Borges hands

“Every one of us is, in some way, all the people who have died before us.”

Twenty years ago today Jorge Luis Borges died in Geneva at age 86. His longtime companion María Kodama was by his side. Borges and Kodama had been married just three months prior, though they had known each other for almost twenty years. Borges knew the end was near and chose to die in Geneva, where he had lived in his teen years.

A few years before his death Borges gave a lecture at the University of Belgrano in Buenos Aires titled Immortality: “I don’t want to continue being Jorge Luis Borges; I want to be someone else. I hope that my death will be total; I hope to die in body and soul.” Regarding inmortality Borges said, “I myself do not desire it, and I fear it, for it would be frightening to know that I am going to continue, frightening to think that I am going to go on being Borges. I am tired of myself, of my name, and of my fame, and I want to free myself from all that.”

Despite those melancholy statements the lecture is not pessimistic. Borges went on to say that “Each time we repeat a line by Dante or Shakespeare, we are, in some way, that instant when Dante or Shakespeare created that line. Immortality is in the memory of others and in the work we leave behind.”

Borges graveBorges is buried in a simple grave at the Cimetière de Plainpalais in Geneva, a far cry from the opulent tombs of Recoleta Cemetery in Buenos Aires where his mother and sister are buried. His tombstone in Geneva has Anglo-Saxon imagery and a quotation from the Old English poem “The Battle of Maldon”: “and ne forhtedon ná”, and be not afraid.