Allan Massie

A Writer Who Needs to be Saved From His Admirers

The Man in the Mirror of the Book: A Life of Jorge Luis Borges

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Borges was sixty-two and almost unknown outside Argentina when he won the Prix Formentor in 1962. This prize, – ‘hatched’, according to James Woodall, ‘by six international publishers’ (the British one being Weidenfeld and Nicolson, predictably enough) – was intended to honour ‘an author of any nationality whose existing body of work will, in the view of the jury, have a lasting influence on the development of modern literature’. It was also, Woodall tells us, ‘designed as a kind of alternative Nobel, which many at the time believed was becoming haphazard and over-politicised’. As it happened, Borges was to be denied the Nobel, probably for political reasons.

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