Jorge Luis Borges on fantasy writing

Interviewer: There is an element of fantasy in your work, then–which leads me to ask you about the fantastic. You use the word a great deal in your writing, and I remember that you call Green Mansions, for example, a fantastic novel.

Borges: Well, it is.

Interviewer: How would you define fantastic, then?

Borges: I wonder if you can define it. I think it’s rather an intention in a writer. I remember a very deep remark of Joseph Conrad–he is one of my favorite authors–I think it is in the foreword to something like The Dark Line, but it’s not that. . .

Interviewer: The Shadow Line?

Borges: The Shadow Line. In that foreword he said that some people have thought that the story was a fantastic story because of the captain’s ghost stopping the ship. He wrote–and that struck me because I write fantastic stories myself–that to deliberately write a fantastic story was not to feel that the whole universe is fantastic and mysterious; nor that it meant a lack of sensibility for a person to sit down and write something deliberately fantastic. Conrad thought that when one wrote, even in a realistic way, about the world, one was writing a fantastic story because the world itself is fantastic and unfathomable and mysterious.

Interviewer: You share that belief?

Borges: Yes. I found that he was right. I talked to Bioy Casares, who also writes fantastic stories–very, very fine stories–and he said, I think Conrad is right; really, nobody knows whether the world is realistic or fantastic, that is to say, whether the world is a natural process or whether it is a kind of dream, a dream that we may or may not share with others.

3 thoughts on “Jorge Luis Borges on fantasy writing

  1. Stumbled on a used copy of “Doctor Brodie’s Report” by Borges earlier this year at a library book sale, an old mass paperback from 1973. While I have never been a big Borges fan, that book converted me.

    • I became a fan after the MFA program in conjunction with the Spanish Dept brought him to BG for a reading and then all the MFA candidates got an hour or two alone with him in more intimate surroundings. His self-effacing humor touched me and years later, while with a group of representatives from several NYS community colleges visiting Argentina, I got to have lunch a few times in Cafe Norte which is where he ate every day during the last years of his life and heard stories from the waiters who served him of his generosity and kindness. So when I read him, I see him so clearly in my mind that his stories take on his voice which add to their appeal for me.

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