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An Afternoon with Jorge Luis Borges

 

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

-Jorge Luis Borges

 

Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet, and translator as well as the world's greatest literary master, is one of the most influential foreign authors in China. His works, which have been translated into Chinese in the 1980s, lure a large number of Chinese readers into the mysterious world he created.

 

An afternoon with Borges, the salon given by Lorraine Berrone from Argentina, was held at Hangzhou Public Library yesterday. Supported by the Argentine Consulate in Shanghai and the Foreign Affairs Office of Hangzhou Municipal Government, hosted by Hangzhou Public Library, the event, providing a wonderful opportunity to better understand Borges and his work, attracted more than 50 readers of all ages.

 

An afternoon with Borges  Photo by Li Zheng

 

The honored guest, Consul General of Argentina in Shanghai, Mr. Pablo Agustín Obregón, delivered an opening speech at the event, saying, “Hangzhou is described as paradise on earth by Marco Polo, and Library is the paradise for Borges. So, we entered paradise twice today.”

 

Consul General of Argentina in Shanghai, Mr. Pablo Agustín Obregón delivered the opening speech Photo by Li Zheng

 

The main speaker Lorraine, born and brought up in Buenos Aires, Argentina, is a mother of seven and an English teacher for decades. She has been leading the way into Borges’ wonderful world to hundreds of children aged between 6 and 10 since 2016.

 

Lorraine Berrone

 

In 2016, on the occasion of the 30th anniversary of the death of Borges, Lorraine started her creative project “Borges for kids” to share, present and get kids closer to the work of Jorge Luis Borges.

 

She added an extra challenge: to carry this initiative in English. Then she adapted and translated The Book of Imaginary Beings, the book that she considered best suited as the project’s starting point and got excellent responses from her audience around 6 years old, greatly exceeded her expectations.

 

Encouraged by this success, she added new courses for other ages (2nd, 3rd and 4th graders) and expanded the project to different schools in her town, a tiny city in the beautiful sierras in Córdoba. This time, she brought the project to Hangzhou.

 

After talking about Borges with 3rd graders at Hangzhou Qianjiang Foreign Language School last week, Larraine met these Hangzhou fans of Borges in the library and said, “It is a pleasure to read Borges in paradise.”

 

Her explanation of the repeated themed appearing in Borges’ work, Tiger, Mirror, Library, and his connection with China, won a big round of applause. A 79-year-old reader praising Lorraine’s work as “wonderful, interesting and makes sense” in English wowed all people in the room. Lorraine encouraged the old man to keep reading Borges and never give up learning a new language.

 

 


Lorraine was talking with Hangzhou fans of Borges  Photo by Li Zheng

 

For those who want to start to read Borges, Lorraine suggested, “You’d better start it with another person who knew Borges, just like me. Don’t jump into his world alone.”

 

Asked by a boy aged 10 for her suggestion on reading, Lorraine emphasized the importance of reading and pointed out, “Reading should be for pleasure. Let the kid choose what he or she wants to read.”

 

“Read to your kids, parents and grandparents,” she added. “Kids love the way that their loving books are read by their beloved ones.”

 

This is Lorraine’s second trip to Hangzhou. In her eyes, Hangzhou is “extremely beautiful, clean, and well-mixed with advanced technology and the traditional” and in her mind, “I can tell that I have a deep connection with Hangzhou. I love its natural beauty, food, the beautiful and elegant Hangzhou women, I feel comfortable when living here.”

 

She hopes that her project “Borges for kids” can settle in Hangzhou sometime.

 

Lorraine was reading Borges for the audience  Photo by Li Zheng