Artists

 

Luis Cruz Azaceta (b. 1942)

 

Azaceta was born in Havana, Cuba. He came to the United States in the early sixties, in the first exodus resulting from Castro’s Revolution. He settled in New York City, where he attended The School of Visual Arts, and currently resides in New Orleans. His work has received wide recognition; it is present in important museum collections and has been exhibited in North and South America and in Europe. Among the many honors Azaceta has received are Fellowships from the Guggenheim Foundation, the National Endowment for the Arts, and the New York Foundation for the Arts. The work has a strong character that occasionally borders on the shocking. A cartoon-like quality often reveals ties to popular culture and the long tradition of drawing and satire characteristic of much Cuban art, but Azaceta adds an element of suffering and pain that deepens the impact of the art, making it transcend particular cultures and circumstances. A good portion of the work explores the phenomenon of exile, emigration, and cultural dislocation, effectively employing the context of the rafts (balsas) used by the Cubans who, in desperation, have risked their lives to cross the channel that separates the island from the United States. More recently, Azaceta has been exploring labyrinths and journeys by concentrating on venues of travel such as airports and terminals, using them as symbols of the human existential predicament. The interpretation of Borges’s story he created for the present project fits within this framework, both in that it deals with the Minotaur, a monster who is trapped in the labyrinth in which he resides, and continues a stylistic journey that has led Azaceta to greater simplicity and sharp drawing techniques in which solid colors are juxtaposed to create an engaging image.

Alejandro Boim (b. 1964)

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Boim was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He studied art in Argentina and France and currently resides in Buenos Aires and Montreal. His work is always motivated by a curiosity which has led him to incorporate into it elements from the work of other artists he likes. The pieces tend to have dark tones, following his interest in Caravaggio and Rembrandt. Among other artists from whose work he has profited are Klimt, Alonso, and the members of the naturalist movement in France. The medium is primarily painting and the work figurative and realist - he regards it as avant garde in that it is a reaction against the overwhelming dominance of abstraction in the twentieth century. Boim has never been interested in the movement of “art for art’s sake” - his art always responds to a personal interest. Unlike many other artists, he does not create series; each piece is unique and a reaction to what has gone on before - it is, as he puts it, “a way to fight boredom.” He has already created a substantial body of work that has received considerable recognition through various prizes and expositions in South America, Canada, and Europe. He is a recipient of the Gran Premio Nacional de Dibujo de Argentina (2008). Boim is not a devotee of Borges, but he likes some of his stories, such as “The South,” the object of his interpretation here.

Miguel Cámpora (b. 1961)

 

Cámpora was born in San Nicolás, Argentina. His work has been exhibited in South America, Europe, and the United States. He is particularly interested in topics that have to do with Argentinean society and its proverbial origin, the countryside, what Argentineans call “el campo.” Issues of fairness, exploitation, poverty, and displacement can be found in most of his pieces, joined to questions of social and national identity. What does it mean to be Argentinean? Where does he fit in this complicated society? Depictions of the countryside south of Buenos Aires take a good portion of the work. We see people and animals in vast expanses of land, migrating, moving, finding new places to survive and make their own. The human figures are rough, weathered, ravaged by the enormity of the land and its merciless oppression and beauty. The faces are grim, sad, resigned. Some colors are vivid, like the yellows of the pampa, but the greys and greens are subdued and mixed, adding a mood of sadness and struggle. Cámpora had not worked on particular works of Borges before he undertook to contribute to this project, although he had always had an interest in him, particularly in the stories that, like “The South,” have to do with the Argentinean countryside.

