Borges’s best-known set of literary forgeries date from his early work as a translator and literary critic with a regular column in the Argentine magazine El Hogar. Along with publishing numerous legitimate translations, he also published original works, for example, in the style of Emanuel Swedenborg or One Thousand and One Nights, originally claiming them to be translations of works he had chanced upon. In another case, he added three short, falsely attributed pieces into his otherwise legitimate and carefully researched anthology El matrero. Several of these are gathered in the A Universal History of Infamy.
At times he wrote reviews of nonexistent writings by some other person. The key example of this is “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote“, which imagines a twentieth-century Frenchman who tries to write Miguel de Cervantes’s Don Quixote verbatim, not by having memorized Cervantes’s work but as an “original” narrative of his own invention. Initially the Frenchman tries to immerse himself in sixteenth-century Spain, but he dismisses the method as too easy, instead trying to reach Don Quixote through his own experiences. He finally manages to (re)create “the ninth and thirty-eighth chapters of the first part of Don Quixote and a fragment of chapter twenty-two.” Borges’s “review” of the work of the fictional Menard uses tongue-in-cheek comparisons to explore the resonances that Don Quixote has picked up over the centuries since it was written. He discusses how much “richer” Menard’s work is than that of Cervantes’s, even though the actual text is exactly the same.
While Borges was the great popularizer of the review of an imaginary work, he had developed the idea from Thomas Carlyle’s Sartor Resartus, a book-length review of a non-existent German transcendentalist work, and the biography of its equally non-existent author. In This Craft of Verse, Borges says that in 1916 in Geneva “discovered, and was overwhelmed by, Thomas Carlyle. I read Sartor Resartus, and I can recall many of its pages; I know them by heart.”In the introduction to his first published volume of fiction, The Garden of Forking Paths, Borges remarks, “It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the madness of composing vast books, setting out in five hundred pages an idea that can be perfectly related orally in five minutes. The better way to go about it is to pretend that those books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them.” He then cites both Sartor Resartus and Samuel Butler‘s The Fair Haven, remarking, however, that “those works suffer under the imperfection that they themselves are books, and not a whit less tautological than the others. A more reasonable, more inept, and more lazy man, I have chosen to write notes on imaginary books.”
He proposed the concept of “Free Culture“.
In March 2006, Lessig joined the board of advisors of the Digital Universe project. A few months later, Lessig gave a talk on the ethics of the Free Culture Movement at the 2006 Wikimania conference. In December 2006, his lecture On Free, and the Differences between Culture and Code was one of the highlights at 23C3 Who can you trust?.
Lessig claimed in 2009 that, because 70% of young people obtain digital information from illegal sources, the law should be changed.
In a foreword to the Freesouls book project, Lessig makes an argument in favor of amateur artists in the world of digital technologies: “there is a different class of amateur creators that digital technologies have… enabled, and a different kind of creativity has emerged as a consequence.”
In 2014, Lessig received Lifetime Achievement at the 2014 Webby Awards as cofounder of Creative Commons.
- Copy and Paste?