Epic literature has always interested you very much, hasn’t it?
Always, yes. For example, there are many people who go to the cinema and cry. That has always happened: It has happened to me also. But I have never cried over sob stuff, or the pathetic episodes. But, for example, when I saw the first gangster films of Joseph von Sternberg, I remember that when there was anything epic about them—I mean Chicago gangsters dying bravely—well, I felt that my eyes were full of tears. I have felt epic poetry far more than lyric or elegy. I always felt that. Now that may be, perhaps, because I come from military stock. My grandfather, Colonel Francisco Borges Lafinur, fought in the border warfare with the Indians, and he died in a revolution; my great-grandfather, Colonel Suárez, led a Peruvian cavalry charge in one of the last great battles against the Spaniards; another great-great-uncle of mine led the vanguard of San Martin’s army—that kind of thing. And I had, well, one of my great-great-grandmothers was a sister of Rosas—I’m not especially proud of that relationship because I think of Rosas as being a kind of Perón in his day; but still all those things link me with Argentine history and also with the idea of a man’s having to be brave, no?
But the characters you pick as your epic heroes—the gangster, for example—are not usually thought of as epic, are they? Yet you seem to find the epic there?
I think there is a kind of, perhaps, of low epic in him—no?
—an interview with Jorge Luis Borges