Ricardo Celma (b. 1975)

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Celma was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. His work consists primarily in painting, but also sculpture and drawing. He sees himself as a careful observer, and his art reflects this attitude. At first one’s reaction is to classify the work as a kind of super realism, but upon closer scrutiny there is a major difference between this movement and Celma’s work. Celma does no see his art as competing with photography and his topics are not the standard ones in super realism. He prefers a characterization that brings his work closer to the literary revolution that swept through Latin American letters in the twentieth century known as magical realism, and thus as a reaction against the excesses of contemporary art. art. They have taken the place of God and the Church in art, becoming the authorities who determine value and destiny. This imposes limitations on the artists who are forced to comply with their whims in order to survive. From the beginning of his career he felt a special attraction for late Gothic and Flemish painting and for the ornamental Baroque in the works of Ribera and Rembrandt, and later for the descriptions of pain that flourished in the nineteenth century and the Baroque. He tried abstraction for a while, but eventually rejected it, because he needs to tell stories that have a rational denouement. He feels himself to be a kind of writer in that his work consists of narratives of moments he considers sacred. In these narratives woman has a special place and is almost always included in his work. He is fascinated by the psychology of women, the mystery of what they think, of their motives and intentions. This leads to portraits that are engaging, but thoughtful and mysterious, simultaneously revealing and concealing. His work has drawn attention in North and South America, Europe, and the Far East, and has been recognized with a variety of prizes, including the Primer Premio, Salón de Pintura, Sociedad Argentina de Letras, Artes y Ciencias (SALAC). Borges has always been a writer of interest for Celma for obvious reasons: the complexity and depth of Borges’s work has attracted and challenged him. “The Gospel According to Mark” is not the first of Borges’s works that has given rise to a pictorial interpretation by Celma, but it is the one used here.

Laura Delgado (b. 1975)

 

Delgado was born in 1978 in Buenos Aires. She began as a psychologist, but her interest in art led her to pursue an artistic career. Her initial work in art was academic, and was greatly influenced by mannerism, but eventually she turned toward a realist expressionism, in which she uses color as a symbol, and works with a loose stroke of the brush. She looks back to the Renaissance, and then to the work of El Greco, Goya, Alonso, and Nicolás. She does not see art as fundamentally demonstrative, but rather as suggestive. Some subjects that attract her in particular are children, animals, and everyday objects, which she organizes so that they speak to us of identity, memory, and the self. Delgado is a prolific artist whose work has already caught the attention of the art-loving public in South America and has been recognized with various prizes, including the Segundo Premio, 14 Salón Mercosur Internacional “Diógenes Taborda,” Museo ITIMuseum. Unlike many of the artists represented here, her initial reaction upon reading Borges when she was younger was rejection; she felt repelled by what she perceived as his pedantry and artificiality. Indeed, one of the stories that she found most objectionable is “The Other” (of which she has produced three different interpretations), because she thought the story had nothing to do with “the other,” but was exclusively about Borges. After some years away from Borges, she came back to him and developed a new appreciation for his work, a fact that paved the way for her participation in this project. Indeed, apart from three interpretations of “The Other,” she created two of “Funes, the Memorious.” Two of these pieces are used here.

Héctor Destéfanis (b. 1960)

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Destéfanis was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is Profesor Titular in the Instituto Universitario Nacional de Artes and he is in charge of the Extensión Cultural of the Museo de Artes Plásticas Eduardo Sívori. His work has traveled to various countries in South America and to the United States and Europe. He has been recognized with several prizes, including the Segundo Premio de Dibujo, Salón Manuel Belgrano awarded by the Government of the City of Buenos Aires. Destéfanis describes himself as a painter and drawer rather than an artist. A look at his creations shows a strong influence of drawing, even in paintings. His art is motivated by a sense that Argentinean artists have forgotten about themselves qua Argentineans, when in fact the key to the creation of universal art is precisely to begin with the particular. He begins to work, then, with what impresses and surprises him first in his surroundings, and generally ends where he began. The result is an abstraction from what he sees, and the creation of a new reality which is the product of emotion, the stuff out of which art is made, according to him. He creates surrealist spaces in which figures, colors, tones, and values enter in dialogue and carry a psychological burden, such as the loneliness of death. He begins a painting by applying color, because this is most obvious to the senses, and then gradually generates a figure. This leaves the work with large areas where certain colors predominate, breaking up the surface into separate spaces that interact in various ways. The artists who have influenced him the most were his teacher, Roberto Duarte, and classics such as Goya. Given Destéfanis’s surrealist leanings and metaphysical preoccupations, it is not surprising that he has taken an interest in Borges, interpreting his work pictorially on a number of occasions. For this project he produced an interpretation of “The Gospel According to Mark,” which is included here, and two renditions of “The Circular Ruins.”

