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Posts tagged "fiction"
Each day, we wake slightly altered, and the person we were yesterday is dead. So why, one could say, be afraid of death, when death comes all the time?
John Updike

Dream Poetry Visions - Future Past Eternity Myth Sky Magic - Section 1, Part 2 - Starflower Mandala

This is the second part of a poetry manuscript I am currently working on. I am hoping on turning it…

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Wizard City – Voyages in the Waystation
Doorways and Windows – The School of Heroes

Along the boulevard of dreams, my love lost and perhaps one day regained
The magic city of wonders, darkness and light, meeting point
Even the shadows have their own stories to tell, if one knows
How to listen — Those with time and bravery enough to go
Into the dark places — By the river that passes from one world
To the next — I join a group of friends learning about the city
Ourselves, the river, universe of love and sorrow around us
Jasmine, Holly, Rosemary, Spring, Sophia, Sage, Laurel
Symbols and people, progression of human history here
In Eldren and on Earth — We watch from outside yet on the border
Between the lands of waking and of sleep — Earth and Faery
The play of the cosmic drama unfolding all around us, cosmic mysteries
Here in the Wizard City, island home of magicians and witches, gods and demons
Outside our home the Waystation, living building and space-time ship linking worlds
Places and moments beyond counting, yet all connected to humanity — Earth and Faery
The heavy rain comes, bringing life, growth, change, learning, becoming amidst being
As above so below — The World Tree’s roots soak in the water of life — Providing
Sustenance to countless worlds, universes, dimensions of reality — As we walk by
Shops, cafes, river and ocean boats, I contemplate the meaning of my life so far
Imagine what might be to come, beyond limits of certainty, staying open to mystery
I am happy to be able to spend even a little time with the people I care about and love
Finding a way to transcend despair and jealousy, confusion and shadow inside my soul
I am thankful for their companionship, energy, humor, love, and light — Journeys
Through the forests of this world and others, and through the cities of humanity and faeries
Among the clouds, castles floating in air, or on mountain trails bordering higher worlds
Universes of air and sky, portals to heavens, tunnels to hells — Underworld between
Middle worlds like Earth, home for humanity — We will return if we can, when we can
Awakening to the fabric of cosmos around us — Learning how to work for good and balance
Studying at the school of heroes, library of ancient and future secrets, knowledge of wisdom
We take our knowledge and wisdom back to Earth — Changing the course of human history
Destiny and progression — For the better — A more positive future, optimal version of reality
Helping humanity develop into better stewards of the Earth, civilization capable of standing
Against the tide of dark powers from beyond stars, shadow of the void between and inside us

Beth 2

Fragments of the Cosmic College

School, Temple, Mountains of Evolution

Sophia joins me in the world of gods and demons

We sing songs and discuss ancient mysteries, myths, conflicts

Recurring and yet already settled, always in the eternal now of spirit

Becoming better through the constant art of synthesis of opposites

Compromise — Sublimation of conflict through cooperation and love

Affection and compassion bridging the difference between darkness

And light, sun and moon, male and female, art and science, love and hate

Running through the snowstorm again, chased by birds

A handsome gentleman dressed in crimson clothing

Albino skin and crystal clear blue eyes — On a journey

I call out to him, but immediately regret my action

He seems more dangerous the closer he gets, more

Than the black birds behind — I still want to be friendly

But he looks at me with obvious antipathy and hatred

Sophia makes love to me in the Waystation, making things complicated

Not just between us, but also with other companions and friends

Mutual and separate roommates and guests of the Waystation

In its largest form, impersonating a church from the outside

Mountain Temple — I climb through the deep underground tunnels

On my way to the top of the mountain paradise, holy waterfalls and cascades

Meeting place for friends, lovers, families — Many words of magic and wonder

Planes of reality combining together to create a crossroads — Center of myth

I find the entrance to the spiral staircase that leads to the summit

Temple of gods and demons, sacred ground, sanctuary for all sides

Of the eternal conflict between good and evil, light and darkness

Site of ancient and future power, connected to the heart of the Multiverse

Where we may find the world medicine to take back to our home

Helping our friends and family of the earth and sky and in between

Working for and towards Light, Balance, Truth, Love, Light, Life, Preservation

Against the chaos demons, serpents of the deep darkness, void beyond stars

We work with the gods and faeries forces of Light, Order in Chaos, Balance

The World of Eldren is our temporary yet eternal new home, yet we miss Earth

We try to return when we can, if we can — Always there are ways between worlds

And there is much to do in many places, fighting and learning, loving and changing

