Borges, Desire, and Sex


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The Argentine Jorge Luis Borges, one of the most sophisticated writers of the twentieth century, suffered from sexual impotence. This emotionally overwhelming condition shaped his literary experience in ways that have not been understood. Until now Borges has largely been considered an asexual author who could not read, think, or write about desire and sex, but in this book historian Ariel de la Fuente shows that sexuality was a major preoccupation for him, both as a reader and as an author. De la Fuente has conducted an extensive literary investigation in Borges’s figurative erotic library and presents for the first time a study of the relationship between Borges’s sexual biography, his erotic readings, and the writing of desire and sex in his work. The author explores relevant literary questions while employing a historical method and the book is truly an interdisciplinary study at the intersection of history with Latin American, European, and Eastern literatures, poetry, philosophy, and sexuality. Argued with clarity, Borges, Desire, and Sex offers an unexpected perspective on the literature and figure of a world-wide influential author.

'It is remarkable that there remains under-explored an area of Borges scholarship, yet the central questions posed here are important, original, and compelling.'
William Rowlandson, University of Kent

'This is a work of exceptional originality. The historical rather than literary perspective has brought to the fore entirely new readings, both regarding the interplay between Borges’s life and his work, and between his reading and creative output. At the moment it stands almost alone in its approach and methodology. This work will become a mandatory tool in the development of future research.'
Evelyn Fishburn, University College London, author of A Dictionary of Borges

'The author offers a detailed argument…assembling strong evidence for his case, while opening new avenues of investigation of Borges’s life and works…For [its] novel investigations of key [Borges’s] works, for highlighting the erotic focus of some of Borges’s readings, for offering a timely reminder of the importance of Stoic philosophy in the Argentine writer’s thinking, as well as for its exposition of the sexual dimensions of Borges’s poetry on the arrabal, among other merits, the book is very valuable. In the end, it serves to bring to light the important role that sex and desire played in [Borges’s] life and work.'
Bill Richardson (National University of Ireland), Variaciones Borges

'De la Fuente makes a compelling argument not merely for the importance of sexuality in Borges’s work, but for its extent. The author marshals his evidence and presents it clearly… Borges, Desire, and Sex makes a major contribution to our better, more complete understanding of the man and his work. I recommend it highly.'
Earl Fitz (Vanderbilt University), Estudios Interdisciplinarios de América Latina y El Caribe

Author Information

Ariel de la Fuente is an Associate Professor in the Department of History at Purdue University.

Table of Contents

Table of Contents
Section TitlePagePrice
1. On Borges’s Sexuality29
2. Biography in Literature and the Reading of Desire and Sex in Borges45
3. Borges’s Erotic Library: The Poetry Shelf58
4. Sir Richard Burton’s Orientalist Erotica: The Thousand Nights and a Night and The Perfume94
5. Schopenhauer and Montaigne, Philosophy and Sex119
6. Desire and Sex in Buenos Aires: Borges's Poetry on the Arrabal139
7. Stoicism and Borges’s Writing of Women155
8. "Emma Zunz": Sex, Virtue, and Punishment183
9. “La intrusa”: Incest and Gay Readings197
Works Cited219