Leaving behind the babble of the plaza, I enter the Library. I feel, almost physically, the gravitation of the books, the enveloping serenity of order, time magically desiccated and preserved. Left and right, absorbed in their shining dreams, the readers’ momentary profiles are sketched by the light of their bright officious lamps, to use Milton’s hypallage. I remember having remembered that figure before in this place, and afterwards that other epithet that also defines these environs, the “arid camel” of the Lunario, and then that hexameter from the Aeneid that uses the same artifice and surpasses artifice itself: Ibant obscuri sola sub nocte per umbras.
These reflections bring me to the door of your office. I go in; we exchange a few words, conventional and cordial, and I give you this book. If I am not mistaken, you were not disinclined to me, Lugones, and you would have liked to like some piece of my work. That never happened; but this time you turn the pages and read approvingly a verse here and there–perhaps because you have recognized your own voice in it, perhaps because deficient practice concerns you less than solid theory.
At this point my dream dissolves, like water in water. The vast library that surrounds me is on Mexico Street, not on Rodriguez Pena, and you, Lugones, killed yourself early in ’38. My vanity and nostalgia have set up an impossible scene. Perhaps so (I tell myself), but tomorrow I too will have died, and our times will intermingle and chronology will be lost in a sphere of symbols. And then in some way it will be right to claim that I have brought you this book, and that you have accepted it.
J. L. B.
Buenos Aires, August 9, 1960
[From Dreamtigers, by Jorge Luis Borges, translated by Mildred Boyer]