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Quotations
This page houses a collection of Borgesian quotes -- the majority have been pulled from his work, but I have included a section on his personal statements as well as what others have said in reference to him. In a few cases for the lengthier quotations, I have deleted a few sentences to make for a tidier paragraph. Sorry if this offends anyone.
Feel free to mail me additional quotations!

From his Nonfictional Writings

The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a resume, a commentary . . . More reasonable, more inept, more indolent, I have preferred to write notes upon imaginary books.
-- 10 November 1941

The original is unfaithful to the translation.
-- On Henley's translattion of Beckford's Vathek, 1943

And yet, and yet . . . Denying temporal succession, denying the self, denying the astronomical universe, are apparent desperations and secret consolations. Our destiny is not frightful by being unreal; it is frightful because it is irreversible and iron-clad. Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges.
-- Essay: "A New Refutation of Time," 1946

Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon.
-- Essay: "The Wall and the Books"

It may be that universal history is the history of the different intonations given a handful of metaphors.
-- Essay: "The Fearful Sphere of Pascal"

Every novel is an ideal plane inserted into the realm of reality.
-- Essay: "Partial Magic in the Quixote,"

These ambiguities, redundances, and deficiences recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.
-- Essay: "The Analytical Language of John Wilkins"

In the critic's vocabulary, the word "precursor" is indispensable, but it should be cleansed of all connotations of polemic or rivalry. The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.
-- Essay: "Kafka and his Precursors"

Gibbon observes that in the Arabian book par excellence, in the Koran, there are no camels; I believe if there were any doubt as to the authenticity of the Koran, this absence of camels would be sufficient to prove it is an Arabian work.
-- Essay: "The Argentine Writer and Tradition"

There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite.
-- Essay: "The Avatars of the Tortoise"

To refute him is to become contaminated with unreality.
-- Essay: "The Avatars of the Tortoise"

It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordinations, one of them -- at least in an infinitesimal way -- does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others.
-- Essay: "The Avatars of the Tortoise"

A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.
-- Essay: "A Note on (toward) Bernard Shaw"

A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.
-- Afterword to El hacedor, 1960

This was the first time Remington rifles were used in the Argentine, and it tickles my fancy to think that the firm that shaves me every morning bears the same name as the one that killed my grandfather.
-- Autobiographical essay 1970

Of course, like all young men, I tried to be as unhappy as I could -- a kind of Hamlet and Raskolnikov rolled into one.
-- Autobiographical essay 1970

I found America the friendliest, most forgiving, and most generous nation I had ever visited. We South Americans tend to think of things in terms of convenience, whereas people in the United States approach things ethically. This -- amateur Protestant that I am -- I admired above all. It even helped me overlook skyscrapers, paper bags, television, plastics, and the unholy jungle of gadgets.
-- Autobiographical essay 1970

Any time something is written against me, I not only share the sentiment but feel I could do the job far better myself. Perhaps I should advise would-be enemies to send me their grievances beforehand, with full assurance that they will receive my every aid and support. I have even secretly longed to write, under a pen name, a merciless tirade against myself.
-- Autobiographical essay 1970

Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.
-- Lecture entitled "The Divine Comedy," 1977

Films are even stranger [than theater], for what we are seeing are not disguised people but photographs of disguised people, and yet we believe them while the film is being shown.
-- Lecture entitled "The Divine Comedy," 1977

Byron, more important for his image than his work. . . .
-- Lecture entitled "The Thousand and One Nights," 1977

The fact is that poetry is not the books in the library . . . Poetry is the encounter of the reader with the book, the discovery of the book.
-- Lecture entitled "Poetry," 1977

The aesthetic event is something as evident, as immediate, as indefinable as love, the taste of fruit, of water. We feel poetry as we feel the closeness of a woman, or as we feel a mountain or a bay. If we feel it immediately, why dilute it with other words, which no doubt will be weaker than our feelings?
-- Lecture entitled "Poetry," 1977

There are people who barely feel poetry, and they are generally dedicated to teaching it.
-- Lecture entitled "Poetry," 1977

A writer -- and, I believe, generally all persons -- must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
--From "Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems: Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981-1983."

The Falklands thing was a fight between two bald men over a comb.
--14 February 1983, Time Magazine

From his Fictional Works

Then Bioy-Casares recalled that one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had stated that mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man.
-- "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"

In life, he suffered from a sense of unreality, as do many Englishmen.
-- "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"

One of the schools in Tlön has reached the point of denying time. It reasons that the present is undefined, that the future has no other reality than as present hope, that past is no more than present memory . . . Another maintains that the universe is comparable to those code systems in which not all the symbols have meaning, and in which only that which happens every three hundredth night is true.
-- "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"

Nowadays, one of the churches of Tlön maintains platonically that such and such a pain, such and such a greenish-yellow colour, such and such a temperature, such and such a sound, etc., make up the only reality there is. All men, in the climactic instant of coitus, are the same man. All men who repeat one line of Shakespeare are William Shakespeare.
-- "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"

The history of the universe...is the handwriting produced by a minor god in order to communicate with a Demon.
-- "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"

This felicitous supposition declared that there is only one Individual, and that this indivisible Individual is every one of the separate beings in the universe, and that these beings are the instruments and masks of divinity itself.
-- "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius"

