Jorge Luis Borge’s Self Portrait, Drawn After Becoming Blind

borges self portrait

Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentine writer who heavily utilized philosophical themes in his writing.

Borges went blind in 1955, in his mid 50’s. According to Open Culture, Borges would never learn to read braille but continued to write and even draw. This drawing was done in the basement of NYC’s famous Strand Bookstore. “According to the Times, he did this ‘using one finger to guide the pen he was holding with his other hand.’ After making the sketch, Borges entered the main part of the bookstore and started ‘listening to the room, the stacks, the books,’ and made the remarkable observation “You have as many books as we have in our national library.'”

From a 1971 interview in the New York Times:

“I knew I would go blind, because my father, my paternal grandmother, my great-grandfather, they had all gone blind,” Borges says.” Since the year we got rid of the unspeakable scoundrel Perón, I have been unable to read or write. Consequently, if somebody tells me ‘Well, I’ll have to go and you’ll be by yourself,’ then I can just sit down and think or perhaps not think at all but let myself go on living.”

He has written about the irony of going blind and simultaneously becoming director of the National Library. “I take good care that my books shouldn’t quarrel with each other,” he says. I don’t suppose you should have your Bible and your Voltaire side by side. They wouldn’t be comfortable, no? Voltaire might be poking fun at the Bible, or the Bible might be ignoring him, no?”

“When I lost my sight I was rather worried over it, and in my dreams I was always reading. Then somehow I never could read because a word became twice or thrice as long as it was, or rather instead of one line there would be other lines springing like branches out of it. Now I no longer dream of reading, because I know that’s beyond me.

“Sometimes I see a closed book and then I say, ‘I could read this particular book,’ but at the same time even inside my dream I know I can’t, so I take good care not to open that particular book.”

[H/T Open Culture]