Spanish Language Blog

Poetry in Spanish: Borges and Cortázar Posted by on Aug 25, 2016 in Spanish Culture, Spanish Vocabulary

These days we celebrate the anniversary of Jorge Luis Borges’s and Julio Cortázar’s birthdays, in 1899 and 1914, respectively. If you are not familiar with these names, you should run to the closest bookstore and grab any of their books (personally, I recommend El aleph and Historias de cronopios y de famas). They are the most famous Argentine writers of the twentieth century. Borges is one of the main representatives of postmodern literature, albeit with a Baroque twist, while Cortázar is rather difficult to categorize but could also fit under the same label.

They both wrote short stories and have changed the genre in Spanish. Borges wrote as if literature was a branch of philosophy, while Cortázar, as translator of Edgar Alan Poe, respected a classic structure in the realm of the fantastic. Cortázar also wrote novels, which Borges never tried, and both wrote poetry in very different fashions. Both writers worked on purpose on making the Argentine variant of Spanish a literary language.

There has always been a kind of rivalry between readers of Borges and readers of Cortázar. Here you have a couple of poems by them to check out their styles and decide which suits your taste better.

El enamorado / The Lover (The admirer)

Lunas, marfiles, instrumentos, rosas,
lámparas y la línea de Durero,
las nueve cifras y el cambiante cero,
debo fingir que existen esas cosas.

Debo fingir que en el pasado fueron
Persépolis y Roma y que una arena
sutil midió la suerte de la almena
que los siglos de hierro deshicieron.

Debo fingir las armas y la pira
de la epopeya y los pesados mares
que roen de la tierra los pilares.

Debo fingir que hay otros. Es mentira.
Sólo tú eres. Tú, mi desventura
y mi ventura, inagotable y pura.

Moons, ivories, instruments, roses,
lamps and the line of Dürer,
the nine figures and the variable zero,
I shall pretend that these things exist.

I shall pretend that in the past they were
Persepolis and Rome and that fine
sand measured the fate of the crenel
that the centuries of iron undid.

I shall pretend the arms and the pyre
of the epic and the heavy seas
that gnaw from the pillars of the Earth.

I shall pretend there are others. It’s a lie.
Only you are. You, my misfortune
and my fortune, inexhaustible and pure.


Una carta de amor / A Love Letter

Todo lo que de vos quisiera
es tan poco en el fondo
porque en el fondo es todo como un perro que pasa, una colina,esas cosas de nada, cotidianas,
espiga y cabellera y dos terrones,el olor de tu cuerpo,
lo que decís de cualquier cosa,
conmigo o contra mía,

todo eso es tan poco
yo lo quiero de vos porque te quiero.

Que mires más allá de mí,
que me ames con violenta prescindencia
del mañana, que el grito
de tu entrega se estrelle
en la cara de un jefe de oficina,

y que el placer que juntos inventamos
sea otro signo de la libertad.

Everything I’d want from you
is finally so little
because finally it’s everything like a dog going by,
or a hill,
those meaningless things, mundane,
wheat ear and long hair and two lumps of sugar,
the smell of your body,
whatever you say about anything
with or against me,all that which is so little
I want from you because I love youMay you look beyond me,
may you love me with violent disregard
for tomorrow, let the cry
of your coming explode
in the boss’s face in some office,

and let the pleasure we invent together
be one more sign of freedom.

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About the Author: Paula

Born in Buenos Aires, living in Barcelona, I mostly write about cultural topics in Spanish from Spain and Latin America.


  1. Svaneska:

    This is intriguing : what was the reason, when you state “Cortázar could only grow his beard when he was over 50.” … why could he not grow it sooner?? .. who/what prevented him from growing his beard?

    • Paula:

      @Svaneska Hi Svaneska,

      He had some kind of hormonal disorder which made him “lampiño”, a Spanish word for people who cannot grow a beard or mustache, or who have little or no hair on their legs and chest.

      In fact, it was a catchy caption, and I see it worked. Thanks for your interest!

  2. Brianna:

    Yo me gusta el poema porque es muy interestante. Yo no me gusta reading, perro estas no terrible.

    • Paula:

      @Brianna Hola, Brianna:

      Me alegra que a ti te guste el poema. Tal vez te gusta leer más de lo que piensas.