In the school of the Wizards of Light, I gain strength through knowledge and wisdom

Traveling in the Waystation, my friends and I work for the good of our will and others

Beth 1

At the Edge of Faery and Earth


Many beautiful women, many different colors

Eyes, skin, hair, souls, auras, spirits, souls — All unique

All I love, in some way or another — More or less

Yet united by a common goal of making the world


Creating a better society and environment for the future

Sometimes I think I do not deserve to be in their company

I mostly just fight monsters — They create life and order

In chaos, magic in the midst of stagnation, balance


Time passes, generations of human families, on the borderlands

Between the higher and middle words, Earth and Faery


Gaia walks with me and tells me of her past lives

As we try our best to positively influence the course

Of history on Earth and in the material universe beyond


There are always dark forces that are jealous and resentful

Ignorant or sorrowful — Both inside us and in the worlds outside

Yet there is always hope for redemption in the conflict between

Good and evil — The sides are not always clearly defined


And there are always more than two sides between chaos and order

Left and right, male and female, light and darkness, all combined

The Tree of Life and Consciousness uniting the worlds above and below

The play of the cosmos, setting and living landscape, Eldren


In the in-between world, anything is possible — Here, home, and even beyond

"There are two ways of spreading light, to be the candle or the mirror that reflects it." - Edith Wharton

Fiction is obliged to stick to possibilities … - Mark Twain

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All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-08-241986-06-14) was an Argentine writer who is considered one of the foremost literary figures of the 20th century. Most famous in the English speaking world for his short stories and fictive essays, Borges was also a poet, critic, translator and man of letters.

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[edit] Quotes

In these selections the quotes from a story or essay are listed among the earliest collections which are known to contain it.

Our nothingness differs little; it is a trivial and chance circumstance that you should be the reader of these exercises and I their author.
  • If the pages of this book contain some successful verse, the reader must excuse me the discourtesy of having usurped it first. Our nothingness differs little; it is a trivial and chance circumstance that you should be the reader of these exercises and I their author.
    • "To the Reader" ["A quien leyere"], preface to Fervor of Buenos Aires [Fervor de Buenos Aires] (1923)
  • Some days past I have found a curious confirmation of the fact that what is truly native can and often does dispense with local color; I found this confirmation in Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon observes that in the Arabian book par excellence, in the Koran, there are no camels; I believe if there were any doubt as to the authenticity of the Koran, this absence of camels would be sufficient to prove it is an Arabian work. It was written by Mohammed, and Mohammed, as an Arab, had no reason to know that camels were especially Arabian; for him they were part of reality, he had no reason to emphasize them; on the other hand, the first thing a falsifier, a tourist, an Arab nationalist would do is have a surfeit of camels, caravans of camels, on every page; but Mohammed, as an Arab, was unconcerned: he knew he could be an Arab without camels. I think we Argentines can emulate Mohammed, can believe in the possibility of being Argentine without abounding in local color.
    • "The Argentine Writer and Tradition", Fervor of Buenos Aires (1923)
  • Wilde was not a great poet nor a consummate prose writer. He was a very astute Irishman who encompassed in epigrams an esthetic credo which others before him scattered in the space of long pages. He was an enfant terrible.
  • That one individual should awaken in another memories that belong to still a third is an obvious paradox.
    • Evaristo Carriego (1930) Ch. 2
  • It is worth remembering that every writer begins with a naively physical notion of what art is. A book for him or her is not an expression or a series of expressions, but literally a volume, a prism with six rectangular sides made of thin sheets of papers which should include a cover, an inside cover, an epigraph in italics, a preface, nine or ten parts with some verses at the beginning, a table of contents, an ex libris with an hourglass and a Latin phrase, a brief list of errata, some blank pages, a colophon and a publication notice: objects that are known to constitute the art of writing.
    • Evaristo Carriego (1930) Ch. 3

