Reviewed by Ana da Silva
The great writer George Luis Borges was married for the first time at the age of 68 to Elsa Astete Millán, a widow 11 years his junior. Georgie, as he was known to friends, was impotent and legally blind (yet highly concerned about the looks of his girlfriends). Elsa’s interests included fur coats, perfumes and makeup, and she wanted nothing to do with the literary circles to which Georgie belonged. Why the two married is unclear; Georgie blames his mother, his mother blames Georgie and so forth.
Georgie & Elsa, by Norman di Giovanni, is supposed to be an intimate account of the life of the brilliant Georgie and the classless, greedy wife who holds him back. Di Giovanni makes it clear early in the book that he did not intend to write yet another Borges biography nor to analyze Borges’s writing but rather to look into the couple’s life. However, much of the book is about Borges and his writing, so much so that late in the book the author mentions the superiority of his Borges biography over just about all other biographies on the great Argentine writer.
On the other hand, on several occasions in Georgie & Elsa the reader is presented with useless facts that attest to the writer’s desperation to prove that he and he alone was truly involved in the couple’s private life and, above all, Borges’s. For example, at one point di Giovanni uses a few pages too many describing in prose lists of items Elsa asks him to buy for her and later he dedicates many more pages to the history of Borges’s military hero ancestors. These boring bits fail to add much to the story, though they do begin to paint a picture of the author as a boastful yenta.
If read as a take on a great author as simply human, the book is overall enjoyable if rather forgettable.
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Ebook available for Georgie & Elsa.