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Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was an Argentinian author of various genres. He wrote essays, poems, biographies, and detective fiction. He is most widely known for his short fiction, including his short story collections Ficciones, or Fictions in 1944, and The Aleph, and Other Stories, published in 1970. Born in Buenos Aires, he lived in Switzerland, Majorca, and Spain from 1914 until 1921, when he returned to Argentina. He learned English before he learned Spanish, and was said to have been reading Shakespeare by age 12. In his later years, he was dexterous enough with other languages that he was able to help translators of his work in their process.
After returning to Buenos Aires in the 1920s, Borges wrote poems based in the Ultraist art movement in Europe before becoming interested in existentialism in the 1930s. At that time his work began to move away from realistic fiction into more experimental work. One Argentine critic called it “irreality.” It was an attempt to incorporate more imaginative and philosophical themes and ideas into his work. He worked at a Buenos Aires newspaper at this time, and was able to publish the pieces that became A Universal History of Infamy in 1935. In 1938, he took a job as a librarian that allowed him time to read, write, and translate. In 1941, Borges published “The Library of Babel” in his collection The Garden of Forking Paths, an example of the kind of work that he would become famous for later in life.
By the 1950s, Borges was a public lecturer, even as his eyesight was failing. Due to this deterioration, he was forced to rely on others to write stories that he dictated. In 1961, he was awarded the Prix Formentor, an international literary prize for unpublished work. Samuel Beckett received the award at the same time. In 1962, English translations of Ficciones and Labyrinths were published, introducing his work to a wider international audience. From then on, he traveled and lectured extensively all over the world until his death in 1986. He won many writing awards and was critically lauded for his work that was deeply invested in the idea of perception. Like other important writers whose work falls outside defined movements and whose style is inimitable, his work has necessitated a new adjective: “Borgesian.”