May Heaven exist, even if my place is Hell.
  • Reading … is an activity subsequent to writing: more resigned, more civil, more intellectual.
    • Universal History of Infamy [Historia universal de la infamia] (1935) Preface
  • The vast ineptitude of his pretense would be a convincing proof that this was no fraud.
    • "The Improbable Impostor Tom Castro", in A Universal History of Iniquity (1935); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • Mir Bahadur Ali is, as we have seen, incapable of evading the most vulgar of art’s temptations: that of being a genius.
    • "The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim" (1935)
  • Your unforgivable sins do not allow you to see my splendor.
    • "The masked dyer Hakim of Merv" [El tintorero enmascarado Hakim de Merv] Universal History of Infamy (1935); also translated as “Hakim, Masked Dyer of Merv” (review of "Hakim, Masked Dyer of Merv")
  • The earth we inhabit is an error, an incompetent parody. Mirrors and paternity are abominable because they multiply and affirm it.
    • "Hakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv", in A Universal History of Iniquity (1935); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998). Cf. Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (1940)
  • The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings.
    • "The Library of Babel" ["La Biblioteca de Babel"] (1941) First lines

Let heaven exist, though my own place may be in hell. Let me be tortured and battered and annihilated, but let there be one instant, one creature, wherein thy enormous Library may find its justification.
  • I know of one semibarbarous zone whose librarians repudiate the “vain and superstitious habit” of trying to find sense in books, equating such a quest with attempting to find meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines on the palms of one’s hand.
    • "The Library of Babel" (1941); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • Que el cielo exista, aunque mi lugar sea el infierno.
    • May Heaven exist, even if my place is Hell.
      • "The Library of Babel" (1941)
    • Variants:
    • I cannot think it unlikely that there is such a total book on some shelf in the universe. I pray to the unknown gods that some man — even a single man, tens of centuries ago — has perused and read this book. If the honor and wisdom and joy of such a reading are not to be my own, then let them be for others. Let heaven exist, though my own place may be in hell. Let me be tortured and battered and annihilated, but let there be one instant, one creature, wherein thy enormous Library may find its justification.
    • May Heaven exist, even if our place is Hell.
      • "Deutsches Requiem". (Emece edition, 1974).

Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy.
  • El original es infiel a la traducción.
    • The original is unfaithful to the translation.
    • On William Thomas Beckford's Vathek (1782) and Samuel Henley’s 1786 translation, in “Sobre el Vathek de William Beckford” (1943)
  • I saw the delicate bone structure of a hand; I saw the survivors of a battle sending out post cards… I saw the oblique shadow of some ferns on the floor of a hot-house; I saw tigers, emboli, bison, ground swells and armies; I saw all the ants in the world.
    • "The Aleph" ["El Aleph"] (1945)
  • Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy.
    • Statement to the Argentine Society of Letters (c.1946)
  • There is nothing very remarkable about being immortal; with the exception of mankind, all creatures are immortal, for they know nothing of death. What is divine, terrible, and incomprehensible is to know oneself immortal.
    • "The Immortal", § IV, in The Aleph (1949); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
    • Variant: To be immortal is commonplace; except for man, all creatures are immortal, for they are ignorant of death; what is divine, terrible, incomprehensible, is to know that one is immortal.
  • There are no moral or intellectual merits. Homer composed the Odyssey; if we postulate an infinite period of time, with infinite circumstances and changes, the impossible thing is not to compose the Odyssey, at least once.
    • "The Immortal" (1949)

I am god, I am hero, I am philosopher, I am demon and I am world, which is a tedious way of saying that I do not exist.
  • No one is anyone, one single immortal man is all men. Like Cornelius Agrippa, I am god, I am hero, I am philosopher, I am demon and I am world, which is a tedious way of saying that I do not exist.
    • "The Immortal" (1949)

Any life, however long and complicated it may be, actually consists of a single moment — the moment when a man knows forever more who he is.
  • Any life, however long and complicated it may be, actually consists of a single moment — the moment when a man knows forever more who he is.
    • "A Biography of Tadeo Isidoro Cruz", in The Aleph (1949); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
    • Variant: Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment — the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.
  • Besides, time, which despoils castles, enriches verses … Time broadens the scope of verses and I know of some which, like music, are everything for all men.

