“The Betrayal of Borges” by Marcelo Simonetti: the stories that enter a story

The novel “La traición de Borges” by Marcelo Simonetti, was first published in Spain when it won the “Casa de América” ​​prize in 2005, several years have passed and now it is published in Chile by Ediciones de la lumbre .

This novel is completely immersed in the literary universe of Borges: the other, the double, the mirrors. It has several levels in which this constant is expressed.

The work deals with the story of a writer, Antonio Libur, who together with his young love; Emilia Forch; They meet an unsuccessful actor who plays Jorge Luis Borges in a play. The actor is also called Borges. This takes place in the decisive year 1986, weeks before Borges’s death. The actor immerses himself more and more in the character until Borges begins to feel like a writer himself. Antonio’s beloved is not only enthusiastic about the actor but she encourages him, motivates him to continue with his interpretation which is already beyond the comedy. The actor feels that he is Borges himself.

Upon the writer’s death, they decide to go to Buenos Aires to tell the world that Borges is still alive and that he didn’t die in Switzerland. Emilia leaves Antonio and goes with the fake Borges. The false Borges will have to face various trials, but not only does he make use of his Borgesian readings, but he also begins to recall the writer’s memories, he doesn’t know how but they appear natural to him: the national library; the zoo tiger; the streets of his childhood.

For his part, Antonio Libur despairs, is unable to write a subsequent novel and has lost Emilia. He will go in search of Borges because he knows that in this way he will find Emilia, but as Cortázar said, his disappointment in him will be bitter. The days of the fake Borges in Buenos Aires go by while Argentina vibrates for the World Cup in Mexico. The match against England and madness for Maradona erupts in the streets while Borges; the living; he walks the streets and remembers old images that are not of him. The rest of the novel will continue between the folds of the story and with each page it will drag us a little further into the world of Borges.

The story has several levels, the first is the story of the actor who becomes Borges, losing his identity and going beyond imitation. Entering the oldest memories of the real Borges. And it’s not just the way he looks about him, but the tone he uses, the language, the stories. Throughout the novel we will enter different stories like a labyrinth. Another bourgeois idea. The idea of ​​Antonio and his journey is also very Borgesian. A writer who doesn’t write and who is looking for a new true story to appropriate. A writer who doesn’t write in the presence of an iconic writer. A search that would lead him to look at himself.

Finally, there is the same novel “The Betrayal of Borges” as an exercise in those games of mirrors that have so attracted the Argentine author. Another aspect that I highlight is the humor that is present throughout the novel. An uncommon element in our narrative. A Chilean story dressed as Argentina. The humor of the characters, sometimes a little pathetic, sometimes profound; absurd humor in some situations, in some dialogues, absurd humor in a city that is crazy about football.

The surname Libur of the writer Antonio remains in my head. I had never heard of it, I looked for its meaning and I didn’t find anything, I looked for a synonym and I didn’t even get any results. So I think it’s a trap, I don’t know if the writer, the fake Borges, Emilia or the real Borges. Maybe it’s a trap set by the author Marcelo Simonetti to make us fall into this universe of mirrors and labyrinths.

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