I recently acquired Gilbert Alter-Gilbert’s translation of Leopoldo Lugones’ Strange Forces, the first two stories of which are extremely promising. In the foreword, Alter-Gilbert relates that
Lugones regularly took practice in the fencing academy at the Military School in Buenos Aires. A romantic, a gallant, and a devotee of the chivalric code, he once fought a duel with a colonel and challenged the young poet Jorge Luis Borges to another when he felt insulted by what he considered a slight in the newspapers; the contest wasn’t consummated on account of Borges’ blindness about which, when he learned of it, Lugones said, “In that case, please be so kind as to inform that lackey Borges that he would do well not to make unsubstantiated assertions in the newspapers which he is not prepared to defend with his person.” The lackey Borges would later write an adulatory book about his challenger.
I wonder what book this is? Lugones was apparently one of the topics Borges discussed in this 1951 lectures at the University of Texas, and I gather that the book dated from the same decade. Incidentally, there is no mention of any potential duel in Monegal’s biography of Borges, though it does mention that Borges penned or collaborated on multiple parodies of Lugones’ poetry in the 1920s; one of which involved transposing some letters in Lugones’ name, “produc[ing] a ridiculous variant, ‘Leogoldo Lupones,’ with the stress on ‘goldo’ (a childish pronunciation of gordo, fat) and ‘lupones’ (lupo, wolf). Lugones was not fat or particularly wolfish.” It also notes that, in an interview with Cesar Fernandez Moreno in 1967, Borges said of Lugones:
[He was] a solitary and dogmatic man, a man who did not open up easily… Conversation was difficult with him because he used to bring everything to a close with a phrase which was literally a period… Then you had to begin again, to find another subject… And that subject was also dissolved with a period…His kind of conversation was brilliant but tiresome [...] we had a great respect for him.
Oxford has recently published more Lugones. The Selected Writings includes some nonfiction and seems to have some of the same short stories as are in Alter-Gilbert’s volume.