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  • Print publication year: 2020
  • Online publication date: January 2020

Chapter 26 - Borges and Buddhism

from Part II - The Western Canon, the East, Contexts of Reception


Borges came to know Buddhism from a European perspective filtered through Schopenhauer and other philosophers, and his interest in it was ultimately concerned with the extent to which it coincided with Western ways of thinking. Together with Alicia Jurado, he co-authored What is Buddhism?, and he wrote with clarity of understanding about karma, nirvana, suffering, and nothingness, concepts that find their way into stories and essays such as ’The Garden of Forking Paths’, ’The Library of Babel’, ’The Cult of the Phoenix’, and ’The Writing of the God’. Borges showed greater enthusiasm for the fables and legends of Buddhism than for the spiritual truths of its doctrine. The chapter proposes a Buddhist-inflected reading of ’Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ and a more fully developed one of ’The Circular Ruins’, which it concludes is Borges’s consummate ’Buddhist fiction’.

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