis Borges matters 30 years after his death,” the “BBC News asked fellow Argentine authors to pick their favourite Borges quote and explain why we should keep reading Borges today.” In her response, the novelist and screenwriter Claudia Piñeiro sums up a large part of Borges’ appeal: “His prose is unequalled, as unequalled as the worlds that he created through his prose.”