Written by JoJo Phillips
Today, I am sitting on a stool in a long, grey hallway, looking at the portraits on the walls. The one in front of me is of a sad, old man named Borges. He is on the wall, like a fish, and looks down at me, also Borges. All around us, or really me, are wallpapered leaves and vines. They reach out to touch the other portraits. I like this Borges—he is a well-accomplished writer and will live forever—but he does not care for me. He finds me, always late, always at night, always when I have shut my book of poetry, pulled the cord of the lamp, and closed my eyes, he finds me and calls to me. When he calls, he does not address me as Borges. That is to say he pretends I am not him. Instead he opts for a wealth of names. Sometimes I am André Gida, sometimes Goya. He has called me Perón before. He says, you are the same age as him. Then I say, I am the same age as you. Then he says, has perdido la confianza del pueblo. Then I say, your translations have more artistic merit, and he usually agrees.
We are both very old, Borges and I, but I feel much older. I have lived my life in full, while he has only taken moments from it and trapped them in ink. Many years ago I tried to leave him, but he followed closely, and became my new work. Borges does not scare me, he becomes me. I think, perhaps, I become him too. He does not let on if I do. I wonder, when people read this and search for me, whom they will see. When they like my post and decide to comment, will it be for me or for him? The hallway has an infinite number of frames, but no doors. There exist, beneath the infinite frames, infinite plaques with infinite captions. Somewhere, there is his portrait, with his caption. Somewhere, there is my portrait, with the same caption. Somewhere, there is a guitar, and a book of runes, and the Third Folio. These things are no more me than these words are him, but when people request to friend me I know it is because of Shakespeare, Baldur, and the strumming of popular chords. I have looked for some of my friends, but the hallway is longer than I thought. Joyce’s profile is private and he will not respond to messages. Homer’s portrait is missing, but I have seen his words—the Ancient Greek stands out, even to my fading eyes—in thousands of captions.
I am getting old. I do not think I will join Twitter, although the thought of people reduced to their briefest selves excites me. I am sure Borges is already there.
This translation was provided by Joseph P Phillips, a student of English Literature at the University of Texas at Austin, where Jorge Luis Borges briefly taught. They did not know each other. In the margins of the manuscript, there are page numbers referring to an early Spanish phrasebook—for sightseeing in Milan—which we can assume he used to translate the prose. A curious choice on his part was to forego rendering the line has perdido la confianza del pueblo into English. Instead, he wrote in hasty pen beneath it: la pierre éternellement veut être pierre et le tigre un tigre.
Phillips was versed only in Arabic and Latin.