Claudio D’Leo (b. 1959)

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D’Leo was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He is an architect by training, but devotes himself to art. He teaches art in the Universidad del Museo Social Argentino and is Dean of the Faculty of Arts in Universidad del Museo Social Argentino. His work has been exhibited in various venues in South America and the United States, and has received recognition through various prizes, such as the Premio Alianza Francesa, Centro Alfredo Fortabat. D’Leo’s paintings have a strong social dimension, in which art is used to expose abuse and violence and the evils of an unconcerned society. For example, he created a series of oils on homeless people in Buenos Aires, and has often used his art to criticize structures of power in Argentina. Apart from his work at the university, he also offers workshops at a center closely oriented to the community. Some of his art has a sense of coming from the underground and being in opposition to anything associated with the establishment. Although he abandoned architecture for art, his art has not abandoned architecture. There is a strong structural aspect to it that is clearly visible. This is one of the reasons why his creations also appear to have been strongly influenced by Cubism and other currents in art that take a more scientific approach. The main explicit influence on his work is that of the Ecuadorian artist Oswaldo Guayasamin, whose style, technique, and motifs are clearly echoed in the work of D’Leo. The influence of Caravaggio and his frames of penumbras are clearly visible in it. D’Leo has worked on Borges a number of times. Recently his interests have shifted to subjects that deal with the human condition, such as the work represented here, which concerns “The Immortal.”

Carlos Estévez (b. 1969)

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Estévez was born in Havana, Cuba, but resides is Miami. His work has been exhibited in many countries from North and South America, Europe, the Middl East and the Far East. Among his many prizes is the Gran Premio, Primer Salón de Arte Cubano Contemporáneo in Havana. He has been very prolific, having produced hundreds of works. The range of the art extends from sculptures and installations to oil and acrylic paintings on canvas and paper, drawings on paper, assemblages, collages, and combinations of these. Estévez works with traditional materials, but has also incorporated non-traditional elements in the art. He regularly collects objects of various kinds, particularly artifacts such as bottles and gadgets he finds in rummage sales and flea markets, which he later integrates into his works. Estévez’s art is easily recognizable. Its originality is a most prominent characteristic. One author that comes to mind as a background influence is Leonardo da Vinci. We find the same interest in machines, wheels, and contraptions. Estévez has also a fascination with anatomy, although for him this tends to concentrate on bugs, birds, fish, butterflies, lizards, and other animals. His humans are frequently puppets, mechanical devices with minds and emotions. Other common images found in the work are buildings and balloons. The mind behind the art seems to be as fascinated with new discoveries and the mechanics of the world as that of Renaissance and Enlightenment scientists and explorers. Estévez’s art is a laboratory of sorts, an observation platform. Given his metaphysical interests, it is not surprising that he has been interested in Borges. Four of his works are included in this exhibition.

José Franco (b. 1958)

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Franco was born in Havana, Cuba, but he now resides in Buenos Aires. His work is represented in the collections of important museums in Europe, and North and South America, and has been exhibited in many countries in North and South America, Europe, and the Middel East. Among the many recognitions he has received is a Guggenheim Fellowship. His early work incorporated nature, particularly animals, and eventually abstraction. Magritte, Duchamp, and Warhol have had a great influence on Cuban art, and Franco is no exception. Later Franco’s art took the turn that he has followed ever since: the interest in animals and nature, using the black line of the draftsman typical of much Cuban art. The work has a surrealist sense mixed with an emphasis on vegetation that reminds one of Rousseau. Franco’s interest in Borges goes back to Cuba, where the writer was popular in spite of his politics. In an art exhibition in Panama, seeing some of Franco’s work on animal skins, someone mentioned Borges’s story “The Writing of the God” and this prompted him to read more. He realized that Borges had been fascinated with tigers from childhood - indeed, one of the few surviving childhood drawings from Borges is of a tiger. When Franco arrived in Argentina, he began to paint on literary subjects and organized an exhibition in 1996, with a slightly modified title of Borges’s story, whose lead work had the same title. For this project he has produced a painting with the same title as the first and inspired by it.

