Quirky Books: Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

Friday, April 16, 2010

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

Borges' literary insights are full of life and thought. This translation involves capturing the humorous tone by maintaining formality. At times it reads like a textbook. The farcical hypothesis played out by imaginary characters is amusing and sometimes playfully mocking. I believe this English translation of "Labyrinths: Selected Stories and other Writing," published by New Directions Publishing Company Incorporated, honors his work the best.

Born in Buenos Aires, Borges is an Argentinean author who entered the international scene during the twentieth century. He traveled to Switzerland and Spain. Learning the formal language of Spanish he is similar to Cervantes; except, in the realm of Science Fiction. Borges is able to benefit from scientific advancement when inventing elaborate landscapes with multidimensional characters to relay psychological and philosophical premises.

A funny twist involves "the Garden of Forking Paths." Borges is known for poetry and short stories. A man finds himself at the doorstep who knows his ancestor who dyed while creating an infinite maze. The stories are separate and each chapter begins uniquely without relation to the previous plot, similar to a collection of short stories. In addition, Borges stories are often complex. When reading it in the past, I randomly select a new story and meditate on the concept. It is entertaining, because each story is unique in depth and references.

One story Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius involves a planet who developed a civilization without nouns and subjective clauses. Everything is determined through philosophy. One experiment involves the ever present theory that thoughts originate outcome; therefore, intense thinking will manifest physical reality. Testing the theory they create four random digs sites to excavate one river. Three dig sites provided slim outcomes, while the fourth dig produces artifacts. Though the river was never found it proved the underlying theory, as word and belief in the river grew it would only be a matter of time before the river manifested. This is also a principle concept behind quantum physics.

The topics and styles are diversified in topic and style. An occasional fantasy and detective story rounds out his portfolio and it is a complete translation, I feel it is better to focus on the overall story as opposed to individual concepts. In the case of "Avatar of the Tortoise" Borges sides with Achilles who said, "Two things equal to a third are equal to one another." Referencing a triangle, if imagining the length of a line, if two sides of a triangle equal a third of the length then the triangle does not exist. Two sides of a triangle must equal more than half the length of the line; therefore, the whole premise is gibberish. However, the main point is math limits a person's mind by creating simplistic boxes of information, so this may or may not be an error.

A fun book to read, even the context is allusive like a maze. As theory with intent to provoke thought, his actual viewpoints are as allusive. Anyone will enjoy the book; however, theologian, philosophers and psychologists will probably enjoy the underwritten humor more easily than a passive reader.