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Jorge Luis Borges and the Arab and Islamic cultural legacy

November 27, 2019From 6:00 to 8:00 p.m.
Casa Árabe Ambassadors’ Hall (at Calle Alcalá, 62, First Floor). From 6:00 to 8:00 p.m. Prior registration required.
Registration in this link.
In Spanish.

Casa Árabe has organized this day dedicated to commenting on readings, literary tools and marks left behind in the great author’s poetry and prose in Madrid on November 27.

One of the features of the Borges paradigm is that it enshrines several aspects and facets of universal literature, expressed through his interest in different human cultures. This interest of an epistemological origin is extended to encompass nearly all bodies of human literature, which have left their marks behind on his writings and interviews.

The universal nature of Borges led him to take on a displaced position in terms of space and time, a stance that would characterize him throughout his life as a writer teeming with concerns. Precisely in one of these concerns lies his secret bedazzlement with Asian cultures, especially those of the Middle East. Perhaps that universal cultural calling, the claims which Borges stakes on a common human legacy, both Eastern and Western, has its origin in the author’s childhood and his readings about the East, as well as the early, chance experiences he had during his stay in Spain (1919-1921).

Borges dealt with Arab themes from the perspective of all their different intellectual facets: historical, literary, philosophical and linguistic. References to these subjects abound in his works, through his commentary, reviews, translations, conferences, interviews, essays and poems, which show his interest in certain episodes from the ancient history of the Arabs and Muslims. Witness to this is also borne by the presence within Borges’ world of important figures such as Mohammed, the kings and caliphs, and the life and literary works of writers and poets like al-Mutannabi, Abū Nuwās, al-Maʿarri and al-Jāḥiẓ, as well as philosophers such as Averroes, Avicenna and al-Ghazali, mystics like Ibn Arabi and Sufi poets of the stature of Hafiz and al-Hallaŷ.

The day of events devoted to Borges which we have organized at Casa Árabe will attempt to shed light on this little studied, poorly known facet of the author’s immense literary opus.  We will be analyzing the circumstances which favored the Eastern Arab and Islamic influences on Borges, with such a notable mark left behind, spread all throughout a literary and intellectual legacy spanning more than a half-century of lucid literary production, which assured him a distinguished space and ongoing presence in world letters. Likewise, the day of events, under the direction of Bahira Abdulatif, shall attempt to highlight in what way Borges’ work was enriched by this Arab and Islamic culture, in terms of both content and style.

Event information sheet


6:00-8:00 p.m. 
Teodosio Fernández: “Borges and Spain: The marks left behind by Arab and Islamic culture.” 

Santiago De Luca: “Jorge Luis Borges, an Arab writer in the language of the Argentines.”

Bahira Abdulatif: “Borges and Islam: Readings, sources and references.”

Moderated by: Karim Hauser, Casa Árabe
Jorge Luis Borges and the Arab and Islamic cultural legacy
Jorge Luis Borges at his office, Argentine National Library, 1973
Teodosio Fernández. Professor Emeritus at the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid. As an educator and researcher, he has focused on Spanish-American Literature. He is a correspondent member of the Chilean Academy of Language. Main publications: El teatro chileno contemporáneo (1941-1973) (Contemporary Chilean Theater from 1941-1973, 1982), ed. of Amalia, by José Mármol (2000), La poesía hispanoamericana en el siglo XX (Spanish-American Poetry in the Twentieth Century, 1987), La poesía hispanoamericana (hasta el final del modernismo) (Spanish-American Poetry up to the End of Modernism, 1989), Los géneros ensayísticos hispanoamericanos (Spanish-American Essay Genres, 1990), ed. of Alejo Carpentier, El reino de este mundo (The Kingdom of This World, 2014). He has frequently dealt with the work of Jorge Luis Borges.

Santiago De Luca. An Argentine writer, he earned his PhD at the Universidad Complutense de Madrid. He is currently responsible for the Jorge Luis Borges Argentina-Maghreb Space at the Embassy of the Republic of Argentina and is the director of the international publication SureS. He taught literature at the 6th of October University in Egypt and in the city of Toulouse. As a conference speaker. he has given presentations at different universities in Latin America, the United States, the Middle East and Europe. His publications (novels, essays, poetry) include La luz de Tánger (The Light in Tangiers), Leviatán (Leviathan), Y su sombrero verde (And His Green Hat, with the Jorge Luis Borges Foundation), Dos Ríos, La escritura de la arena (The Writing in the Sand, 2017).

Bahira Abdulatif Yasin. A Hispanist, scholar, writer and translator who has studied Borges and Arab and Islamic culture, she was born in Baghdad. She has taught at several universities, including the University of Baghdad and the Universidad Autónoma de Madrid, and she currently collaborates with the Catholic University of Ávila. She has authored literary works (poetry, short stories and essays) in Arabic and has co-authored approximately twenty books in Spanish and Arabic.  Winner of the CIHAR Award (2017) for her work in Literary Translation. Amongst the Spanish works she has translated into the Arabic, the most notable are La arboleda perdida (The Lost Grove) by Rafael Alberti (Award for Best Translated Book of the Year in Iraq, 1993).