Tuesday, December 17, 2013

Reading Borges' Labyrinths

UPDATE - Argh, I appear to have lost some of this. Not worried about the vocab, as I've now published it elsewhere. But I had added two other thoughts that I can't recall now. Bah.

I'm going to post the random thoughts I have as I read Jorge Luis Borges' Labyrinths.


1. Quote on the back from David Foster Wallace, saying Borges is the link between modernism and post-modernism. Two stories in and I think I have a sense of what he means.

2. David Mitchell is either a big fan or remarkably informed by others that are. Reading The Garden of the Forking Paths felt like I was reading something by him.

EDIT: Oh look, he totally is. This is one of his top ten books, and he specifically references that story here.

3. I feel like I am missing so much. There are references to so many things that I don't know and don't really have the time to research. I looked up one reference to a Roman leader, and loved it.

4. The last time I had to use a dictionary this much was for Nabokov. Ursprache, apotheosis, etc.*

5. Was Borges an existentialist? Does everyone who reads The Lottery of Babylon think this? In essence, there is a "Company" that people think controls their lives via randomized life decisions. But as there is no proof that this Company exists, "Babylon is nothing else than an infinite game of chance."

6. I'd like to come away from each story with a coherent thought or theme or idea. So far I'm not sure this is possible.

7. I love the playfulness in his writing. Here he is contrasting the original Don Quixote with a modern exact replication of it:
The contrast in style is also vivid. The archaic style of Menard - quite foreign, after all - suffers from a certain affectation. Not so that of his forerunner who handles with ease the current Spanish of his time.
8, 9. (Notes 8 and 9 are lost to time. See above.)

10. I don't understand all or aspects of: Death and the Compass and The Sect of the Phoenix. I enjoyed both of them, but the meanings or themes are not entirely clear. The first is a bit of a hardboiled crime writing, following a detective trying to solve murders that appear to be based on the Kabbalah and featuring references to Zeno's paradoxes.

The second is apparently a riddle for which the answer is sex. Thanks, Wikipedia. Seems a bit tawdry and dull, to be honest.

11. Deutsches Requiem is a powerful story, one I'm interested in exploring further. That likely means just reading this piece for now, though I'd like to read about Schopenhauer. (Yes, that's a bit ambitious.)

(Check this space for more insightful insights soon!)


* Dictionary so far

Ursprache: A proto- or root language, from ur- and the German sprache.
apotheosis: The highest point in the development of something; culmination.
proconsul: A governor of a province in ancient Rome.
palimpsest: A writing material that has had the original writing erased in order to use it again.
propitious: Giving or indicating a good chance of success; favorable.


Sean said...

If you get a chance, read some of his poetry, in particular, his prose poetry. It will give you a sense of where he's coming from. In particular, I would suggest "Things that might have been but never were."

Brenton said...

Thanks. I have a feeling that I'll be exploring more of his work once this collection is done.