Edwin Williamson turns Borges' own oft employed techniques of psychoanalysis and detective work on his subject in an effort to link events in Borges' life with Borges' literary creation. He seizes on several themes, honor, rebellion, alienation, love, nationalism, and responsibility to forge these links.
The results are decidedly mixed for Mr. Williamson sometimes seems to omit detail for conjecture without justifying his viewpoint. The author may make too much of some of the linked themes here, for sometimes he seems to be straining to force circumstances in Borges' life to correspond to a story or poem. That is not to deny the clearly articulated autobiographical nature of Mr. Borges' writing. But Borges favored the aforementioned themes and a well-known and oft-used set of symbols---tigers, mirrors, daggers, books, and so on---throughout his career and did not necessarily employ a specific theme because of a particular event.
Borges' political philosophies and missteps are crucial elements as are his early artistic leanings toward the avant garde. His boldness in those areas contrasts harshly with his sometimes weak personality, most notably demonstrated by his nearly lifelong deference to his mother (who lived to be 99) and his repeated failing at establishing and maintaining a meaningful, normal long-term romantic relationship until he was elderly.
Whether one quibbles with Mr. Williamson's presentation, one has to admire the attention to detail and the effort he has poured into "Borges: A Life." Mr. Williamson has consulted with an array of sources, reviewed myriad documents, and perhaps more crucially, interviewed many who knew Borges, especially Maria Kodoma, his companion and eventually his wife. Yet while he often seems to leave no stone unturned, he otherwise glosses over other significant events such as Borges' estrangement from his remaining family after his mother died or his separation from literary compatriots and collaborators.
As a previous reviewer here noted---and I agree---there is some degree of repetition employed in this biography, perhaps a tad too much. At times the book drags a bit and in other spots it does compel one to stay up a bit too late. All in all, this biography meets its stated goal of examining Borges' literary output in context of his life. But the result of applying this lens is that Borges the person does not fully come into view and the characterizations may make him appear more ineffectual and enigmatic that he actually was.
I support the notion that this work will remain an important but imperfect distillation of Borges' life but suspect that some scholarly missive will one day supplant "Borges: A Life" as the definitive biography of Borges.