Etienne Gontard (b. 1934)

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Gontard was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He wanted to paint from childhood, but instead of following this inclination, he studied business and practiced that profession until 1986, from which time he devoted himself entirely to art. After his first solo exhibition in 1976, it became clear that he had become serious about art. He explored the various currents of contemporary art, cubism, expressionism, conceptualism, and dabbled in photography, but he never incorporated in his work the insights of Magritte’s surrealism, which was popular at the time. His work may be described as having an expressionist root with a post conceptual character. He has kept an interest in nature, particularly the Argentinean landscape and animals, but the work is not that of a naturalist; he always alters what is presented to him into an image of what he sees. He has had exhibitions in North and South America, and in Europe. In 1983 he joined the Grupo Intercambio, and he set up his studio, where he also taught, in Palermo, and later in Olivos. His pictorial interest in Borges goes back to 1991, when he participated in an exhibition devoted to the writer, for which Gontard created two works, “La intrusa” (included here) and a pencil portrait of Borges that was stolen. The part of Borges’s work that interests Gontard has to do with the description of human beings and their complex emotional interrelations.

Mirta Kupferminc (b. 1955)

 

Kupferminc was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. She was trained in engraving, but has done extensive work in sculpture, painting, drawing, photography, videos, and installations. Kupferminc is very active world-wide, and her art is known in many countries in North and South America, Europe, the Middle East, the Far East, and Africa. She has not developed a particular style, but rather uses a variety of approaches to reach ends that are aesthetically informed but have a contextual focus. Most of her work integrates different media and techniques, making it difficult to classify, since it does not easily fit into any single one of the established categories. Nonetheless, there are clear recurring motifs in it, and some of her pieces remind us of aspects of surrealism. Two of the most commonly used motifs are a chair and the figure of the poet. Both appear tri-dimensionally and on flat art. The first has evolved in many different ways, developing wings, optical illusions, and various colors, and appearing in different contexts. The image of the poet is used in various ways to recall learning, patience, and creativity. It was originally done in clay, a reference to the story of Genesis, but later it began to appear painted in other contexts. Both, the chair and the poet, are motifs connected to an important element that informs a great part of Kupferminc’s art, the exploration of her Jewish background. This is carried out through allusions to Jewish culture and roots, and it is one of the points of contact of her work with Borges, who was fascinated by Jewish history and the Jewish experience. She is one of the living Argentinean artists who has more frequently, intently, and consistently related her work to Borges’s stories.

Nicolás Menza (b. 1960)

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Menza was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He has had a very large number of exhibitions in many countries in North and South America, and Europe. Among his many awards is the Primer Premio de Dibujo, Salón Municipal Manuel Belgrano (Buenos Aires Government), Museo Eduardo Sívori. His work displays extraordinary variety: boxes, sculpture, installations, painting, and drawing. Although he is probably best known for his oils, temperas, and pastels, he finds in drawing the advantage that it is a more narrative medium in which color is suppressed in order to decrease psychological sensuality. His use of color is one of the most obvious and impressive features of his art – his creations are filled with brilliant, almost electric colors, big splashes of them, with areas of impasto, arranged in architectural designs that remind us of the Italian metaphysics of De Chirico and Morandi, artists to whom Menza acknowledges a debt. The style is recognizable, but it is not easy to describe or characterize. In part this is because Menza’s work is a very personal expression that seeks to be unique. Some of his art borders on the grotesque, the metaphysical, the latent – an implicit expression of what is hidden – and is complex and challenging. One can see a surrealist quality, as well as elements of expressionism and symbolism in the work, but none of them owns it; the work transcends schools and fads. Among recurrent themes are women, clowns, children, still-lives, the painter and his materials, toys, scenes from Buenos Aires such as the typical cafes, and of course Borges’s work. The last one has been a constant source of inspiration for Menza. He began to read him early on and has continued exploring his labyrinths ever since. He has created many works related to Borges, including portraits of the writer, but more important for us here, interpretations of his stories and poems. The key to this fascination is the structure of the thought. Menza finds an affinity between Borges’s modus operandi and his own, the way they approach the world, a certain metaphysical pattern of understanding that is common and bridges the gap between literature and art. Here I include his interpretations of three stories: “Circular Ruins II,” “The Garden of Forking Paths,” and “The Secret Miracle.”

