Jorge Luis Borges Quotes on Writing: The Complete Collection

jorge luis borges quotes on writing
by CJ McDaniel // March 1 // 0 Comments

Jorge Luis Borges wasn’t a Nobel Prize for Literature awardee, but that doesn’t make him ineligible for the “one of the best writers” title. Although fame and recognition came late, Borges made a name for himself as one of Argentinian literature and Spanish narrative’s most influential figures. He was a master of technique who wrote essays, poems, and short stories, transporting his readers to a new experience. Therefore, Jorge Luis Borges quotes on writing and more become in demand off-screen and online.

Born on the 24th of August 1899 in Buenos Aires, Argentina, Argentinian writer, poet, and essayist Jorge Luis Borges recognized his literary career path early in life. His works became classics of the 20th-century world literature, earning him the Prix Formentor, the International Publishers Prize, which he shared with Irish playwright Samuel Beckett. After several decades, his name, impeccable mastery, and works attained the honor they deserved from people worldwide.

The Latin American storyteller not only wrote with a unique style. He also translated important foreign poems for the Argentinian audience. Up to this day, his works are unequaled, even helping Latin American literature to reach generally educated readers. It wasn’t merely his works that earned the respect of professional and budding writers: they also longed to read Jorge Luis Borges quotes on writing and more.

Jorge Luis Borges Quotes About Writing

Borges wasn’t famous during his lifetime. However, his collections of poems, essays, and stories captured the interest and admiration of many great artists. It’s understandable why, seeing how his works display his incredible literary technique, creative scope, and style. His pieces made even the impossible seem possible—giving his readers a new experience through his choice of words. His quotes related to writing are in demand, proving how people acknowledge his brilliance despite not bagging many awards.

Here’s a collection of Jorge Luis Borges quotes about writing.

Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.

Jorge Luis Borges

Reading is an activity subsequent to writing: more resigned, more civil, more intellectual.

Jorge Luis Borges

Writing long books is a laborious and impoverishing act of foolishness: expanding in five hundred pages an idea that could be perfectly explained in a few minutes. A better procedure is to pretend that those books already exist and to offer a summary, a commentary.

Jorge Luis Borges

Personally, I am a hedonistic reader; I have never read a book merely because it was ancient. I read books for the aesthetic emotions they offer me, and I ignore the commentaries and criticism.

Jorge Luis Borges

I do not write for a select minority, which means nothing to me, nor for that adulated platonic entity known as ‘The Masses’. Both abstractions, so dear to the demagogue, I disbelieve in. I write for myself and for my friends, and I write to ease the passing of time.

Jorge Luis Borges

I have tried (I am not sure how successfully) to write plain tales. I dare not say they are simple; there is not a simple page, a simple word, on earth -\-\ for all pages, all words, predicate the universe, whose most notorious attribute is its complexity.

Jorge Luis Borges

What man of us has never felt, walking through the twilight or writing down a date from his past, that he has lost something infinite?

Jorge Luis Borges

We did meet forty years ago. At that time we were both influenced by Whitman and I said, jokingly in part, ‘I don’t think anything can be done in Spanish, do you?’ Neruda agreed, but we decided it was too late for us to write our verse in English. We’d have to make the best of a second-rate literature.

Jorge Luis Borges

The art of writing is mysterious, the opinions we hold are ephemeral.

Jorge Luis Borges

I know of a wild region whose librarians repudiate the vain superstitious custom of seeking any sense in books and compare it to looking for meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines of one’s hands . . . They admit that the inventors of writing imitated the twenty-five natural symbols, but they maintain that this application is accidental and that books in themselves mean nothing. This opinion – we shall see – is not altogether false.

Jorge Luis Borges

In our dreams (writes Coleridge) images represent the sensations we think they cause; we do not feel horror because we are threatened by a sphinx; we dream of a sphinx in order to explain the horror we feel.

Jorge Luis Borges

I don’t think there’s any essential difference, at least for me, between writing poetry and writing prose.

Jorge Luis Borges

As to my writing short pieces, there are two reasons I can give you. The first is my invincible laziness. The second is that I’ve always been fond of short stories, and it always took me some trouble to get through a novel.

Jorge Luis Borges

When I feel I’m going to write something, then I just am quiet and I try to listen. Then something comes through. And I do what I can in order not to tamper with it.

