Borges’ Ficciones

I’ve never read a critical source about Borges. I don’t really feel the desire to. And I think Borges might be pleased with that. Why? Well it seems to me that Borges, more than any other writer, realized that reading is the process of making a book one’s own. Of adopting it.

Jorge Luis Borges spent most of his life running a library, and a rather large one (the National Library of Argentina). In ‘Ficciones’ he presents book reviews of books that we think were never written (how can we be sure?), and grants a study of the supposedly fictious author of Don Quixote (or is he?). In ‘The Library of Babel’ he talks about a man “finding his own book” within the labyrinthine halls and stacks of a seemingly universal library. The title itself draws a correlation between reading and the acquisiton of ultimate knowledge. The man’s voluminous personal reading, clever inventiveness, and effortless blending of the real and the mythological remind us of a basic truth. It is a truth which Borges has invested in all of his work: the everyday life of any individual (or group) is graced with its extreme metaphysical implications. Borges confesses: “Methodical writing distracts me from the present condition of men. But the certainty that everything has been already written nullifies or makes phantoms of us all.”

He attempts to solve the problem of the library of Babel, the library of symbols of consciousness, the universe (which some may call a library, which is the universe which…):

“I dare insinuate the following solution to this ancient problem: The Library is limitless and periodic (at the same time no less!). If an eternal voyager were to traverse in any direction, he would find, after many centuries, that the same volumes are repeated in the same disorder (which repeated, would constitute an order: Order itself). My solitude rejoices in this elegant hope”.

Later, in the final story of ‘Ficciones’, he advises us to remember: “Reality favors symmetries and slight anachronisms.” What are we to make of this Nietzschean doctrine of eternal return? Of the astonishment we face when we remember (or forget, because we have to forget in order to remember and vice versa) the “plentitude of Being” as Desmond says? That something infinitely more important is happening than me simply writing this analysis or caricature of the ‘Ficciones’, and something infinitely more important is happening than you simply reading it. We are commiting ourselves to memory, we are becoming books in the library. We have been invested with metaphysical importance, with an energy and violence all our own (just as the knife fights and gangsters Borges was so fond of writing of demonstrate in their own perculiar, base existence) without logic or reason which adheres perfectly to logic and reason as we see it to be. Reality is always something more than a mere matter of fact, but it can never transcend itself.

This is mundane. And this is not important. But don’t you dare … don’t you dare forget it for an instant. It (this moment) will not forget you. And someday it very well may be a revelation, an epiphanic experience … and then it will be forgotten again.

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