Mauricio Nizzero (b. 1958)

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Mauricio Nizzero was born in Buenos Aires. He graduated from Escuela de Bellas Artes, and currently teaches metal design in the Escuelas Técnicas Raggio, where he is one of the directors. He is prolific and has produced many public works. His art has been exhibited in Argentina and Uruguay and has received various awards, including the Premio Bienal de Pintura de Quilmes. His art consists to a great extent in drawings, although he also paints, but even his paintings have a strong drawing flavor. He began drawing when he was a child. He had an aunt who was an artist in Chile. When she visited at Christmas time when he was six, he had gifts for everybody but for her, so he made a drawing of a package and gave it to her and this event marked an important moment in his life. He has always felt the need to say something through the metaphors of drawings. He went to a technical secondary school where he spent many hours drawing with an emphasis on the ornamental, and working with metals. In the Escuela de Bellas Artes, he began sculpting and then followed with color and tri-dimensional space. He has often painted street murals. For him teaching is important because it gives him the possibility of an encounter with the visual arts and literature. He has a loose style that avoids what he considers unnecessary details in order to concentrate on an important element he wishes to express. He focuses on first impressions - the sensation of the moment and the before and after - in order to capture the human comedy and conduct, that is, the crucial instant viewed through the filter he, as artist, imposes on the occasion. His interest in Borges goes back some years, and although he had not produced interpretations of his works before, it has now surfaced in various creations. In the process of interpretation he applies the filter he uses in his art, looking at the work of literature through a funnel that enhances what impresses him as the key aspect. He likes Borges because of the emphasis on memory, which he considers essential for inspiration and the creative process. Memory is convenient in that it is selective and glides over unessential details. In connection with this project, Nizzero produced a number of works, two of which are included here. They deal with the stories “The Other” and “Funes, the Memorious.”

Estela Pereda (b. 1931)

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Estela Pereda is the second most senior artist whose work is included here. She was born in Buenos Aires and has had a long and distinguished career. Her art has been exhibited in many countries, including Argentina, Canada, Ecuador, France, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States, Uruguay, and Venezuela, and has received many awards, such as the Medalla de Oro de la Asociación de Críticos and the selection for the mural and prize “Nunca Más,” for the Facultad of Engineering of the University of Buenos Aires. Pereda grew up in a family with a strong artistic presence. Both her mother and grandmother were artists, and now her daughter also has followed suit. Her mother was a well-known writer and her grandmother created tapestries that she integrated into other works as well. The grandmother’s family had an Italian origin with a strong tradition of creating objects; they were artisans and artists and Pereda’s mother frequently took her to workshops, when she was thirteen or fourteen. When the time came to choose a career, although she wanted to go to the Escuela Nacional de Bellas Artes, she did not have the courage to do it and chose instead something practical that could help her earn a living. She enrolled in the career of public translation, in the Faculty of Law, but never finished. She married young and moved to the country, and only slowly got back into art, in 1962. Her training took place in the workshops of Mariette Lydis, Bernard Bouts, Vicente Puig, Héctor Basaldúa and Araceli Vásquez Málaga, and she was part of the Grupo Intercambio. She studied the masters from the Renaissance, whose influence is still evident in her work, as is the case with Mantegna on the piece included here, which is an interpretation of Borges’s “The Interloper.” The move to the country awakened in her an appreciation for mestizo art. She had the opportunity of visiting the Christian chapels of northern Argentina and Chile, where the native peoples had left a record of their reading of the Christian stories and created an idiosyncratic art. Pereda was inspired by this and began to re-read these works, incorporating in her art elements from the land and its fruits. Yet, in her own words, she tried “to avoid becoming a folklorist,” turning instead into what she calls “an Americanist” whose aim is to uncover and rediscover the riches of America. Mestizo art, with its musical angels and armed archangels, prompted her to introduce many changes in her work, but she never developed a set style. She has always liked to experiment and change. Her art varies in the use of media, which goes from oil and acrylic to drawing, sculpture, carving, weaving and sawing, the use of paper and collage, tempera, and the incorporation of various ready-made objects she finds. Among the topics that have particularly interested her is the place of women in society in general, and specially in Argentina. This is where the work I use here fits, and the explanation for her interest in Borges. Another of her pieces on Borges, a portrait, juxtaposes part of the image of the writer and a labyrinth.

