Few literary fanatics have got through life without becoming, at one time or another, consumed with an obsession with one particular author. This is the one whose works take on a celestial provenance. The sight of one book spine with their name embossed on induces an intake of breath and when called upon to lend something by them, the owner starts burbling ‘well, I have several copies…the Oxford Classic being the least interesting…’
Ideally this obsession would hinge on the impression that there is a collective unconsciousness reserved only for the two of you. The stylistics and the cadence of the words would be the only thing of importance in your literary love affair. More commonly though, the obsession shares characteristics with a teenage crush on a rock star and it is the beloved’s biography that takes on a significance. T. S. Eliot and Coleridge loitered round the West Country and 50 or a hundred years later it is this fact, not any comment on sublime poetry, which got repeated to me most frequently during my Somerset childhood.
Borges and I entwines the narrative of Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges with that of a bookworm named Sophie who, like Borges, gradually becomes blind. Sophie is part of a book group comprised of a selection of ‘oh I know someone exactly like him/her!’ types, including Nick who becomes her boyfriend.
As with the characters in the book group, the relationship between Nick and Sophie is almost uncomfortably familiar, yet it is also heartbreakingly absorbing in its chemistry and simplicity. The movements between the couple, and between the entire cast, are fantastically fluid and synchronized without looking scripted. Watching one second-guess the movements of another without so much as a glance for confirmation, is like watching the very best of World Cup football: three crucial passes, one touch of genius and then BAM and the crowd all weep and cheer.
I select those words deliberately, as I actually did cry during the production. Again, it was in a moment of quiet simplicity. One involving the aftermath of a lovers’ row; a sweetly supportive hug and the first few lines of a childhood classic unsettling who-knows-what from within the larger collective unconsciousness.
Over-involvement with an author’s biography can be tedious or even end up engulfing their actual work, as has happened with Sylvia Plath. However, to deny that people latch on to a writer’s life and find a parallel between their two existences is futile. There is so much in this small play that will appear unerringly familiar to those who live for reading. As with finding that special author, there is also a crucial uniqueness present that remains long after the tiger has returned home after tea.