María Kodama in 2018. LUDOVIC MARIN | Credit: AFP via Getty Images
María Kodama in 2018. Photo: Ludovic Marin/AFP via Getty Images

Farewell to writer María Kodama, Borges' widow

She passed away in Buenos Aires at the age of 86, and was the main guardian of the writer's legacy


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Health problems took away the life of María Kodama, renowned Argentine writer and translator, and main defender of the legacy of her husband, Jorge Luis Borges, whom she met when she was only 16 years old.

Born to an Argentine mother and Japanese father, Kodama studied Saxon and Icelandic literature at the University of Buenos Aires, although by that time she was already the partner of the renowned Argentine writer, 38 years her senior. 

In an interview with the Argentine newspaper La Nación in March of last year, the writer's widow recalled how she had met Borges: 

"It's very funny, because I met him in a crazy way, when I was 16," she said.

As she explained, a friend of her father's had taken her to hear a lecture by Borges because she had said she wanted to study literature. Later, she bumped into him in a bookstore: 

"One day, I'm walking down Florida to buy books for school and I almost knocked Borges to the ground. I told him: 'Excuse me, I almost threw you,' and I told him that I had heard him once when I was a girl. 'Of course, you are grown up now, what do you do for a living,' he asked me. 'I'm in my fourth year of high school,' I told him, and added that I was going to study literature because I liked to read, but above all I wanted to read Greek and Latin. Then he invited me to study Old English with him. 'Shakespeare,' I asked, 'No, much older, sixth and seventh centuries.' I asked him if he doesn't want to study together. And that's when we started studying together, at the Richmond Confectionery."

Although his family did not approve of the relationship from the start, the couple prospered and on April 26, 1986, they married. Two months later, the famous writer died. 

When Kodama was widowed, she became the jealous guardian of his literary estate.  

Among the works they signed together are Brief Anglo-Saxon Anthology, a compilation on English literature, the passion they shared; and Atlas, a book of their travels published in 1984 with the writer's impressions. 

In 1988, Kodama created the Jorge Luis Borges International Foundation, which she chaired until her death.

A professor of Philosophy and Letters, Kodama also wrote works of her own, such as Homenaje a Borges and the book of short stories Relatos. She also edited the magazines Prisma and Proa, and wrote the prologue to several books dedicated to the study of the writer's work.

Last December, Kodama made the presentation of her latest book, La divisa punzó, an essay that reviews Argentine history eluding the matrix of opposing and irreconcilable sides, to nuance disagreements and extreme positions, and encourage dialogue when interpreting the past.

kodama latest book


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