Christopher R


For the last Borges reading of the semester, “The Aleph” seems to present us with the most abstract and difficult imagery as yet to come from one of Borges’ stories. In the story, The Aleph represents everything in the world that we imagine to exist, yet cannot ever physically experience. The Aleph is infinity, a concept impossible for the human mind to comprehend, yet Borges seems to believe that is is possible for one to experience everything possible. Though Borges may have experienced the Aleph in the story, it is impossible for one to even retain a single portion of what one saw. The flaw i see with the concept of such a ‘device’ is that the human mind is not equipped to actually understand a complete view of such things as “sunset” and “sunrise” at the same time. The idea of such a possibility brings to mind the idea that maybe every “real” thing we experience at one point in time in the world is simply imaginary. We may see one or two ants on the ground and admit to their existence, but to imagine that there are millions more living simultaneously all around the world makes one wonder how it is possible that one could even “see” them all at once. How does the mind comprehend every combination everything possible both on earth and metaphysically? What i take away from the story is that, though we may claim to have seen everything on earth, what proof is there to support its “tangibility”? The Aleph is a simple metaphor for the fact that we will never be able to define “reality” with any certainty.

In the short story “Borges and I”, we experience a dichotomy of the self that is very divided, yet simultaneously, equally as intertwined – the struggle between a tiring body, and an extravagant mind. Borges writes as if he has two entirely separate selves – the part of him that takes action, and the part of him that simply exists pondering and thinking, taking “mental action”. He opens saying, “Its Borges, the other one, that things happen to” (p.322), implying that the “man of action” that he physically is, is the one writing the story. Without this man of action, the other man inside him could not exist: “I live, I allow myself to live, so that Borges can spin out his literature, and that literature is my justification”. Borges, or at least his physical self, lives to provide his mind with a medium through witch to express itself. He says that he once tried to separate himself from that “other” Borges, though with no luck. Without the body, the mind cannot function – the two are intertwined indefinitely. And in the end, though he claims that, ” I am not sure which of us it is that’s writing this page”, I believe that there is a simple answer. Both of them are writing, for if either self tried alone, the creation of a coherent paragraph would not be possible. Also in this story, Borges’ self seems to be struggling with a need to feel valued. He realizes that his body is tiring and that part of him is frustrated that no amount of writing can save him. Essentially, the words Borges’ other self have written don’t even belong to either self, they belong to “language itself”. All that will remain when the body and mind are gone, are the moments that they once created.

In Jorge Luis Borges’s short story, The Immortal, we are presented with a tale of a traveling man who stumbles upon “the city of the Immortals”, in his quest for immortality. Borges assesses the possibility of being immortal, conjuring up an image of a very ‘unremarkable’ life. He condemns immortality, claiming that those who are claim to believe in immortality, such as Christians and Muslims, and Jews, really don’t even know themselves and simply claim that ‘destiny’ shaped their religion and only attribute punishment or rewards to events when they were alive. To be immortal is to be every man Borges says, and though it sounds crazy, spending eternity alive would grant one the power to “become” every person imaginable, to try everything possible, and to experience everything available. As Borges says, “Homer composed the Odyssey; given infinite time, with infinite circumstances and changes, it is impossible that the Odyssey should not be composed at least once…A single Immortal man is all men” (p.191). The idea that death is meaningless to the Immortals is intriguing as well. Every action they take is simply an “echo” of those done in the past, there is no beginning or end to one’s actions, it is simply a cycle of constant being.

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