Borges: “Entrego esa dialéctica fecal a los apologistas de la viveza…”

Daniel Balderston

Daniel Balderston

In his essay The “Fecal Dialectic”: Homosexual Panic and the Origin of Writing in Borges, Daniel Balderston begins:

Near the end of a 1931 essay on the defects of the Argentine character, “Nuestras imposibilidades” [Our Impossibilities] in which he discusses the Argentine penchant for taking pride in putting one over on someone else (“la viveza criolla”), Borges writes:

Añadir é otro ejemplo curioso: el de la sodomía. En todos los países de la tierra, una indivisible reprobación recae sobre los dos ejecutores del inimaginable contacto. Abominación hicieron los dos; su sangre sobre ellos, dice el Levítico. No así entre el malevaje de Buenos Aires, que reclama una especie de veneración para el agente activo–porque lo embromó al compañero. Entrego esa dial éctica fecal a los apologistas de la viveza, del alacraneo y de la cachada, que tanto infierno encubren. (Discusión 17-18)(1)
[I’ll add another strange example: that of sodomy. In all of the countries of the earth, an indivisible reproof falls on both partners in the unimaginable contact. “both of them committed an abomination, their blood shall be upon them,” says Leviticus. Not so in the Buenos Aires underworld, which showers the active partner with a sort of veneration–because he put something over on his companion. I leave that fecal dialectic to the apologists of trickery, backbiting and mockery, who conceal so much of hell.]

But of course he does not, and cannot, leave this “fecal dialectic” alone (though he does remove the reference to the matter from subsequent editions of Discusión and hence from the so-calledObras completas). What I will examine here is his phobic treatment of a theme that evidently fascinated him.(2) I will not, for now, speculate on the enigmas of Borges’s sexual nature,(3)though it is worth noting that his failed relationships with a variety of women have been the focus of literary gossip for many years in Buenos Aires, and that the recent publication of some love letters to Estela Canto, and the revelation that Borges sought psychiatric help for impotence for several years in the 1940s, show the currency of that gossip.(4) Instead, I will discuss first Borges’s treatment in a series of essays of the homosexuality of two eminent nineteenth century men of letters whose works and lives he mentions often, Oscar Wilde and Walt Whitman, and then discuss the treatment of sexual preference in a variety of stories, especially in “La intrusa” (El informe de Brodie, 1970) and “La secta del f énix” (1952, later included in the second edition ofFicciones).

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