The minotaur more than justifies the existence of the labyrinth.
  • There’s no need to build a labyrinth when the entire universe is one.
    • "Ibn-Hakim Al-Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth", in The Aleph (1949); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • The minotaur more than justifies the existence of the labyrinth.
    • "Ibn-Hakim Al-Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth", in The Aleph (1949); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • His many years had reduced and polished him the way water smooths and polishes a stone or generations of men polish a proverb.
    • "The Man on the Threshold", in The Aleph (1949); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998). Cf. “The South” in Ficciones” (1944)
  • I would define the baroque as that style that deliberately exhausts (or tries to exhaust) its own possibilities, and that borders on self-caricature. […] The baroque is the final stage in all art, when art flaunts and squanders its resources.
    • A Universal History of Iniquity, preface to the 1954 edition; tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • To die for a religion is easier than to live it absolutely.
    • "Deutsches Requiem" as translated by Julian Palley (1958)
  • Villari took no notice of them because the idea of a coincidence between art and reality was alien to him. Unlike people who read novels, he never saw himself as a character in a work of art.
    • "The Waiting" translated by James E. Irby (1959)

Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen? Look at the moon…
  • Years of solitude had taught him that, in one’s memory, all days tend to be the same, but that there is not a day, not even in jail or in the hospital, which does not bring surprises, which is not a translucent network of minimal surprises.
    • "The Waiting" translated by James E. Irby (1959)
  • Every novel is an ideal plane inserted into the realm of reality.
    • "Partial Magic in the Quixote", Labyrinths (1964)
  • The heresies we should fear are those which can be confused with orthodoxy.
    • The Theologians, translated by James E. Irby (1964)
  • Like all those possessing a library, Aurelian was aware that he was guilty of not knowing his in its entirety.
    • The Theologians, translated by James E. Irby (1964)
  • Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen? Look at the moon. Do you want to hear what ears have never heard? Listen to the bird’s cry. Do you want to touch what hands have never touched? Touch the earth. Verily I say that God is about to create the world.
    • The Theologians, translated by James E. Irby (1964)

Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.
  • Arrasado el jardín, profanados los cálices y las aras, entraron a caballo los hunos en la biblioteca monástica y rompieron los libros incomprensibles y los vituperaron y los quemaron, acaso temerosos de que las letras encubrieran blasfemias contra su dios, que era una cimitarra de hierro.
    • Razed the garden, profaned the chalices and the altars, by horse the Huns broke into the Monastic library and they tore the incomprehensible books and they vituperated them and they burnt them, fearing their symbols and characters might be concealing secret blasphemies against their God, who was an iron scimitar…
    • The Theologians [Los Teólogos]
  • Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.
    • Preface to Dr. Brodie’s Report [El informe de Brodie] (1970)

Time can’t be measured in days the way money is measured in pesos and centavos, because all pesos are equal, while every day, perhaps every hour, is different.
  • He sospechado alguna vez que la única cosa sin misterio es la felicidad, porque se justifica por sí sola.
    • I have sometimes suspected that the only thing that holds no mystery is happiness, because it is its own justification.
    • "Unworthy", in Brodie’s Report (1970); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
    • Variant: I have thought from time to time that the only thing without mystery is happiness, since it justifies itself.
  • My advanced age has taught me the resignation of being Borges.
    • Dr. Brodie’s Report [El informe de Brodie] (1970)
  • Time can’t be measured in days the way money is measured in pesos and centavos, because all pesos are equal, while every day, perhaps every hour, is different.
    • "Juan Muraña", in Brodie’s Report (1970); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)

Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.
  • The poverty of yesterday was less squalid than the poverty we purchase with our industry today. Fortunes were smaller then as well.
    • "The Elderly Lady", in Brodie’s Report (1970); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • We all think that fate has dealt us a wretched sort of lot in life, and that others must be better. […] I presume that in the heaven of the Blessèd there are those who believe that the advantages of that locale are much exaggerated by theologists, who have never been there themselves.
    • "The Duel", in Brodie’s Report (1970); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • When one confesses to an act, one ceases to be an actor in it and becomes its witness, becomes a man that observes and narrates it and no longer the man that performed it.
    • "Guayaquil", in Brodie’s Report (1970); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.
    • "The Threatened", The Book of Sand [El Libro de arena] (1975)
  • El hecho ocurrió en el mes de febrero de 1969, al norte de Boston, en Cambridge. No lo escribí inmediatamente porque mi primer propósito fue olvidarlo, para no perder la razón.
    • The event took place in the month of February of 1969, to the north of Boston, in Cambridge. I didn’t write it right away because my first intention was to forget it, not to loose reason.
    • "The Other" ["El Otro"], The Book of Sand (1975)

The fact is that poetry is not the books in the library … Poetry is the encounter of the reader with the book, the discovery of the book.
  • Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.
    • "The Divine Comedy" (1977)
  • Films are even stranger, for what we are seeing are not disguised people but photographs of disguised people, and yet we believe them while the film is being shown.
    • Comparing film and stage theatre in “The Divine Comedy” (1977)
  • The fact is that poetry is not the books in the library … Poetry is the encounter of the reader with the book, the discovery of the book.
    • "Poetry" (1977)

