Michael Wood writes:
When Jorge Luis Borges was dying in Geneva in 1986, a friend committed an elegant Freudian act of homage. He mentioned Borges’s book of poems The Golden Coin and was instantly corrected: The Iron Coin. The friend was embarrassed but Borges reassured him: ‘Don’t worry. You did what alchemy was unable to do.’ The remark perfectly catches Borges’s quickness, grace, learning and love of precision. It has a touch of self-deprecation too. It wasn’t as if he didn’t like the word ‘gold’ - a 1972 volume of verse is called The Gold of the Tigers - or as if he hadn’t tried plenty of verbal alchemy of his own. But a long attempt is quite different from an instantaneous, unintentional success.