Thursday, December 02, 2010

Beautiful Conundrums


Labyrinths"to have grown old in so many mirrors,
to have sought in vain the marble gaze of the statues,
to have questioned lithographs, encyclopedias, atlases,
to have seen the things that men see,
death, the sluggish dawn, the plains,
and the delicate stars,"

 --                            from Borges, Elegy (p 251)

Borges' Labyrinths can be compared to a many-sided object which changes depending on the side at which you are looking, the direction of light, the time of day, and on and on ad infinitum. . .

Each story, essay or parable has so many references and nuances of thought and layers of meaning that it is difficult for the reader to digest the wealth of ideas present in each artifice. This is what makes the book a complex read but a joy as the stories unfold and spark new thoughts in the reader's mind. Some of the topics touched upon include: the nature of writing and reading; idealism versus realism; the infinity of reality - or is it a dream? Borges questions the nature of time much as did Augustine ("What then is time?"), while he challenges identity and asks if we can be categorized as Aristotelians or Platonists, or at all.

He challenges the reader with labyrinths and mirrors, with doppelgangers and ghosts, with the warp and woof of realities imagined in the fecundity of Borges thought.  The book is difficult to read but worth the effort as all great books are. I enjoyed the journey, but found the richness of each artifice warrants limiting time spent reading the book in order to savor the depth a breadth of the text. I found the parable "Borges and I" a particular joy.

Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings by Jorge Luis Borges. New Directions, New York. 1964


parrish lantern said...

The Labyrinth.

Zeus,Zeus himself could not undo these nets
of stone encircling me. My mind forgets
the persons I have been along the way,
The hated way of monotonous walls,
which is my fate. The galleries seem straight
but curve furtively, forming secret circles
At the terminus of years; and the parapets
Have been worn smooth by the passage of days.
Here, in the tepid alabaster dust,
Are tracks that frighten me. The hollow air
of evening sometimes brings a bellowing,
or the echo, desolate, of bellowing,
I know that hidden in the shadows there
lurks another, whose task is to exhaust
The loneliness that braids and weaves this hell,
to crave my blood, and to fatten on my death.
We seek each other. Oh, if only this
were the last day of our antithesis!


Borges & Paz were the first Latin-American writers I fell in love with, in fact my cat is called Paz.
Ps sorry if it appears, that I'm all over your Blog, it's just that it's now that I've the time to explore, & in the process have found, a wealth of treasures, books I love etc.

James said...

Again, thanks for your comments. You are welcome to browse and comment at will - critical or complimentary, all are welcome. As for Paz, are you familiar with The Double Flame? That is one of my favorites as Paz assays many aspects of the nature of Eros in a very Borgean way.

parrish lantern said...

Not read but this does sound, right up my street, so will be checking it out.