Cosmopolitan De-scriptions: Shanghai and Hong Kong
One of the most moving, and revealing, texts of the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges is his short 1954 preface to A Universal History of Infamy, a collection of stories first published in 1935. During the two decades between the original publication and the 1954 preface, Borges had established himself as a cosmopolitan writer who belonged not just to Argentina but to the world. However, it is possible to see Borges’s cosmopolitanism both as the great cultural achievement that it unquestionably and as a response to a quasi-colonial situation that inevitably leaves its traces, however indirectly. In Borges, we find these traces in the excessive and exhaustive erudition that he is famous for and that he calls the baroque: “I would define as baroque the style that deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its own possibilities, and that borders on selfcaricature.” 1
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- All quotations are from the preface in Jorge Luis Borges, Collected Fictions, trans. Andrew Hurley (New York: Viking, 1998), 4–5.