Paris Review – The Art of Fiction No. 39, Jorge Luis Borges.

INTERVIEWER

Then a book like the little volume called Everness would be a good book for someone to read about your work?

BORGES

I think it is. Besides, the lady who wrote it is a close friend of mine. I found that word inRoget’s Thesaurus. Then I thought that word was invented by Bishop Wilkins, who invented an artificial language.

INTERVIEWER

You’ve written about that.

BORGES

Yes, I wrote about Wilkins. But he also invented a wonderful word that strangely enough has never been used by English poets—an awful word, really, a terrible word. Everness, of course, is better than eternity because eternity is rather worn now. Ever-r-ness is far better than the German Ewigkeit, the same word. But he also created a beautiful word, a word that’s a poem in itself, full of hopelessness, sadness, and despair: the word neverness. A beautiful word, no? He invented it, and I don’t know why the poets left it lying about and never used it.

INTERVIEWER

Have you used it?

BORGES

No, no, never. I used everness, but neverness is very beautiful. There is something hopeless about it, no? And there is no word with the same meaning in any other language, or in English. You might say impossibility, but that’s very tame for neverness: the Saxon ending in –ness. Neverness. Keats uses nothingness: “Till love and fame to nothingness do sink”; but nothingness, I think, is weaker than neverness. You have in Spanish nadería—many similar words—but nothing like neverness. So if you’re a poet, you should use that word. It’s a pity for that word to be lost in the pages of a dictionary. I don’t think it’s ever been used. It may have been used by some theologian; it might. I suppose Jonathan Edwards would have enjoyed that kind of word or Sir Thomas Browne, perhaps, and Shakespeare, of course, because he was very fond of words.