Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges

Borges once claimed that the basic devices of all fantastic literature are only four in number: the work within the work, the contamination of reality by dream, the voyage in time and the double.

In Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius:

Then Bioy Casarer recalled that one of the heresiarches of Uqbar had declared that mirrors and copulation are abominable, because they increase the number of men.

Things have become duplicated in Tlön; they also tend to become effaced and lose their details when they are forgotten. A classic example is the doorway which survived so long as it was visited by a beggar and disappeared at his death. At times some birds, a horse, have saved the ruins of an amphitheatre.

In the Library of Babel:

In the early seventeenth century, Cavalieri said that all solid bodies are the superimposition of an infinite number of planes.

In the Secret Miracle:

Then he reflected that reality does not usually coincide with our anticipation of it; with a logic of his own he inferred that to foresee a circumstantial detail is to prevent its happening.

In ‘The Three Versions of Judas’:

The spots on one’s skin are a chart of the incorruptible constellations.

The three versions of Judas:

1. the common version that Judas betrayed Jesus because of evil intentions.

2. Judas betrayed Jesus because he felt that he was unworthy of being good, and thus thought that this betrayal would redeem him in the eyes of God.

3. God was Judas. To show man/followers that he obliterated himself to become each and everyone of them; thus the usage of the term omnipotence.

In ‘The Immortal’:

‘When the end draws near,’ wrote Cartaphilus, ‘there no longer remain any remembered images; only words remain.’ Words, displaced and mutilated words, words of others, were the poor pittance left by him by the hours and the centuries.

In ‘The Theologians’:

…Corinthians 13:12 (‘for now we see through a glass, darkly’) to demonstrate that everything we see is false. Perhaps contaminated by the Monotones, they imagined that all men are two men and that the real one is the other, the one in heaven. They also imagined that our acts project an inverted reflection, in such a way that if we are awake, the other sleeps, if we fornicate, the other is chaste, if we steal, the other is generous. When we die, we shall join the other and be him.

In ‘The Mirror of Enigmas’:

Everything is a symbol, even the most piercing pain. We are dreamers who shout in our sleep. We do not know whether the things afflicting us are the secret beginning of ulterior happiness or not. We now see, St. Paul maintains, per speculum in a enigmate, literally: ‘in an enigma by means of a mirror’ and we shall not see in any other way until the coming of the One who is all in flames and who must teach us all things.’

We see everything backwards…we are in Heaven and God suffers on Earth.

A terrifying idea of Jeanne’s, about the text Per speculum. The Pleasures of this world would be the torments of Hell, seen backwards in a mirror.

Spiller (The Mind of Man) argues that the retina and the curtaneous surface invoked in order to explain visual and tactile phenomena are, in turn, two tactile and visual systems and that the room we see (the ‘objective’ one) no greater than the one imagined (the ‘cerebral’ one) and does not contain it, denied the existence of primary qualities – the solidity and extension of things – and of absolute space.

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