Mir Bahadur Ali is, as we have seen, incapable of evading the most vulgar of art's temptations: that of being a genius.
-- "The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim"

There is no intellectual exercise which is not ultimately useless.
-- "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote"

Menard (perhaps without wishing to) has enriched, by means of a new technique, the hesitant and rudimentary art of reading: the technique is one of deliberate anachronism and erroneous attributions. This technique, with its infinite applications, urges us to run through the Odyssey as if it were written after the Aeneid, and to read Le jardin du Centaure by Madame Henri Bachelier as if it were by Madame Henri Bachelier. This technique would fill the dullest books with adventure. Would not the attributing of The Imitation of Christ to Louis Ferdinand Celine or James Joyce be a sufficient renovation of its tenous spiritual counsels?
-- "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote"

I cannot think it unlikely that there is such a total book on some shelf in the universe. I pray to the unknown gods that some man -- even a single man, tens of centuries ago -- has perused and read this book. If the honor and wisdom and joy of such a reading are not to be my own, then let them be for others. Let heaven exist, though my own place may be in hell. Let me be tortured and battered and annihilated, but let there be one instant, one creature, wherein thy enormous Library may find its justification.
-- "The Library of Babel"

I foresee that man will resign himself each day to new abominations, and soon that only bandits and soldiers will be left.
-- "The Garden of Forking Paths"

Whosoever would undertake some atrocious enterprise should act as if it were already accomplished, should impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past.
-- "The Garden of Forking Paths"

It seemed incredible that this day, a day without warnings or omens, might be that of my implacable death.
-- "The Garden of Forking Paths"

This web of time -- the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore eachother through the centuries -- embrace every posibility.
-- "The Garden of Forking Paths"

What one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men. For that reason a disobedience committed in a garden contaminates the human race; for that reason it is not unjust that the crucifixion of a single Jew suffices to save it.
-- "The Form of the Sword"

That history should have imitated history was already sufficiently marvellous; that history should imitate literature is inconceivable....
-- "Theme of the Traitor and Hero"

"It's possible, but not interesting," Lönnrot answered. "You will reply that reality hasn't the slightest need to be of interest. And I'll answer you that reality may avoid the obligation to be interesting, but that hypothesis may not . . ."
-- "Death and the Compass"

"Maybe this crime belongs to the history of Jewish superstitions," murmmured Lönnrot.
"Like Christianity," the editor put in.
-- "Death and the Compass"

The execution was set for the 29th of March, at nine in the morning. This delay was due to a desire on the part of the authorities to act slowly and impersonally, in the manner of planets or vegetables.
-- "The Secret Miracle"

Like every writer, he measured the virtues of other writers by their performance, and asked that they measure him by what he conjectured or planned.
-- "The Secret Miracle"

In adultery, there is usually tenderness and self-sacrifice; in murder, courage; in profanation and blasphemy, a certain satanic splendour. Judas elected those offences unvisited by any virtues: abuse of confidence and informing.
-- "Three Versions of Judas"

On the floor, and hanging on to the bar, squatted an old man, immobile as an object. His years had reduced and polished him as water does a stone or the generations of men do a sentence.
-- "The South"

There are no moral or intellectual merits. Homer composed the Odyssey; if we postulate an infinite period of time, with infinite circumstances and changes, the impossible thing is not to compose the Odyssey, at least once.
-- "The Immortal"

No one is anyone, one single immortal man is all men. Like Cornelius Agrippa, I am god, I am hero, I am philosopher, I am demon and I am world, which is a tedious way of saying that I do not exist.
-- "The Immortal"

The heresies we should fear are those which can be confused with orthodoxy.
-- "The Theologians"

Like all those possessing a library, Aurelian was aware that he was guilty of not knowing his in its entirety.
-- "The Theologians"

Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen? Look at the moon. Do you want to hear what ears have never heard? Listen to the bird's cry. Do you want to touch what hands have never touched? Touch the earth. Verily I say that God is about to create the world.
-- "The Theologians"

To die for a religion is easier than to live it absolutely.
-- "Deutsches Requiem"

Besides, time, which despoils castles, enriches verses . . . Time broadens the scope of verses and I know of some which, like music, are everything for all men.
-- "Averroës' Search"

Villari took no notice of them because the idea of a coincidence between art and reality was alien to him. Unlike people who read novels, he never saw himself as a character in a work of art.
-- "The Waiting"

Years of solitude had taught him that, in one's memory, all days tend to be the same, but that there is not a day, not even in jail or in the hospital, which does not bring surprises, which is not a translucent network of minimal surprises.
-- "The Waiting"

My advanced age has taught me the resignation of being Borges.
-- "El informe de Brodie"

Poetry

For myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.
-- "Parable of Cervantes and Don Quixote" from El Hacedor

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
-- "Poema de los Dones," from El Hacedor

Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.
-- "The Threatened One," from The Unending Rose

Unknown Sources

Not granting me the Nobel Prize has become a scandinavian tradition; since i was born -August 24, 1899- they have not been granting it to me.
-- Unknown source

I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities that I have visited, all my ancestors . . . Perhaps I would have liked to be my father, who wrote and had the decency of not publishing. Nothing, nothing, my friend; what I have told you: I am not sure of anything, I know nothing . . . Can you imagine that I not even know the date of my death?
-- Unknown source


–Allen B. Ruch
21 January 2004


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