Resolved: to narrate events as if I did not entirely understand them

In the prologue to his fifth collection of poems, Elogio de la sombra (In Praise of Darkness, 1969), Borges responds to a friend’s suggestion that he explain his aesthetic by explaining that he has no aesthetic. There are a few things, he says, he has learned–mostly things he avoids. They are worth considering if you write. And here’s one of the positive things that I found the most striking: “to narrate events as if I did not entirely understand them (I got this from Kipling and the Icelandic sagas).”

You have to ask yourself what effect that would have, and you’ll begin to see how valuable it is. It is a tremendous tip, it seems to me, and I have to fiddle with it, but it does seem to me good both for fiction and also for non. At the time he wrote that he was seventy years old, had by accident–he states–lived a life of letters. He knew what he was talking about. I read elsewhere it helps to account for the sense of mystery that lingers about his writing, and I am inclined to believe it.

____________________
The book is here; second paragraph.

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3 thoughts on “Resolved: to narrate events as if I did not entirely understand them

  1. Reminds me of Michael Robbins’ criticism of Robert Haas, whom he said spoke with the sort of breathlessly wise diction of one having just jogged back down the slope of Parnassus. Haas came across, it seems to me, as understanding too completely what he was relating.

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