Speech by H.E. Mr. Halldór Ásgrímsson, Minister for Foreign Affairs and External Trade
The Borges Foundation, Buenos Aires
August 14, 1997
Mrs. Maria Kodama, Ladies and Gentlemen,
It is indeed a pleasure to have this opportunity to say a few words about Jorge Luis Borges the literary giant of Argentina.
As many of you know, Borges was a fond reader and a researcher of the Icelandic Sagas and lectured on them in his country and in other Latin American countries. As such Borges was in fact one of our most important Ambassadors.
Icelanders take great pride in their literary heritage and those of foreign nationalities that learn to appreciate our literature as much as we do, become one of us. Borges was and is one of us.
His quest for knowledge did not diminish with his loss of eye-sight and he kept pursuing understanding of our people and language.
In a contribution to a short stories collection that was published by Bantam books in the United States he rendered us the most treasured compliment when he said: "Old Norse is Crown" but as many of you know, Old Norse is in fact Icelandic.
Language is of great importance to Icelanders. Small nations view the language as their life-line and such a statement coming from a man that knew many languages and had masterd his own, is invaluable.
One of things that Borges undoubtedly studied was Hávamál, the Viking spiritual provisions that give a clear picture of their attitude to and view of life. One verse in the Hávámál is very fitting for this occasion. It is as follows:
all men are mortal.
Words of praise
will never perish
nor a noble name.
I would like to thank you once again for giving us this opportunity to come to the place where Borges memory is alive and vibrant. I brought with me a small token of the appreciation that we have for your late husband.