Bookish Borges.

Post by Wanda Smit

Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator, and also a key figure in Spanish-language literature

Even though his hundreds of short stories are based on fact, he would often change fact into the fantastical with themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, thrillers, philosophy and religion. His works contributed to both philosophical literature and the fantasy genre which later developed into the Magic Realism movement in South America.

His intellectual interests included mythology, mathematics and theology, which he integrated through literature, sometimes playfully, sometimes seriously. Borges translated many works of literature in English, French, German, Old English and  Norse into Spanish.

24 Aug 1899, 03:30, Buenos Aires. Astrodatabank AA rating

The incomplete Righteousness Rectangle looks like a book without a bottom (or one of which the bottom has fallen out to become the Small Learning Triangle) much like the one in the fantastical short story – Book of Sand – in which page 40 514 is followed by page 999. The fantastical would become Borges’s trade mark, particularly after he had gone blind.

Inner Tension

The three oppositions running through his core lie on the Existence (2) and the Thought Axis (1). His easy life in a relatively well-off family became one of hard work as suggested by the many red aspects and the Achievement Square in the House chart.

But hard work was the way for him to go as indicated by Saturn – his strongest ego planet – and his North Node, both in adventurous Sagittarius in the 6th house of work. Whilst he travelled to many countries, it was his reading and writing that took him on the greatest adventures.

The Large Talent Triangle

This aspect structure is an excellent reflection of Borges’s gift. It has Saturn, the Moon and Mercury at its three angles. There was a constant flow of energy from Saturn in the house of work, the Moon in the house of getting the bigger picture and Mercury in a fiery 2nd house of his most cherished personal value: books. This aspect structure also facilitated expression of the Moon in an intercepted Aries.

Intercepted Libra where Mars resides – the other end of the opposition on the Thought Axis – found expression in the outer world through Pluto in the stress zone of the 12th house, feeding back into the Moon via a sextiele.

The Small Learning Triangle – the book’s bottom that fell out – adds further insight into this great writer. Unease sets in in his innovative, adventurous self-expression (Uranus in a Sagittarian 5th house) which fires up his mental ego (Sun in the 2nd house of self-worth). He savours the fruit of his transformations of conventions until he becomes aware again of the need for a new self-expression. This ongoing learning – the structure moves retrograde – paved the way for his soul’s journey (trine between the Sun and North Node) towards his work, his writing.

A bookish child.

About books, Borges wrote: “… if I were asked to name the chief event in my life, I should say my father’s library.” This library consisted of over one thousand books so that he was exposed to writing from an early age. At the age of nine, when his Age Point encountered the Sun, he translated Oscar Wilde’s children story, The Happy Prince, with the help of his father whose mother was an Englishwoman. His father was a lawyer, psychology teacher and also published a novel, but didn’t pursue his career as a writer. Borges thus grew up speaking and reading books in Spanish and English. When his consciousness became aware of Mercury at age 12, he was reading Shakespeare in English.

His Uruguayan mother came from a family of Spanish origin who had been involved in the Argentine War of Independence. She often told him of their heroic actions. This made Borges feel guilty about his bookishness: “… as most of my people had been soldiers and I knew I would never be, I felt ashamed, quite early, to be a bookish kind of person and not a man of action.” But then, his Mars is in Libra in the 3rd house of learning, of reading and writing. The fact that his Mars is opposed by his Moon, might be the reason behind his feeling of guilt.

Temperament

In the Radix, there is an overabundance of blue aspects but in the House Chart, red and green aspects rule. Rather than sit back and enjoy his comforts, his temperament’s staggering surplus of fire (-42) was fanned by a great onrush of air (-12) on his soul’s journey: into work, into his great literary service to readers and thinkers. In the House chart, there are many more red aspects, suggesting that he did indeed use all the fire in him – his constant intuitive inspiration. The more he read, the more he was inspired to write about it, be it a short story, an essay or a poem.

Saturn is his strongest ego planet (9), followed by the Sun and the Moon. Saturn’s influence is discernible in the meticulous detail that went into his work. Based on the hundreds of short stories he wrote, one wonders just how many books he read in his lifetime. Saturn also represents his mother about whom he wrote in An Autobiographical Essay: “It was she…who quietly and effectively fostered my literary career.” (A great description of Saturn in the 6th house!)

Critics have argued that his knowledge was vast, but not very deep. Could this be due to Mars in an intercepted Libra in the 3rd house? Without depth, there cannot be height, but although his Moon in the 9th house is also in an intercepted sign – Aries – the Ambivalence Triangle enabled a release of this depth/height quandary into Pluto on the cusp of the 12th house. Pluto is in Gemini and Borges certainly transformed writing.

Nobel-prize-winning South Africa author J. M. Coetzee said of him: “He, more than anyone, renovated the language of fiction and thus opened the way to a remarkable generation of Spanish American novelists.”

The First Major Shift

He was born in Buenos Aires, but in 1914, when his Age Point was face to face with Mars, Borges’s family moved to Switzerland, where he studied in Geneva. The family travelled widely in Europe, including Spain. The C1 occurred that same year. It points at the shift in Borges’s consciousness, from Argentine to European thinking. He soon learnt French which would be followed by German (and, later in life, Old English and Norse).

Borges completed his studies in 1918, but his family decided to remain in Switzerland during World War I, after which they spent three years living in various cities in Spain. A perfect reflection of Borges’s Age Point saturating his consciousness with travel-loving Jupiter. It was in Seville that Borges became a member of the avant-garde Ultraist literary movement. He also met noted Spanish writers. At that time, his Age Point was moving through the 4th house while he was experiencing the great literary traditions of his home language.

