The most urgent criterion we can apply to any writer is whether we will miss him once he’s gone. For it is possible to admire a writer’s work in a cool and critical way without ever feeling that we ourselves have been somehow diminished by his death, without ever feeling an almost selfish yearning to possess what he might have gone on to produce. The recent death of Jorge Luis Borges provokes this feeling; and there are not many other contemporary writers about whom this can be said. Even though the Fates were kind to Borges, granting him eighty-six years out of eternity, still it would have seemed a more fitting destiny had he survived to the Biblical longevity of his mother, who died not long ago at the age of ninety-nine, or had he equalled the heroine of one of his best stories, “La señora mayor,” who passed away at one hundred. Although death was a recurring theme in his writings, and...


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