I demand unconditional love and complete freedom. That is why I am terrible.
All night long
I have paced around the pond. Barthes
Jorge Luis Borges being interviewed by Stephen Cape, 1980:
SC: Do you think of words as having effects that are inherent in the word or in the images they carry?
Borges: Well yes, for example, if you attempt a sonnet, then, at least in Spanish, you have to use certain words. There’s only a few rhymes. And those of course may be used as metaphors, peculiar metaphors, since you have to stick to them. I would even venture to say — this of course is a sweeping statement — but perhaps the word ‘moon’ in English stems from something different that the word ‘luna’ in Latin or Spanish. The moon… the word ‘moon’ is a lingering sound. Moon is a beautiful word. The French word is also beautiful: ‘lune’. But in Old English the word was ‘mona’. The word isn’t beautiful at all, two syllables. And then the Greek is worse. We have ‘celena’, three syllables. But the word ‘moon’ is a beautiful word. That sound is not found, let’s say in Spanish. The moon. I can linger in words. Words inspire you. Words have a life of their own.
SC: The word’s life of its own, does that seem more important than the meaning that it gives in a particular context?
Borges: I think that the meanings are more or less irrelevant. What is important, or 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.
SC: The Hopi Indians are used as an example many times, because of the nature of their language, of how language and vocabulary thought-
Borges: I know very little about it. I was told of the Pampas Indians by my grandmother. She lived all of her life in Junin; that was on the western end of civilization. She told me as a fact that their arithmetic went thus. She held up a hand and said, “I’ll teach you the Pampas Indians’ mathematics.” “I won’t understand,.” “Yes,” she said, “you will. Look at my hands: 1, 2, 3, 4, Many.” So, infinity went on her thumb.
The whole interview is here.