Jorge Luis Borges

Although I’m very lazy when it comes to writing, I’m not that lazy when it comes to thinking. I like to develop the plan of a short story, then cut it as short as possible, try to evolve all the necessary details. I know far more about the characters than what actually comes out of the writing.

Jorge Luis Borges

Any time something is written against me, I not only share the sentiment but feel I could do the job far better myself. Perhaps I should advise would-be enemies to send me their grievances beforehand, with full assurance that they will receive my every aid and support. I have even secretly longed to write, under a pen name, a merciless tirade against myself.

Jorge Luis Borges

The art of writing is mysterious; the opinions we hold are ephemeral , and I prefer the Platonic idea of the Muse to that of Poe, who reasoned, or feigned to reason, that the writing of a poem is an act of the intelligence. It never fails to amaze me that the classics hold a romantic theory of poetry, and a romantic poet a classical theory.

Jorge Luis Borges

I try to avoid purple patches, fine writing, all that kind of thing… because I think they’re a mistake. And then sometimes it comes through and sometimes it doesn’t, but that’s not up to me. It’s up to chance.

Jorge Luis Borges

Writing is only a guided dream.

Jorge Luis Borges

All writing is dreaming

Jorge Luis Borges

Reality is not always probable, or likely. But if you’re writing a story, you have to make it as plausible as you can, because if not, the reader’s imagination will reject it.

Jorge Luis Borges

I am attracted to fantastic writing, and fantastic reading, of course. But I think things that we call fantastic may be real, in the sense of being real symbols.

Jorge Luis Borges

My friends tell me that I am an intruder, that I don’t really write when I attempt poetry. But those of my friends who write in prose say that I’m no writer when I attempt prose. So really I don’t know what to do, I’m in a quandary.

Jorge Luis Borges

Beyond my anxiety, beyond this writing,
the universe waits, inexhaustible, inviting.

Jorge Luis Borges

If I write a fantastic story, I’m not writing something willful. On the contrary, I am writing something that stands for my feelings, or for my thoughts. So that, in a sense, a fantastic story is as real and perhaps more real than a mere circumstantial story. Because after all, circumstances come and go, and symbols remain.

Jorge Luis Borges

The two important facts I should say, are emotion, and then words arising from emotion. I don’t think you can write in an emotionless way. If you attempt it, the result is artificial. I don’t like that kind of writing. I think that if a poem is really great, you should think of it as having written itself despite the author. It should flow.

Jorge Luis Borges

When I write, I do it urged by an intimate necessity. I don’t have in mind an exclusive public, or a public of multitudes, I don’t think in either thing. I think about expressing what I want to say. I try to do it in the simplest way possible.

Jorge Luis Borges

I write for myself, and perhaps for half a dozen friends. And that should be enough. And that might improve the quality of my writing. But if I were writing for thousands of people, then I would write what might please them. And as I know nothing about them, and maybe I’d have a rather low opinion of them, I don’t think that would do any good to my work.

Jorge Luis Borges

I hardly know what I’m going to write – an article, a story, a poem in free verse – or in some regular form. I only know that when I have the first sentence. And when the first sentence makes a kind of pattern, then I find out the kind of rhythm I’m looking for.

Jorge Luis Borges

Art is very mysterious. I wonder if you can really do any damage to art. I think that when we’re writing, something comes through or should come through, in spite of our theories. So theories are not really important.

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges Quotes on Writing for Writers

Decades have passed, but Borges’ influence and legacy never faded a bit. Many writers found themselves deeply engrossed in his works, analyzing his writings to see his thought-process and literary technique. Moreover, he strived to make his readers focus on approaching the text rather than just reading it. His dedication to writing was admirable, and many fans and fellow writers look up to him even now.

If you’re a writer, the following Borges’ quotes on writing will be valuable to you.

A writer’s work is the product of laziness.

Jorge Luis Borges

A writer – and, I believe, generally all persons – must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.

Jorge Luis Borges

A writer should have another lifetime to see if he’s appreciated.

Jorge Luis Borges

What a writer wants to do is not what he does.

Jorge Luis Borges

Every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.

Jorge Luis Borges

A writer needs loneliness, and he gets his share of it. He needs love, and he gets shared and also unshared love. He needs friendship. In fact, he needs the universe. To be a writer is, in a sense, to be a day-dreamer – to be living a kind of double life.

Jorge Luis Borges

Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.

Jorge Luis Borges

If a writer disbelieves what he is writing, then he can hardly expect his reader to believe it.

