To arrange a library is to practice, in a quiet and modest way, the art of criticism

From Borges’ In Praise of Darkness (Elogio de la sombra), in the Norman Thomas di Giovanni translation.

JUNE 1968
On a golden evening,
or in a quietness whose symbol
might be a golden evening,
a man sets up his books
on the waiting shelves,
feeling the parchment and leather and cloth
and the satisfaction given by
the anticipation of a habit
and the establishment of order.
Stevenson and that other Scotsman, Andrew Lang,
will here pick up again, in a magic way,
the leisurely conversation broken off
by oceans and by death,
and Alfonso Reyes surely will be pleased
to share space close to Virgil.
(To arrange a library is to practice,
in a quiet and modest way,
the art of criticism.)
The man, who is blind,
knows that he can no longer read
the handsome volumes he handles
and that they will not help him write
the book which in the end might justify him,
but on this evening that perhaps is golden
he smiles at his strange fate
and feels that special happiness
which comes from things we know and love.


JUNIO, 1968
En la tarde de oro
o en una serenidad cuyo símbolo
podría ser la tarde de oro,
el hombre dispone los libros
en los anaqueles que aguardan
y siente el pergamino, el cuero, la tela
y el agrado que dan
la previsión de un hábito
y el establecimiento de un orden.
Stevenson y el otro escocés, Andrew Lang,
reanudarán aquí, de manera mágica,
la lenta discusión que interrumpieron
los mares y la muerte
y a Reyes no le desagradará ciertamente
la cercanía de Virgilio.
(Ordenar bibliotecas es ejercer,
de un modo silencioso y modesto,
el arte de la crítica.)
El hombre, que está ciego,
sabe que ya no podrá descifrar
los hermosos volúmenes que maneja
y que no le ayudarán a escribir
el libro que lo justificará ante los otros,
pero en la tarde que es acaso de oro
sonríe ante el curioso destino
y siente esa felicidad peculiar
de las viejas cosas queridas

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