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Manners and Customs of Literary Appropriation: Mirrors of Ink from Borges, Burton and Lane

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Abstract The Mirror of Ink is the enchanting tale that Jorge Luis Borges claimed to have excerpted and translated from Richard F. Burton’s The Lake Regions of Central Africa. Norman Thomas di Giovanni has discredited that attribution, going so far as to say that the story had nothing to do with Burton and that Borges had never even read the cited book. He said that the story was entirely of Borges’ own creation, except for the dominant motif which was sourced from Edward William Lane’s Manners and Customs of the Modern Egyptians. Di Giovanni’s declarations, however, may not be completely true. This article reveals the true extent to which Borges borrowed from Lane’s text and it establishes an indisputable connection between The Mirror of Ink and Burton’s translation of The Book of the Thousand Nights and a Night.

Affiliations: 1: Deakin University Melbourne

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