Jorge Luis Borges

It is worth remembering that every writer begins with a naively physical notion of what art is. A book for him or her is not an expression or a series of expressions, but literally a volume, a prism with six rectangular sides made of thin sheets of papers which should include a cover, an inside cover, an epigraph in italics, a preface, nine or ten parts with some verses at the beginning, a table of contents, an ex libris with an hourglass and a Latin phrase, a brief list of errata, some blank pages, a colophon and a publication notice: objects that are known to constitute the art of writing.

Jorge Luis Borges

Had I to give advice to writers (and I do not think they need it, because everyone has to find out things for himself), I would tell them simply this; I would ask them to tamper as little as they can with their own work. I do not think tinkering does any good. The moment comes when one has found out what one can do – when one has found one’s natural voice, one’s rhythm. Then I do not think that slight emendations should prove useful.

Jorge Luis Borges

At the beginning of their careers many writers have a need to overwrite. They choose carefully turned-out phrases; they want to impress their readers with their large vocabularies. By the excesses of their language, these young men and women try to hide their sense of inexperience. With maturity the writer becomes more secure in his ideas. He finds his real tone and develops a simple and effective style.

Jorge Luis Borges

I know that when I think of myself as being utterly worn out, when I think that somehow I have nothing more to write, then something is happening within me. And, in due course, it bubbles up; it comes to the surface, and then I do my best to listen. But there’s nothing mystical about all this. I suppose all writers do the same.

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges Quotes About Books

Borges grew familiar with world literature. It’s unsurprising why since his father had a library of English and Spanish books that he constantly read. His earliest years were usually around books. Much hasn’t changed because he took a post in 1938 at a Buenos Aires library to earn his living. As a writer and reader, the following quotes about books from Borges shouldn’t come as a surprise.

Enjoy the collection below!

The fact is that poetry is not the books in the library . . . Poetry is the encounter of the reader with the book, the discovery of the book.

Jorge Luis Borges

I cannot sleep unless I am surrounded by books.

Jorge Luis Borges

Life itself is a quotation.

Jorge Luis Borges

When writers die they become books, which is, after all, not too bad an incarnation.

Jorge Luis Borges

I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.

Jorge Luis Borges

Of all man’s instruments, the most wondrous, no doubt, is the book. The other instruments are extensions of his body. The microscope, the telescope, are extensions of his sight; the telephone is the extension of his voice; then we have the plow and the sword, extensions of the arm. But the book is something else altogether: the book is an extension of memory and imagination.

Jorge Luis Borges

A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships

Jorge Luis Borges

Writing long books is a laborious and impoverishing act of foolishness: expanding in five hundred pages an idea that could be perfectly explained in a few minutes. A better procedure is to pretend that those books already exist and to offer a summary, a commentary.

Jorge Luis Borges

The European and the North American consider that a book that has been awarded any kind of prize must be good; the Argentine allows for the possibility that the book might not be bad, despite the prize.

Jorge Luis Borges

A book is a physical object in a world of physical objects. It is a set of dead symbols. And then the right reader comes along, and the words—or rather the poetry behind the words, for the words themselves are mere symbols—spring to life, and we have a resurrection of the word.

Jorge Luis Borges

Sometimes, looking at the many books I have at home, I feel I shall die before I come to the end of them, yet I cannot resist the temptation of buying new books. Whenever I walk into a bookstore and find a book on one of my hobbies — for example, Old English or Old Norse poetry — I say to myself, “What a pity I can’t buy that book, for I already have a copy at home.

Jorge Luis Borges

Personally, I am a hedonistic reader; I have never read a book merely because it was ancient. I read books for the aesthetic emotions they offer me, and I ignore the commentaries and criticism.

Jorge Luis Borges

I believe books will never disappear. It is impossible for it to happen. Of all man’s diverse tools, undoubtedly the most astounding are his books… If books were to disappear, history would disappear. So would man.

Jorge Luis Borges

A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.

Jorge Luis Borges

As a boy, I used to marvel that the letters in a closed book did not get scrambled and lost overnight.

Jorge Luis Borges

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 dessicated and preserved.

Jorge Luis Borges

I can’t talk about my books. I have written them and tried to forget them. I have written once, and readers have read me many times, no? I try to think of what I wrote, it’s very unhealthy to think about the past, the case of elegies is very sad, as much as the case of complaints.

