Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges urged young writers in a talk Tuesday night to "make sure everything is true to the dream" which inspires them.
Speaking before an overflow audience in Boylston Hall auditorium, Borges warned writers not to "dazzle or surprise" their readers. A writer should not let his words "stand between him and the reader," he cautioned: rather the words should be "invisible."
Above all, Borges said, a writer should not "be defeated by his own words, his own cleverness." His own procedure, he said, is to write out each new idea in the barest way he can, "inventing as little as possible."
Borge's advice came at the close of a short review of some of the literary classics which impressed him during his life. He included English, French and German works as well as the literature of his native Argentina, in his talk.
Borges said that a recitation of poetry by a dinner guest at his father's house showed him that language was "not only an instrument of communication, but
He set about "understanding the maga pattern of magic symbols."
ic of poetry," reading the works of French and German authors during a stay in Europe. But paradoxically he was finally "swept off my feet" by a German translation of the poetry of Walt Whitman, who, as Borges put it, "did what the others (Shakespeare, Swinburne, et al) had tried to do."
Borges decided that he wanted his future readers to know that he was not one of the writers "before and after Whitman" who had tried without succeeding. Part of his effort was to avoid "dazzling and surprising" his readers. He tried to "let my things write themselves out."
Borges used the problem of finding fresh metaphors to illustrate the difficulties of writing originally without "dazzling the reader." Unlike philosophy, where it is the new idea that counts, literature places emphasis on new forms for old ideas, he said.
A comparison of the stars with eyes is an old idea, yet it can be made appealing merely by casting it in new words, Borges noted. He cited as an example the wish of a lover to be the night, so that he could "watch over his mistress as she slept"--with the basic metaphor only implied by the words.
To attempt to invent modern metaphors, Borges said, would not be as effective as using the old ones in different forms. "Something would be lost if the image of an airplane were substituted for one of the older images--for example, that of a butterfly.
Borges said that he has "published too many books" and made mistakes that he hopes not to repeat. But he said there were some things he has not written which he would like to write.
One of his projects, he said, would be to write something that could be "read in several ways, like Henry James." Another would be to write about the Argentine revolution, avoiding the tendecy to depict it as "picturesque," a fault, he said, that many other writers have exhibited.
Above all, Borges said, he would like some time to write only a single page of something "really good."