when borges met tarkovsky

jores luis borges with andrei tarkovsky


This interview was conducted on the upper decks of Charon’s ferry, crossing the Acheron. Passing overhead is Piranesi’s Carceri made manifest. A solitary, inescapable dripping sound is the only backdrop to these two souls’ voices; the boat makes no din.

Jorges Luis Borges :  [In Spanish] Now, before we start, what kind of questions are they?

Andrei Tarkovsky :  [In Russian] Excuse me, what is your name?

JB : Well, Religion, but . . . I suppose that if one attained one hundred and fifty years of age, one would be quite mad, no?

[An awkward silence descends. They begin again.]

AT : In terms of a special trend in the USSR, there is no “New Wave.” Being in my thirties, I simply belong to the youngest generation of Russian filmmakers. My generation tries very seriously to explore the relationship between form and content.

JB : Ah, well. I remember telling that story to a lady who missed the whole point. She said, “Of course, it must be because being deaf he couldn’t hear what people were saying about his necktie.” That might have amused Oscar Wilde, no?

AT : So you find that the man you live with should make his world dependent on yours?

JB : Yes, I know, but they creep in, and they worry the writer, not the reader. The reader accepts anything, no? Even the starkest nonsense.

AT : When I talk about it, it doesn’t mean that I require devotion from anyone. These things are impossible to demand. Love can’t be enforced by power. So my point of view isn’t dangerous to anyone.

JB : So there you have, I think, a new metaphor; and, of course, with a nightmare touch about it, no? The idea of a web made of living men, of living things, and still being a web, still being a pattern. It is a strange idea, no?

AT : Did I say that? We only talked about the male-female relationship. And I was not able to express something without having my assertiveness attacked.

JB : Everness, of course, is better than eternity because eternity is rather worn now. Ever-r-ness is far better than the German Ewigkeit, the same word. But he also created a beautiful word, a word that’s a poem in itself, full of hopelessness, sadness, and despair: the word neverness. A beautiful word, no?

AT : One always tries to discover concealed meaning in my work. But wouldn’t it be strange to make a film and at the same time try to hide one’s thoughts?

JB : And I suppose [they are] there mostly for the technique, the surprise ending. I don’t like that trick, do you?

AT :


A Note to The Commuters editors

In different ways the works of Borges and the works of Tarkovsky have enriched the way I see the world. It is with a mix of gratitude and mischievousness that in this interview I hash their voices together. Using translated and transcribed interviews which these two men conducted with journalists during their lifetime as raw material, this fictional interview is a collage of their comments. This piece only vaguely attempts to simulate dialogue. More attention is given to the apparent proximity and authenticity of their voices rather than dialogue coherency; similar to When Jorge met Josef.