For Leopoldo Lugones

by Jorge Luis Borges

The noise of the square is behind me. I enter the Library: I feel the pull of the books like a physical force, and the quiet of this orderly place where time has been magically embalmed and preserved. To either side, the sudden faces of readers lost in lucid dreams are outlined by the light of the “studious lamps” (to use Milton’s figure of speech). I recall that I have remembered this trope before, in this place, along with that other epithet that defines the atmosphere: the “dry camel” of your Lunaraio sentimental and a hexameter from the Aeneid that uses the same figure but goes so far beyond it.

Ibant obscuri sola sub nocte per umbras

These thoughts bring me to your office door. I go in; we exchange a few conventional but cordial words, and I give you a copy of this book. I think I am right, Lugones, in believing that you did not dislike me, and that you would have been amused to find some of my work to your liking. Nothing like that ever happened, but this time you turn the pages and read a line here or there approvingly, because you have recognized your own voice in them, perhaps, or because faulty execution is less important to you than sound theory.

With this my dream dissolves, like water mixing with water. The vast library that stands all around me is on México Street, not Rodríguez Peña, and you, Lugones, took your life early in 1938. Vanity and nostalgia have led me to fabricate an impossible scene. So be it, I say to myself, for I too will soon be dead, your time will be mistaken for mine, the order of events will be lost in the universe of symbols, and in some way it will be fair to say that I did take you a copy of this book, and you received it.

J. L. B.

Buenos Aires, August 9, 1960

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges (24 August 1899 – 14 June 1986), known as Jorge Luis Borges, was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires. His work embraces the "character of unreality in all literature". His most famous books, Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (1949), are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes…