As everyone, I tend to read different books at the same time. And sometimes these different texts unexpectedly relate, even strengthen one another. Janos Kornai’s powerful autobiography By Force of Thought – Irregular Memoirs of an Intelectual Journey (2006), wants to be everything that the older Jorge Borges in my collections of short stories does not want to be: factual, rationally reconstructive, and clear. In addition the author claims to lack the literary talent to sketch characters, historical circumstances, and emotions.
Compare that to the erudite-intellectual-if-ever-there-was-one Borges. Literature as the constant balancing act between realism and what lies beyond. With a different companion, I would have thought Kornai a nice historical source, but dull and academic. Equally, my snobbish academic ego again would have fallen wholeheartedly for Borges. But this time I could not but admire Kornai for analyzing his own past as he would have analyzed the Soviet Union, while being slightly annoyed by Borges’ over-the-top literary tours de force. It males one hope for more economic autobiographies.