Alberto Rey (b. 1960)

 

Alberto Rey was born in Havana, Cuba. His family emigrated to the United States when he was three years old. He is currently State University of New York Distinguished Professor at the State College at Fredonia. He holds a BFA from Indiana University of Pennsylvania and a MFA from State University of New York at Buffalo with additional post-graduate work at Harvard University. He has received many awards, including the State University of New York Chancellor’s Award for Excellence in Research and Creative Activities. His art is in the permanent collections of several important museums in the United States, and has been exhibited in Mexico, Spain, United States, and the Vatican. Originally an abstract painter, Rey eventually turned to realism as he began to explore his Cuban identity. During the 1990’s he focused on depicting Cuban landscapes recovered from old black-and-white photographs, exploring Cuban and American locales, representing Cuban cultural objects, such as bars of guava and bottles of rum, painting portraits of Cubans and Cuban Americans, and integrating religious images in his art. All of these pieces combine to raise issues having to do with identity, which are affected by religion, places, pop culture, and people. By this time, Rey had developed a painting technique over plaster in turn placed over canvas with a wood backing. This was an attempt to recover a feel for the work of old masters. The return to the history of art has always been important to him, as we see in his interpretation of Borges’s “The Rose of Paracelsus” for which he uses as point of departure a detail of a work by Caravaggio. This piece also points to his continuing interest in questions concerned with religious faith. The exploration of places and his interest in fishing led Rey to look into his natural surroundings in a series of works dealing with New York State fish and flora, particularly around the place where he currently resides, as well as in Cuba. These are large canvasses of live and dead fish, underwater videos, and combinations of some of these in a large installation.

Paul Sierra (b. 1944)

 

Paul Sierra was born in Havana and emigrated to the United States in 1961. He resides in Chicago, and studied art in the School of the Art Institute in that city. He is a senior artist with a large number of exhibitions and a substantial body of work, and has lived from his art for many years. His creations have been exhibited in France, Mexico, Puerto Rico, United States, and Uruguay, and are included in important collections in the United States and Europe. Among the many awards he has received are two Cintas Fellowships. Sierra started drawing and doing watercolors when he was a small child. He had an uncle who was a Sunday painter, and let him use his paints. He fell in love with painting then and eventually enrolled in The School of the Art Institute in Chicago. He had his first solo show in his early twenties but did not sell anything. He quit school and went into advertising to subsidize his painting which he did after hours and on weekends. Eventually he was making more money from painting than from the advertizing business, so he quit advertizing and has been exclusively devoted to painting ever since. He is one of those artists who early on are able to support themselves with their art, even though he did not compromise his work and did not paint to suit clients. His pieces are strong and vigorous, the colors vivid, the brush stroke powerful, and the topics often disturbing: a man falling from a burning skyscraper, a lonely figure in a landscape, swimmers going against the current, crashed automobiles, and a dead Minotaur. But much of it can be strangely beautiful, lush landscapes, birds, butterflies in starry nights, and golden fish swimming in creeks in the forest. In the landscapes he often places an animal or a statue, that stands alone, and he never uses more than one figure. Loneliness and uniqueness are recurrent themes, but also the idea of paradise. Obviously there are influences, one can detect those of Rousseau, Gauguin, Goya, and De Kooning. In contrast with many Cuban painters living outside Cuba who work on Cuban themes, Sierra has never done so. His art is universal and finds inspiration in literature and the work of the masters. The Chicago Art Institute has been a great resource for him, and it is no surprise that he would be interested in Borges. Nor is it surprising that for his story he chose “The House of Asterion,” a work about a monster who suffers loneliness and isolation, and ends up welcoming death.