The Falklands thing was a fight between two bald men over a comb.
  • The aesthetic event is something as evident, as immediate, as indefinable as love, the taste of fruit, of water. We feel poetry as we feel the closeness of a woman, or as we feel a mountain or a bay. If we feel it immediately, why dilute it with other words, which no doubt will be weaker than our feelings?
    • "Poetry" (1977)
  • There are people who barely feel poetry, and they are generally dedicated to teaching it.
    • "Poetry" (1977)
  • As I think of the many myths, there is one that is very harmful, and that is the myth of countries. I mean, why should I think of myself as being an Argentine, and not a Chilean, and not an Uruguayan. I don’t know really. All of those myths that we impose on ourselves — and they make for hatred, for war, for enmity — are very harmful. Well, I suppose in the long run, governments and countries will die out and we’ll be just, well, cosmopolitans.
  • The man who acquires an encyclopedia does not thereby acquire every line, every paragraph, every page, and every illustration; he acquires the possibility of becoming familiar with one and another of those things.
    • Shakespeare’s Memory, (1983); tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)

Life itself is a quotation.
  • A writer — and, I believe, generally all persons — must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
    • Twenty Conversations with Borges, Including a Selection of Poems: Interviews by Roberto Alifano, 1981–1983 (1984)
  • Life itself is a quotation.
    • Quoted in Cool Memories (1987) by Jean Baudrillard, (trans. 1990) Ch. 5; heard by Baudrillard at a lecture given in Paris.

Reality is not always probable, or likely.
  • Reality is not always probable, or likely. But if you’re writing a story, you have to make it as plausible as you can, because if not, the reader’s imagination will reject it.
    • Discussion published in the Columbia Forum and later quoted in Worldwide Laws of Life : 200 Eternal Spiritual Principles (1998) by John Templeton

Heaven and hell seem out of proportion to me: the actions of men do not deserve so much.
  • I will pause to consider this eternity from which the subsequent ones derive.
    • "A History of Eternity" in Selected Non-Fictions Vol. 1, (1999), edited by Eliot Weinberger
  • I turn to the most promising example: the bird. The habit of flocking; smallness; similarity of traits; their ancient connection with the two twilights, the beginnings of days, and the endings; the fact of being more often heard than seen — all of this moves us to acknowledge the primacy of the species and the almost perfect nullity of individuals. Keats, entirely a stranger to error, could believe that the nightingale enchanting him was the same one Ruth heard amid the alien corn of Bethlehem in Judah; Stevenson posits a single bird that consumes the centuries: “the nightingale that devours time.” Schopenhauer — impassioned, lucid Schopenhauer — provides a reason: the pure corporeal immediacy in which animals live, oblivious to death and memory. He then adds, not without a smile: Whoever hears me assert that the grey cat playing just now in the yard is the same one that did jumps and tricks there five hundred years ago will think whatever he likes of me, but it is a stranger form of madness to imagine that the present-day cat is fundamentally an entirely different one.
    • "A History of Eternity" in Selected Non-Fictions Vol. 1, (1999), edited by Eliot Weinberger
  • El infierno y el paraíso me parecen desproporcionados. Los actos de los hombres no merecen tanto.
    • Heaven and hell seem out of proportion to me: the actions of men do not deserve so much.
    • As quoted in Borges Verbal (1999) edited by Pilar Bravo and Mario Paoletti, p. 156

[edit] Discussion (1932)

Discusión (1932)

From that correct application of the law of causality it follows that the slightest event presupposes the inconceivable universe and, conversely, that the universe needs even the slightest of events.
  • Life and death have been lacking in my life.
    • Prologue
  • Imprecision is tolerable and verisimilar in literature, because we always tend towards it in life.
    • "The Postulation of Reality" ["La postulación de la realidad"] (1931)

