Modernities and upheavals (1850-1950)

LibraryThe GemsModernities and upheavals (1850-1950)

The year 1857 marks a turning point, the advent of modernity, with Baudelaire and Flaubert, Les Fleurs du Mal and Madame Bovary. Wagner and Nietzsche introduced other upheavals, as did the Russian novel with Tolstoy and Dostoyevsky, the theater of Ibsen and Strindberg, and French poetry with Verlaine and Rimbaud on down to Mallarmé.

With the 20th century we see Cendrars and Apollinaire, Proust, Freud and Kafka, Joyce, Musil and Céline, but also the American novel, from Melville rediscovered, to Dos Passos, Faulkner, and Hemingway. And to conclude—temporarily—there is Borges, represented by a group of editions and autograph documents that have only recently been acquired by a collection that continues to grow and change.


A gem of Modernities and upheavals: Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986)
“El Sur” – autograph manuscript – Adrogué, 1953

“Everyone knows that the South begins on the other side of Avenida Rivadavia”




Click on the image to view the work in detail.

Jorge Luis Borges, El Sur, autograph manuscript, Adrogué, 1953

Jorge Luis Borges, El Sur, autograph manuscript, Adrogué, 1953

“It’s my best story and the first part is autobiographical; it’s the story of my accident. You can touch on my forehead, if you like, the topography, or orography, of that accident.”

Borges, el memorioso


Must we believe the writer who was a past master in erasing the limit between reality and the imagination when he presents “El Sur” as the story of an accident he had on Christmas Eve 1938? To point out here that the blood poisoning he contracted at the time did indeed plunge Borges into a feverish hallucinatory state, like the narrator of the short story, would seem to reduce the tale to mere anecdote.

In this constant shift between life and fiction, it is a moving exercise to try to decipher the microscopic handwriting of someone who was to become definitively blind two years later. The text, published in La Nación in February 1953, was placed at the end of the 1956 edition of Ficciones.

The inner composition of the short story collection, which exploits effects of symmetry and contrast, creates a dialogue between two of the autograph texts conserved at the Foundation: Uqbar is indeed reflected in this “South,” in which a certain “Argentinity” is put forward more than in any other text.

Dessin de Borges

Drawing by Borges