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Borges and the Bible
Edited by Richard Walsh, Jay Twomey
Jorge Luis Borges is the darling of authors and critics who were once described as postmodern. Borges’s fictions assail the boundaries between text, world and self. In one sense, the fictions are mere rhetorical games, puzzles, or ‘tricks’, which disrupt communication (and interpretation), but they also suggest—at least to some—metaphysical uncertainties. To read them is as if one read the fictions of Hume or the Buddha.
Most of the literary and biblical scholars in this volume pair the Bible and its scholarship with one or more of Borges’s short fictions (particularly those first collected in English in Ficciones), but some venture into Borges’s essays, poetry, and his life story (as he and others have told it). As to Bibles, some essayists focus on particular texts from the Hebrew Bible (like Genesis, Samuel, Kings or Job) or the Christian New Testament (like Mark, 2 Corinthians, or Revelation), while others engage traditions of interpretation like Gnosticism, the Kabbalah or academic biblical scholarship. Several focus on canon, translation, the craft of fiction, religion or hermeneutics as a way of thinking about Borges and the Bible.
With Borges, interpretation is ubiquitous. Whether consciously fictionalizing or not, all (biblical) interpretation transforms its precursor. All (biblical) interpretation becomes a play with secrecy and revelation. Borgesian Bibles and scholarship are labyrinths, gardens of forking paths, unsettling and distorting mirrors. With Borges, biblical scholars come face to face with their finitude, obsession, fascination, ambivalence, and inevitable heresy vis-à-vis ta biblia.
Richard Walsh is Professor of Religion and Co-Director of the Honors Program at Methodist University in Fayetteville, North Carolina.
Jay Twomey is Associate Professor in the Department of English and Comparative Literature, University of Cincinnati.
Introduction: Borgesian Bibles and Scholars
Jay Twomey and Richard Walsh
Part 1: Borges and the Jewish Bible
Borges and the Whale, or, Borges and the Canon of Hebrew Literature
Surpassing (the Love of) Women: Homosociality, Homosexuality, and the ‘Sacrifice’ of Women in Borges and the Bible
The Eldritch Scroll: Fantasies of the Found Book in Borges, Lovecraft, and 2 Kings
Reader, Author, Character: A Confusion of Roles in the Borgesian Book of Job
The Artifice of Borges’s Narrators
Borges and Kabbalistic Infinity: Ein sof and the Holy Book
Religious Resonances in Borges’s Fiction
Part 2: Borges and the Christian New Testament
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis tertius and Q: The Psychological and Scholarly Labyrinths of Books Which Don't Exist
Reading Borges Re-writing Mark’s Gospel in Light of Seeing Arcand Re-viewing Jesus of Nazareth
Elizabeth Struthers Malbon
Borges and Gnosticism: God Atones for (Having Created) Humanity in Borges’s “Three Versions of Judas”
The Garden of Unificating Paths
Adam and Christ: From Garden to Labyrinth
Books to Come: The Book of Sand and the Book of Revelation
With Borges in the New Jerusalem
Part 3: Borges and Biblical Afterlives
The [Secret of the] Gospel according to Mark
The Book of Desire
The Egg and the Peacock: Willis Barnstone’s The Restored New Testament and the Idea of a Borgesian Bible
Borges’s God, Jonathan Meades’s Precursor
The Afterlife of Borges as a Component in the Afterlife of the Bible
This volume is deep, complex, playful, enigmatic, slippery, and thought - provoking. It is a testament not only to the editors and contributors but to the afterlives of the Bible …
Notably, this union of Borges and the Bible also allows us to reflect on our own craft, in particular the role of the essay within it. The short story was the form of choice for Borges, who, as Swindell points out, avoided the novel. Borges’s stories are expertly crafted, saying much with little and probing deeply with pages not chapters. Reading this volume reminds us that the essay form can do the same, despite it often being subsumed into desires for the “total monograph.” Where else could architecture, Salvador Dali, and the New English Bible cut deeply into totalitarianism? (see Crossley’s funforall), or Lovecraft prophesy biblical fears? (see Graybill’s tour de force) or scatological trails lead us through apocalyptic imaginings? (see Pippin’s paragon). What is more, Seesengood, Twomey, Walsh, and Pyper imbue their essays with dazzling artistry, and to read them is. a joy. All this calls us to reconsider whether the essay could actually be scholarship’s most incisive tool.
To conclude, when reading this volume you may feel yourself sucked into the abyss of uncertainty, but let this wash over you. The ideas in the essays mix and reshuffle. Different combinations and orderings will bring further puzzles and revelations. To read and laugh, be amazed, confused, and stretched by academic output is all too often a readerly desire rather than a reality. Maybe you will fulfill that desire here. Michelle Fletcher, Review of Biblical Literature.