Art: Mirror or Prism?

The Jorge Luis Borges worldview, in his own words:

Two aesthetics exist: the passive aesthetic of mirrors and the active aesthetic of prisms. Guided by the former, art turns into a copy of the environment's objectivity or the individual's psychic history. Guided by the latter, art is redeemed, makes the world into its instrument, and forges – beyond spatial and temporal prisons – a personal vision.

Art as a copy of the environment's objectivity or the indivudal's pyschic history — that's realism. Art that forges a personal vision, refractions and all — that's Borges.

I heard Latin American fiction scholar Jill Levine read aloud this excerpt in her conversation with Colin Marshall on the Marketplace of Ideas podcast.


I was chatting on the phone the other day with a friend, and he said this: "The very best art and fiction is more powerful than the very best non-fiction. Average non-fiction is more powerful than average fiction."

1 comment on “Art: Mirror or Prism?
  • I’d have to agree with the last comment. My non-fiction: fiction ratio is about 9:1 but the books that really leave a lasting emotional impact are fiction. Read Doris Lessing’s Canopus series this past summer and I can’t recall a nonfiction book in the past 10 years that has had equivalent power.

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