We (the indivisible divinity that works in us) have dreamed the world…
  • The exercise of letters is sometimes linked to the ambition to construct an absolute book, a book of books that includes the others like a Platonic archetype, an object whose virtues are not diminished by the passage of time.
  • Art always opts for the individual, the concrete; art is not Platonic.
    • "Gauchesque Poetry" ["La poesía gauchesca"]
  • It is known that Whistler when asked how long it took him to paint one of his “nocturnes” answered: “All of my life.” With the same rigor he could have said that all of the centuries that preceded the moment when he painted were necessary. From that correct application of the law of causality it follows that the slightest event presupposes the inconceivable universe and, conversely, that the universe needs even the slightest of events.
    • "Gauchesque Poetry"
  • We (the indivisible divinity that works in us) have dreamed the world. We have dreamed it resistant, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and firm in time, but we have allowed slight, and eternal, bits of the irrational to form part of its architecture so as to know that it is false.
    • "Avatars of the Tortoise" ["Avatares de la tortuga"]

It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much…
  • Hay un concepto que es el corruptor y el desatinador de los otros. No hablo del mal cuyo limitado imperio es la ética; hablo del infinito.
    • There is a concept which corrupts and upsets all others. I refer not to Evil, whose limited realm is that of ethics; I refer to the infinite.
    • "Avatars of the Tortoise"
      • Variant translations:
      • One concept corrupts and confuses the others. I am not speaking of the Evil whose limited sphere is ethics; I am speaking of the infinite.
      • There is a concept that is the corruptor and dazzler of others. I’m not talking about the evil whose limited empire is the ethic; I’m talking about infinity.
      • There is a concept that is the corrupter and destroyer of all others. I speak not of Evil, whose limited empire is that of ethics; I speak of the infinite.
  • He transforms all concepts into incommunicable, solidified objects. To refute him is to become contaminated with unreality.

It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordinations, one of them — at least in an infinitesimal way — does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others.
  • It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordinations, one of them — at least in an infinitesimal way — does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others.
  • The central problem of novel-writing is causality.
    • "Narrative Art and Magic" ["El arte narrativo y la magia"]
  • The possibilities of the art of combination are not infinite, but they tend to be frightful. The Greeks engendered the chimera, a monster with heads of the lion, the dragon and the goat; the theologians of the second century, the Trinity, in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are inextricably tied; the Chinese zoologists, the ti-yiang, a vermilion supernatural bird, endowed with six feet and four wings, but without a face or eyes; the geometers of the nineteenth century, the hypercube, a figure with four dimensions, which encloses an infinite number of cubes and has as its faces eight cubes and twenty-four squares. Hollywood has just enriched this vain museum of horrors: by means of an artistic malignity called dubbing, it proposes monsters that combine the illustrious features of Greta Garbo with the voice of Aldonza Lorenzo.
    • "On Dubbing" ["Sobre el doblaje"]

[edit] Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius (1940)

First translated by James E. Irby (1961)

Their language and the derivations of their language — religion, letters, metaphysics — all presuppose idealism. The world for them is not a concourse of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts. It is successive and temporal, not spatial.
  • I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia.
    • First lines
  • One of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had stated that mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man.
    • Variant translation: Mirrors and copulation are obscene, for they increase the numbers of mankind.
    • Cf. “Hakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv”, in A Universal History of Iniquity (1935)
  • Para uno de esos gnosticos, el visible universo era una ilusion o (mas precisamente) un sofisma. Los espejos y la paternidad son abominables porque lo multiplican y lo divulgan.
    • For one of those gnostics, the visible universe was an illusion or, more precisely, a sophism. Mirrors and fatherhood are abominable because they multiply it and extend it.
  • In life, he suffered from a sense of unreality, as do many Englishmen.
    • Variant: In his lifetime, he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen; once dead, he is not even the ghost he was then.

This felicitous supposition declared that there is only one Individual, and that this indivisible Individual is every one of the separate beings in the universe, and that these beings are the instruments and masks of divinity itself.
  • Who are the inventors of Tlön? The plural is inevitable, because the hypothesis of a lone inventor — an infinite Leibniz laboring away darkly and modestly — has been unanimously discounted. It is conjectured that this brave new world is the work of a secret society of astronomers, biologists, engineers, metaphysicians, poets, chemists, algebraists, moralists, painters, geometers… directed by an obscure man of genius. Individuals mastering these diverse disciplines are abundant, but not so those capable of inventiveness and less so those capable of subordinating that inventiveness to a rigorous and systematic plan. This plan is so vast that each writer’s contribution is infinitesimal. At first it was believed that Tlön was a mere chaos, and irresponsible license of the imagination; now it is known that it is a cosmos and that the intimate laws which govern it have been formulated, at least provisionally. Let it suffice for me to recall that the apparent contradictions of the Eleventh Volume are the fundamental basis for the proof that the other volumes exist, so lucid and exact is the order observed in it.
  • Hume noted for all time that Berkeley's arguments did not admit the slightest refutation nor did they cause the slightest conviction. This dictum is entirely correct in its application to the earth, but entirely false in Tlön. The nations of this planet are congenitally idealist. Their language and the derivations of their language — religion, letters, metaphysics — all presuppose idealism. The world for them is not a concourse of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts. It is successive and temporal, not spatial.
  • One thinker no less brilliant than the heresiarch himself, but in the orthodox tradition, advanced a most daring hypothesis. This felicitous supposition declared that there is only one Individual, and that this indivisible Individual is every one of the separate beings in the universe, and that these beings are the instruments and masks of divinity itself.
    • Variant: This happy conjecture affirmed that there is only one subject, that this indivisible subject is every being in the universe and that these beings are the organs and masks of the divinity.

