A brief thought on Borges, Nabokov and growing up

From when I was about 14, I read a massive amount of Jorge Luis Borges. I was a little older when I began to read Vladimir Nabokov, and  I became an enthusiast to the point of visiting the Nabokov birthplace in St Petersburg, although this was not as intense as my Borgesophilia.

As the years went on my interest in these writers waxed and waned. I succumbed, to some degree, to the widespread perception that both are literary artificers, conjurers of a sort, unabashedly elitist, removed from everyday life, somewhat meretricious, even.

Re-reading both in recent years, and having acquired a degree of that currency of self-righteousness called “life experience”, I find both speak more of and to that life experience than many supposedly more “realistic” authors. Borges, especially in his late style, has a laconic mastery of the telling detail, a sort of sagacious summing up of life. Nabokov’s mastery is of specificity, of memory, of the details of which life is made.


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