On his return to Argentina in 1921, during the Age Point quincunx to Pluto and the semi-sextile to Saturn in the 6th house, he longed to transform thinking in his work: his writing. He now started publishing his poems and essays in surrealist literary journals. He also worked as a librarian and public lecturer.

Book Events

When his Mercury/Venus was fired up in 1922/23, Borges published his first collection of poetry. Then, in 1926, his consciousness was brimming with an innovative, adventurous self-expression, as his Uranus in Sagittarius in the 5th house suggests. He then contributed many out-of-the-ordinary articles to an avant-garde review.  

After his Age Point had met up with Saturn (1929) and his North Node (1931) at one end of the Existence Axis, he began to explore existential questions and fiction, as if he were looking for a synthesis of the opposites: Pluto in Gemini on 12th house cusp on the one hand and his work on the other. He now wrote in a style that has been called ‘Irreality’ – another interesting description of the inner world, of the imagination. His biographer Edwin Williamson mentions that “books, philosophy and imagination were as much a source of real inspiration to him as his own lived experience, if not more so.”

In 1931 when his consciousness was filled with thoughts of the direction he should take in his work (the North Node conjunction in the 6th house). Borges was a regular contributor to Argentina’s most important literary journal, Sur, which helped Borges find his fame. In 1933, the sextile to Jupiter paved the way for Borges to become editor of the literary supplement of the Buenos Aires newspaper.

While his Age Point was progressing through the 6th house, Borges worked as literary adviser, columnist and first assistant at a municipal library – in addition to his writing, of course.

In 1938, the year before the 7th-house low-point, Borges’s father died. Borges himself suffered a severe head injury and nearly died of septicaemia. While recovering from the accident, Borges began playing with a new style of writing for which he would become famous. His first story written after his accident, Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, came out in May 1939, followed by the Age Point/Uranus sextile. With Uranus in the 5th house, Borges’s self-expression would now become entirely unique. He invented the hypertext novel and went on to describe a theory of the universe based upon the structure of such a novel.

After these adventures with the conventional were sparked by the Jupiter square in 1940, his Mars at the bottom of the Thought Axis facilitated the appearance of The Garden of Forking Paths (1941). The book was well received but did not win him the literary prizes many in his circle expected. The 1942 issue of Sur contained many articles on this book by numerous leading writers and critics from Argentina and throughout the Spanish-speaking world who contributed writings to the “reparation” project. Borges’s Age Point was now on the cusp of the 8th house, but he would have to continue paying his dues before he got the world-wide recognition due to him.

In 1946, after Borges’s consciousness had hit the low point of the 8th house, the dictator Perón returned to Argentina and Borges – now the director of the National Public Library  – who had spoken out against him, was ‘promoted’ to a ridiculously low rank. Borges promptly resigned.

During his Age Point progression through the 8th house, his vision began to fade and he could no longer support himself as a writer. But he would continue paying his dues to society with his voice: he started a new career as a public lecturer.

From 1950 onwards, he became increasingly blind. By the age of 55 (1954) – the time of the Age Point opposition to expansive Jupiter – he was completely blind. This opposition was followed by the C2. Where his eyes were opened to European culture and learning at the C1, at the C2, he could no longer read European authors, but his mind would never lose sight of the great literary traditions he had internalised. His Jupiterian adventures in thought and his travels would now be of an inner nature. Scholars suggest that it was his blindness which helped him create innovative literary symbols through his imagination.

His mother now became his secretary turning his spoken words into writing. A year after his Age Point had entered the 10th house, he was viewed as a great authority in books and writing. From 1956 onwards, he received many honorary doctorates, as well as winning the National Prize for Literature. 

During the years spanning the 10th, 11th and 12th houses (1956 to 1970), Borges also held a position as a professor of literature at the University of Buenos Aires and other temporary appointments at other universities. The Age Point opposition to his Saturn and North Node during these years suggests that he was going against his soul’s journey into his writing, which was now an arduous task. The written word now became the spoken word and like that of Huxley, another writer plagued by failing vision, his voice would echo for decades.

While his Age Point was moving through the 11th house of like-minded people, Borges’s international fame grew as many more of his works were now available in English. At the same time, the Latin American Boom took off, resulting in Magic Realism. He would over the years receive ever more literary awards from Italy, Greece, America, France and Argentina who crowned him the most important writer in the past decade in his country. In addition, he was considered the greatest living Spanish writer at that time.

In 1961 – when his mental ego was sparked by the AP/Sun square – Borges received the first Prix International, which he shared with Samuel Beckett. As much of his work was now known, he was invited to present many lectures in the United States and Europe.

In 1967, the AP/Venus trine facilitated his marriage to a widow. (His mother had urged him to marry as she was then 90 and anticipating her own death.) But three years later, Borges separated from his wife and moved back in with his mother, living with her till her death at age 99. He was then cared for by their housekeeper of many decades.

At age 72 in 1971, he won the Jerusalem Prize. While his Age Point was traversing the 1st house for the second time, his work was published widely in the United States and Europe. His self-assertion as a writer was now on a universal scale. He dedicated his final work, The Conspirators, to Geneva, where his European learning had begun.

From 1975 until the time of his death, Borges travelled internationally, often accompanied by a personal assistant whom he married in 1986. During his final days in Geneva, Borges began brooding about the possibility of an afterlife. He died there of liver cancer on 14 June 1986, aged 86.