The metaphysicians of Tlön do not seek for the truth or even for verisimilitude, but rather for the astounding.
  • The geometry of Tlön comprises two somewhat different disciplines: the visual and the tactile. The latter corresponds to our own geometry and is subordinated to the first.
  • It is no exaggeration to state that the classic culture of Tlön comprises only one discipline: psychology. All others are subordinated to it. I have said that the men of this planet conceive the universe as a series of mental processes which do not develop in space but successively in time.
  • The metaphysicians of Tlön do not seek for the truth or even for verisimilitude, but rather for the astounding. They judge that metaphysics is a branch of fantastic literature. They know that a system is nothing more than the subordination of all aspects of the universe to any one such aspect. Even the phrase “all aspects” is rejectable, for it supposes the impossible addition of the present and of all past moments.
  • One of the schools of Tlön goes so far as to negate time; it reasons that the present is indefinite, that the future has no reality other than as a present hope, that the past has no reality other than as a present memory. Another school declares that all time has already transpired and that our life is only the crepuscular and no doubt falsified an mutilated memory or reflection of an irrecoverable process. Another, that the history of the universe — and in it our lives and the most tenuous detail of our lives — is the scripture produced by a subordinate god in order to communicate with a demon. Another, that the universe is comparable to those cryptographs in which not all the symbols are valid and that only what happens every three hundred nights is true. Another, that while we sleep here, we are awake elsewhere and that in this way every man is two men.
    • Variants: One of the schools in Tlön has reached the point of denying time. It reasons that the present is undefined, that the future has no other reality than as present hope, that past is no more than present memory … Another maintains that the universe is comparable to those code systems in which not all the symbols have meaning, and in which only that which happens every three hundredth night is true…
      • The history of the universe… is the handwriting produced by a minor god in order to communicate with a demon.
  • Nowadays, one of the churches of Tlön maintains platonically that such and such a pain, such and such a greenish-yellow colour, such and such a temperature, such and such a sound, etc., make up the only reality there is. All men, in the climactic instant of coitus, are the same man. All men who repeat one line of Shakespeare are William Shakespeare.
    • Variant: Today, one of the churches of Tlön Platonically maintains that a certain pain, a certain greenish tint of yellow, a certain temperature, a certain sound, are the only reality. All men, in the vertiginous moment of coitus, are the same man. All men who repeat a line from Shakespeare are William Shakespeare.

[edit] The Garden of Forking Paths (1942)

El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (1942) is a collection of short stories, taking its title from one of them.

My undertaking is not difficult, essentially… I should only have to be immortal to carry it out.
  • Writing long books is a laborious and impoverishing act of foolishness: expanding in five hundred pages an idea that could be perfectly explained in a few minutes. A better procedure is to pretend that those books already exist and to offer a summary, a commentary.
    • Preface; Variant translations:
      • It is a laborious madness and an impoverishing one, the madness of composing vast books — setting out in five hundred pages an idea that can be perfectly related orally in five minutes. The better way to go about it is to pretend that those books already exist, and offer a summary, a commentary on them… A more reasonable, more inept, and more lazy man, I have chosen to write notes on imaginary books.
      • The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a resume, a commentary … More reasonable, more inept, more indolent, I have preferred to write notes upon imaginary books.

