A man sets himself the task of portraying the world. Through the years he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his face.
This quote is taken from the afterword of this truly beautiful collection.
What Borges was aiming to create in Dreamtigers (or El hacedor [The Maker], its original Spanish title) was the accumulation of fragments, parables and poems that ‘serve no other purpose than to show what time accumulates in the bottom of a writer’s desk drawer’. Yet what he has created here is a wonderful and truly personal depiction of the brilliant man’s mind, and the experiences throughout the years of his long life that helped to shape it .
The style of all of these pieces is prototypically Borges, none of the parables or poems going beyond 2 or 3 pages in length, and all containing many of the themes we come to associate with the great Argentinian poet: time, infinity, dreams, tigers, Homer, Dante, Shakespeare, Mirrors, Cervantes, Norse mythology, etc. However there seems to be something that stands alone in Dreamtigers, a somewhat lonely, melancholy which ends in the infinite quest for identity.
When describing El hacedor Borges alludes to the fact that he wants this work to be thought of as most truly ‘him’: ‘For good or for ill, my readers, these fragments piled up here by time are all that I am. The earlier work no longer matters’. He, at the time of this publication was not a very old man, yet his sight had already started to degrade, the world which he had so vividly painted in his earlier work was slowly slipping away from him. Perhaps this is what led to the focus on dreams? Perhaps through dreams Borges could recollect and create himself anew. He could become ‘El hacedor’ of the collections original title.
The poetry is beautiful, the prose is magical, and overall this book is something, as I’ve found with every other Borges book, that I will come back to again and again over the years. In my personal opinion it is not the best collection of his work, as I’m a sucker for his slightly longer short stories, and I’m certainly no poetry expert, but it is definitely worth a read for anyone looking for a book to captivate and mystify them in a way that only Borges is capable of.