Though he lost the use of his eyes in the 1950s, Jorge Luis Borges was appointed to head the National Library of Argentina. He was the second blind librarian there, the first being Paul Groussac. Borges works on the theme of his blindness and Groussac’s in the following poem:
Poem of the Gifts
No one should read self-pity or reproach into this statement of the majesty of God, who with such splendid irony granted me books and blindness at one touch. Care of this city of books he handed over to sightless eyes, which now can do no more than read in libraries of dream the poor and senseless paragraphs that dawns deliver to wishful scrutiny. In vain the day squanders on these same eyes its infinite tomes, as distant as the inaccessible volumes that perished once in Alexandria. From hunger and from thirst (in the Greek story), a king lies dying among gardens and fountains. Aimlessly, endlessly, I trace the confines, high and profound, of this blind library. Cultures of East and West, the entire atlas, encyclopedias, centuries, dynasties, symbols, the cosmos, and cosmogonies are offered from the walls, all to no purpose. In shadow, with a tentative stick, I try the hollow twilight, slow and imprecise— I, who had always thought of Paradise in form and image as a library. Something, which certainly is not defined by the word fate, arranges all these things; another man was given, on other evenings now gone, these many books. He too was blind. Wandering through the gradual galleries, I often feel with vague and holy dread I am that other dead one, who attempted the same uncertain steps on similar days. Which of the two is setting down this poem— a single sightless self, a plural I? What can it matter, then, the name that names me, given our curse is common and the same? Groussac or Borges, now I look upon this dear world losing shape, fading away into a pale uncertain ashy-gray that feels like sleep, or else oblivion.
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