Jorge Luis Borges

By: Matthew Battles
August 24, 2009


JORGE LUIS BORGES (1899–1986). The gaucho stood over the dead man, smeared the blade of his facón across his poncho, and slid it away somewhere within the folds of cloth. The smell of blood already mingled with that of the liquor and the walls of sod. And then a cackling laugh broke the stillness. From the shadows a white finger stabbed out, fixing the gaucho in his place. “You will be the subject of great songs,” the old woman said. “Before the century is out a poet will be born. He will sing of time, space, the sea, the night. He will speak many tongues, learn words found in numberless books. But a blow as sharp as one you now delivered will blind him. In one stroke God will grant him the gift of books and the night. And he shall withdraw like the wind across the grasslands, run like water back through the labyrinth of rocks; his song will roar through these unplumbed holes. He shall sing your song, terrible gaucho — but it shall be a song lost among the clocks and printed leaves, lost amid the roar of the ocean, lost amid the garden’s forked paths and the cries of wild beasts, lost amid the rhyming and the tintinnabulation. Your violence and your unnameable hunger shall haunt his songs, and yet you shall be lost in their shadows, amid the harmonies of your own hymn.” At this the gaucho grinned, stepped over the body of one who was no longer his enemy, and walked out into the sun.


On his or her birthday, HiLobrow irregularly pays tribute to one of our high-, low-, no-, or hilobrow heroes. Also born this date: | James Tiptree Jr | Dave Chappelle | Max Beerbohm | Howard Zinn |

READ MORE about members of the Hardboiled Generation (1894-1903).


HiLo Heroes, Literature