Jorge Luis Borges

The exercise of letters is sometimes linked to the ambition to construct an absolute book, a book of books that includes the others like a Platonic archetype, an object whose virtues are not diminished by the passage of time.

Jorge Luis Borges

My father gave me free run of his library. When I think of my boyhood, I think in terms of the books I read.

Jorge Luis Borges

I have always come to life after coming to books.

Jorge Luis Borges

Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.

Jorge Luis Borges

My books standing there on the shelf do not know that I have written them.

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges Quotes About Literature

No one can deny Jorge Luis Borges and his writings’ literary significance. People worldwide recognize his impressive masterpieces, whether they’re his poems, essays, or stories. He has influenced literature in various ways: many people acknowledge him as one of Argentina’s most significant living dead authors. It’s safe to say that Classic literature would never be complete without him and his works.

Now that we’re talking about writing and literature, it’s time for you to see this compilation of Borges’ quotes about it!

One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.

Jorge Luis Borges

In the order of literature, as in others, there is no act that is not the coronation of an infinite series of causes and the source of an infinite series of effects.

Jorge Luis Borges

In the course of a life devoted less to living than to reading, I have verified many times that literary intentions and theories are nothing more than stimuli and that the final work usually ignores or even contradicts them.

Jorge Luis Borges

For myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.

Jorge Luis Borges

Imprecision is tolerable and verisimilar in literature, because we always tend towards it in life.

Jorge Luis Borges

The things that are said in literature are always the same. What is important is the way they are said.

Jorge Luis Borges

We did meet forty years ago. At that time we were both influenced by Whitman and I said, jokingly in part, ‘I don’t think anything can be done in Spanish, do you?’ Neruda agreed, but we decided it was too late for us to write our verse in English. We’d have to make the best of a second-rate literature.

Jorge Luis Borges

All literature, is, finally autobiographical.

Jorge Luis Borges

I have preferred to teach my students not English literature but my love for certain authors, or, even better, certain pages, or even better than that, certain lines. One falls in love with a line, then with a page, then with an author. Well, why not? It is a beautiful process.

Jorge Luis Borges

Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not.

Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges Quotes About Language

Jorge’s contribution to literature doesn’t end with the works he wrote. He also translated many foreign poets’ writings for the Argentinian audience. Moreover, he can write in Spanish, English, and French, and at some time, found himself translating English, French, and German in Spanish. Hence, this proves his knowledge in language, using his skill to help others read and learn foreign writers’ work.

The list below shows Borges’ quotes about language, which will help you understand his view more.

The dictionary is based on the hypothesis — obviously an unproven one — that languages are made up of equivalent synonyms.

Jorge Luis Borges

I confess that I have not cleared a path through all seven hundred pages, I confess to having examined only bits and pieces, and yet I know what it is, with that bold and legitimate certainty with which we assert our knowledge of a city, without ever having been rewarded with the intimacy of all the many streets it includes.

Jorge Luis Borges

Translations are a partial and precious documentation of the changes the text suffers.

Jorge Luis Borges

In general, every country has the language it deserves.

Jorge Luis Borges

The mathematical sciences wield their particular language made of digits and signs, no less subtle than any other.

Jorge Luis Borges

You who read me, are You sure of understanding my language?

Jorge Luis Borges

The word happiness exists in every language; it is plausible the thing itself exists.

Jorge Luis Borges

I think of myself primarily as a reader, then also a writer, but that’s more or less irrelevant. I think I’m a good reader, I’m a good reader in many languages, especially in English, since poetry came to me through the English language, initially through my father’s love of Swinburn, of Tennyson, and also of Keats, Shelley and so on – not through my native tongue, not through Spanish. It came to me as a kind of spell. I didn’t understand it, but I felt it.

Jorge Luis Borges

Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges’ literary legacy serves as an inspiration for budding and professional authors today. His genre-bending metafictions, poems, and essays brought new light to Classic and Latin American literature. Although popularity and recognition did not immediately happen, Borges fascinated many through his unique style and approach in writing. Furthermore, his influence reached the masses—Jorge Luis Borges quotes on writing continue to live to motivate and encourage others to continue doing what they desire.

Need more inspiration on writing other than these quotes of Jorge Luis Borges? Check out our collection of quotes on writing from other authors here.

CJ grew up admiring books. His family owned a small bookstore throughout his early childhood, and he would spend weekends flipping through book after book, always sure to read the ones that looked the most interesting. Not much has changed since then, except now some of those interesting books he picks off the shelf were designed by his company!