August Wilson on Jorge Luis Borges

Luis Borges, the Argentinian writer. Bearden, the painter, collagist. Amiri Baraka, [formerly] LeRoi Jones, with his ideas of black nationalism in the sixties. What I call my four Bs—Bearden, Baraka, Borges, blues. Those are the major influences in my life.

[August Wilson: Bard of the Blues. Carol Rosen / 1996. From Theater Week, 9 (May 27, 1996), 18, 20, 22, 24-28, 30-32, 34-35. Reprinted in Conversations, p. 199.]

Jorge Luis Borges, the Argentine short story writer— I was just fascinated with the way he tells a story. I’ve been trying to write a play the way he writes a story. One of his techniques is that he tells you exactly what is going to happen. He'll say the gaucho so-and-so would end up with a bullet in his head on night of such and such. At the outset the leader of an outlaw gang with a bullet in his head would seem improbable. When you meet the guy, he’s washing dishes, and you go, “This guy is going to be the leader of an outlaw gang?” You know that he’s going to get killed, but how is this going to happen? And he proceeds to tell the story, and it seems like it’s never going to happen. And you look up, without even knowing it, there he is. He’s the leader of an outlaw gang.

[August Wilson Explains His Dramatic Vision: An Interview. Sandra G. Shannon / 1991. From The Dramatic Vision of August Wilson. Washington, D.C.: Howard University Press, 1995. Reprinted in Conversations, pp. 146-7. ]

According to the Introduction: “Wilson consciously adopted this approach in his play Seven Guitars.” [p. xiv]

SOURCE: Conversations with August Wilson, edited by Jackson R. Bryer and Mary C. Hartig. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi, 2006.

From Borges, those wonderful gaucho stories from which I learned that you can be specific as to a time and place and culture and still have the work resonate with the universal themes of love, honor, duty, betrayal, etc. From Amiri Baraka, I learned that all art is political, although I don't write political plays.

SOURCE: Isherwood, Charles. “August Wilson, Theater’s Poet of Black America, Is Dead at 60,” The New York Times, October 3, 2005. Also at Brainy Quotes.

Romare Bearden on Black American Culture vs. the European Avante-Garde

The Street (Composition for Richard Wright)
 (image) by Romare Bearden

"Hegel" by LeRoi Jones (Amiri Baraka)

"Jitterbugs" by LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka

"Buboj" (Jitterbugs)
by LeRoi Jones/Amiri Baraka
translated into Esperanto by R. Dumain

Black Studies, Music, America vs Europe Study Guide

Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Study Materials on the Web


The Approach to al-Mu’tasim
by Jorge Luis Borges

Additional notes: How Borges’ The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim
helps us understand Wilson’s Joe Turner’s Come and Gone

by Raymond Maxwell

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