Borges’s memes: rewriting, parody and tribute in images that rescue and update his work

She is a literature teacher and for some time she has been traveling the borgian universe through memesin what has become one of the most innovative readings of the narrative of Jorge Luis Borges. Is named Alfred de Jorge, and the surname, in this case, does not seem casual. They find it on Instagram with the user: @memesborgeans.

If for Borges everything was material for the narrative, for Alfredo everything is memeable. A book, a film, a piece of news: everything can be intervened and crossed by a meme that refers to Tlön, the Aleph, poetry, the life of Borges.

It is very likely—almost certain—that the Borges would be delighted with this idea. Surely his modesty would not allow him to enjoy it, but he would recognize Alfredo’s inventiveness rewriting, parody and homage —his signature big moves—combined into images that go viral.

“Beyond the fact that he is my favorite author,” says Alfredo de Jorge, “I chose him because Borges’s work is obviously memetic.”


—What he does is take the history of literature and rewrite it, reformulate it, take little things, transform them: that’s the idea of ​​the meme. The meme is a piece of information that passes from one brain to another, so to speak, and undergoes modifications in each of these transfers. Borges does that with the literature of Homerwith that of Dantewith that of shakespearewith the Martin Fierro. Sometimes against the grain of the readings that had been made of those works. That’s a meme. It is grasping something, transforming it, modifying it, transmitting it. Put it in dialogue again, update it.

In the early 1990s, Borges was said to have anticipated the Internet. Can we say today that he anticipated the memes?

-Without a doubt. The word “meme” already existed; comes from the selfish geneof Richard Dawkin. And when this phenomenon of passing jokes or small images through WhatsApp, emails, the internet, social networks began to become popular, we realized that this was a meme. As I said before, the meme is a unit of information that is passed from one person and will undergo changes. And just as the gene undergoes random mutations, the meme undergoes intentional mutations.

How do you think Borges memes?

—I don’t think about them, they come to me. Many appear due to constant rereading. I’m reading something and I say: “This is a meme”. Sometimes a template, a certain meme, goes viral, and I say: “This can be done Borgian”. That it is not simply grabbing Borges’ face and putting it on the character in question: there is a refinement work, of what exactly to say, of how to say it.

Alfredo de Jorge and his Borgean memes
Alfredo de Jorge and his Borgean memes

Parody can be a genre that honors much more than any other. He speaks of a great knowledge of the original work. This in the case of who makes the meme, but does the person who receives it have to know so much about Borges?

—Parody is a form of homage: Cervantes parodies chivalric books because he loves them and knows them deeply. The more you know something, the more you can parody it. But there are people who don’t get it. They see a meme and say: “What a lack of respect, how are you going to do this with Borges”. Yes, sometimes it is difficult to decode it. There are those who catch it and celebrate it and have fun and share it. And there are those who do not manage to decode it. Lots of digital and cultural skills go into a meme; not only for creation, but for reception. You have to be literate in meme culture to understand it. Above all, because there are very stagnant categories of thought that say that Borges is high culture and if you mix him with something popular that belongs to another aesthetic category—something low, vulgar, ridiculous, ugly, kitsch—some people’s brains explode. .

But Borges’s high culture is also fallacious, because he mixed erudite authors with other popular ones.

—That’s why I say they are watertight categories. It is good that they exist, because we invent them to understand. They help us decode it. But precisely Borges is the one who reads the Martin Fierrowhich is popular or literate culture but uses what is popular, and breaks the barrier, mixes genres, messes with authors that nobody read in their country of origin.

Alfredo de Jorge in Ticmas
Alfredo de Jorge in Ticmas

Can you meme all writers? In any case: what do you need to have to convert an author into a meme?

—I think it can, but Borges is the one who lends himself the most because he has many layers of readings. Besides, he ruled on a number of issues. I didn’t just write about labyrinths and mirrors. He ruled on almost every element of culture. And his life, which is sad and even tragic at times, also has a lot of elements to meme.

What gives you the meme to tell Borges’s literature?

—The meme format is good because it updates the written code. It links you with the new generations, with the new ways of understanding reality and texts. You’re not taking Borges down. You’re rewriting it, reconnecting it, rereading it. It is a phenomenon that he would be proud of.


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Borges’s memes: rewriting, parody and tribute in images that rescue and update his work