Using my finely honed powers of deduction, I concluded that Borgesian might be a characteristic of someone name Borges. A trip to Wikipedia revealed that there was a renowned Argentine novelist, poet, essayist translator, etc. – a Nobel Prize type of guy – by the name of Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) who(m) the adjective undoubtedly refers to (English and philosophy majors may be shocked that I had never heard of him).<2013 “Wikipedia was propelled instead by the notion that articles should pile up, in the hope that one Borgesian day the collection would have covered everything in the world.”—MIT Technology Review, Vol. 116, No. 6, November/December, page 53>
Wikipedia said the following:
The following is from a book review:“In addition to the short stories for which he is most noted, Borges also wrote poetry, essays, screenplays, literary criticism, and edited numerous anthologies. . . . His most famous books, Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (El Aleph in Spanish) (1949), are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes such as dreams, labyrinths, libraries, mirrors, animals, fictional writers, philosophy, religion and God. . . . Borges's works have contributed to philosophical literature and also to both the fantasy and magical realism genres. . . . Many of Borges's most popular stories concern the nature of time . . . , infinity . . . , mirrors . . . and labyrinths . . .”
___________________Borges in 90 Minutes (2006) by Paul Strathern
<2007 “. . . the word ‘borgesian’ emanates from Borges's works because it characterizes not only a style of writing but also situations that are ironic, labyrinthine and illuminative of the ambiguity in literature, religion, and philosophy. . . ‘he would invent his own history, making use of esoteric fragments from what he had read. Instead of being ruled by history, he would create it; instead of relying upon the past, he would re-invent it and venture into a timeless world of his own making.’”—Kliatt, 1 January>
Given the above descriptions, I think it would be impossible to nail down in a single word, or even in a few words, what is characteristic of all Borges’ work. Instead, we probably have to consider the context in each instance and choose one aspect that would be the best fit.
Here’s what a couple of dictionaries had to say:
AMERICAN HERITAGE DICTIONARY
Borges, Jorge Luis (1899-1986): Argentiniean writer particularly known for his short stories, which have a metaphysical, fantastic quality. adjective Borgesian.
COLLINS DICTIONARY ONLINE
1) Of Jorge Luis Borges or his works.
2) Reminiscent of elements of Borges' stories and essays, especially labyrinths, mirrors, reality, identity, the nature of time, and infinity.
<Wander through a strange Borgesian labyrinth in miniature to explore the theme of memory. – Sunday Times (London), 2002>
I think a list of Borgesian attributes might include: labyrinthine, byzantine, fantastical, convoluted, complex, surreal, dream-like, illusory, metaphysical, paradoxical, enigmatic, contradictory, . . .
For the above MIT Technology Review quote, my best guess for a single word definition is: Borgesian = ‘magical’ or perhaps, or maybe . . .
The following quotes are from archived sources and I’ll let you suffer through trying to figure out what Borgesian means in each instance (<;)
In summary, Borges is an author I definitely don’t want to read! (>:)<1987 “The ‘Number’ chapter also hints at Borgesian notions – those of a universal library, a language that encodes the universe or the universe itself as a code . . .”—Washington Post (D.C.), 6 April>
<1990 “Lem’s action tales offer probing reflections on human nature and technology, conveyed through witty Borgesian parables and conundrums within conundrums.”—The Nation, 2 April>
<1996 “This is dense, difficult prose full of traps and mirrors and Borgesian tricks ostensibly a detective story, it's actually a meditation on identity, personal, religious and national.”—Irish Times (Dublin, Ireland), 4 May>
<2000 “The first . . . is the detective story, or, really, Borgesian anti-detective story, since the investigator in his drunkenness not only cannot distinguish between fact and fiction, but winds up being the only truly confirmed criminal (a murderer) in the book. He ends his life by drowning in a public toilet.”—World Literature Today, 22 June>
<2004 “There may yet be a story in a Borgesian fact observed while hanging around my dad's hayhands: that in a crew of eight to 10 men, two or three are likely to have the same first name and nicknames therefore become primary.”—The Washington Post, 18 January>
<2008 “Needham's utopianism is deemed his Achilles heel as it transforms his project into a kind of fiction: ‘a baroque species, a hybrid of minute erudition, arcane learning, esoteric citation’, akin to Borgesian surreal literature.”—The Independent (London), 1 February>
<2012 “Paradoxes, contradictions and circularities appear throughout Borges’ stories. They led to what is known as the “Borgesian conundrum”: the question of whether stories are written by the author, or the other way round. Such puzzles were typical of the knots that he liked to create – they would probably have been tedious intellectual exercises were it not combined with extraordinary imagination and erudition.”—Latin Flavours Magazine, 14 December>
<2013 “Then Google made searching so easy we stopped needing libraries to find things and discontinued that wonderful Borgesian adventure of wandering through the stacks of an excellent library.”—The BuffaloNews (New York), 20 October>
Ken – November 9, 2013