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Borges. A Signature.

Borges. A Signature.

Borges. A Signature. June 8, 2010.

Life becomes a Borges story. For a few months I’ve been reading and writing about Jorge Luis Borges. This afternoon, tidying up my study, I stumbled upon a used paperback copy of Borges On Writing, 1973, which I bought in Ann Arbor, Michigan, during the winter, and sat down to read it. His signature is on the title page! It looks a lot like this one online for $31,000! 

Surreal, South American magic fiction kind-of-thing… Of the couple of thousand books I have, I’ve never found any other signed copies… of the thousands of books I’ve read from libraries during my life I’ve never stumbled onto a signed copy… and then to find the only one that is signed by someone I’ve been thinking and writing about for months is strange. I like to think I’m largely a rational person, realizing it’s merely coincidence, but it’s still surreal, given all his surreal, bizarre stories and poems…

Here’s another sample Borges signature, for an incredible $18,000.

The same flourishes of the “g,” capital “B,” and his characteristic upside down “T” at the end. What does that signify? Some transcendent symbol? A mystic alef of his mind? A shakiness in the cramped hand, blindly struggling to sign the book held in the air, held inches from the eye, the way Bob used to? Another blind master…

Why do writers and artists always have to die before their work starts fetching these kinds of prices? Some crude, bourgeois calculation involved.

I’ve scanned it in. Somebody tell me I’m wrong!

After the 1973 publication of  Borges On Writing, he was at Michigan State University twice, in 1975 and 1976, the latter for a full semester, during which he spoke or read at other colleges in Michigan. It’s doubtful that the opportunity wouldn’t have arisen for Borges to read at the University of Michigan, my alma mater, and the major, international university of the state, in Ann Arbor. A student or faculty member, working his or her way up the line, for his signature, a signed copy, unknown to his family or heirs, forgotten, dumped into one of Ann Arbor’s many used book shops, for a few bucks… or a student, as poor as I was once, needing a meal… 

“Uncanny,” as a Facebook friend has said. The word surreal keeps swirling around in my head… For some reason, Borges’ story “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim” has also kept coming to mind, since my discovery, his search for Attar’s Simurgh, which all connects intimately with a poem I’ve been writing.

There are times when the intuition can surpass and lead aright the rational mind. Perhaps a fellow writer can help us more than we are able to understand, reach out even from across the grave… how non-modern, how contrary to our quotidian, rational assumptions, modernity’s cliches and distortions, petty pieties.

Through the mirror, through the mirror, to the next continent, somehow, through the mirror…

Frederick Glaysher

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