Every man should be capable of all ideas and I understand that in the future this will be the case.
  • My undertaking is not difficult, essentially… I should only have to be immortal to carry it out.
    • "Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote" ["Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote"]
  • There is no exercise of the intellect which is not, in the final analysis, useless. A philosophical doctrine begins as a plausible description of the universe; with the passage of the years it becomes a mere chapter — if not a paragraph or a name — in the history of philosophy.
    • "Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote"
      • Variant: There is no intellectual exercise which is not ultimately useless.
  • Every man should be capable of all ideas and I understand that in the future this will be the case.
    • "Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote"
  • I have known that thing the Greeks knew not – uncertainty.
    • "The Lottery in Babylon"; tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
    • Variant: I have known uncertainty: a state unknown to the Greeks.

[edit] The Garden of Forking Paths

This short story was first translated by Donald A. Yates (1958)

A labyrinth of symbols… An invisible labyrinth of time.
  • It seemed incredible to me that day without premonitions or symbols should be the one of my inexorable death.
    • Variant translation: It seemed incredible that this day, a day without warnings or omens, might be that of my implacable death.
  • I reflected that everything happens to a man precisely, precisely now. Centuries of centuries and only in the present do things happen; countless men in the air, on the face of the earth and the sea, and all that really is happening is happening to me …
  • I foresee that man will resign himself each day to more atrocious undertakings; soon there will be no one but warriors and brigands; I give them this counsel: The author of an atrocious undertaking ought to imagine that he has already accomplished it, ought to impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past.
    • Variant translation: I foresee that man will resign himself each day to new abominations, and soon that only bandits and soldiers will be left… Whosoever would undertake some atrocious enterprise should act as if it were already accomplished, should impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past.

I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths.
  • I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars.
  • I thought that a man can be an enemy of other men, of the moments of other men, but not of a country: not of fireflies, words, gardens, streams of water, sunsets.
  • A labyrinth of symbols… An invisible labyrinth of time.
  • Ts’ui Pe must have said once: I am withdrawing to write a book. And another time: I am withdrawing to construct a labyrinth. Every one imagined two works; to no one did it occur that the book and the maze were one and the same thing.
  • I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths.
  • In the work of Ts’ui Pên, all possible outcomes occur; each one is the point of departure for other forkings. Sometimes, the paths of this labyrinth converge: for example, you arrive at this house, but in one of the possible pasts you are my enemy, in another, my friend.

This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time.
  • Thus fought the heroes, tranquil their admirable hearts, violent their swords, resigned to kill and to die.
  • In a riddle whose answer is chess, what is the only prohibited word?
  • The Garden of Forking Paths is an incomplete, but not false, image of the universe as Ts’ui Pên conceived it. In contrast to Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not believe in a uniform, absolute time. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times. This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time. We do not exist in the majority of these times; in some you exist, and not I; in others I, and not you; in others, both of us.
    • Variant translation: This web of time — the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore each other through the centuries — embrace every possibility.
  • Time forks perpetually toward innumerable futures. In one of them I am your enemy.

[edit] Ficciones (1944)

Ficciones is a collection of stories that includes all those of The Garden of Forking Paths, first English translation by Anthony Kerrigan (1962)

What one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men…
  • The truth is that we live out our lives putting off all that can be put off; perhaps we all know deep down that we are immortal and that sooner or later all men will do and know all things.
    • "Funes the Memorious" ["Funes El Memorioso"] (1944); also published in Labyrinths (1964)
  • That history should have imitated history was already sufficiently marvellous; that history should imitate literature is inconceivable….
    • "Theme of the Traitor and Hero"
  • What one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men. For that reason a disobedience committed in a garden contaminates the human race; for that reason it is not unjust that the crucifixion of a single Jew suffices to save it.
    • "The Form of the Sword"

You will reply that reality hasn’t the slightest need to be of interest. And I’ll answer you that reality may avoid the obligation to be interesting, but that hypotheses may not.
  • "It’s possible, but not interesting," Lonnrot answered. "You will reply that reality hasn’t the slightest need to be of interest. And I’ll answer you that reality may avoid the obligation to be interesting, but that hypotheses may not. In the hypothesis you have postulated, chance intervenes largely. Here lies a dead rabbi; I should prefer a purely rabbinical explanation; not the imaginary mischances of an imaginary robber.”
  • "Maybe this crime belongs to the history of Jewish superstitions," murmmured Lönnrot.
    “Like Christianity,” the editor put in.
    • "Death and the Compass"

The time for your labor has been granted.
  • The execution was set for the 29th of March, at nine in the morning. This delay was due to a desire on the part of the authorities to act slowly and impersonally, in the manner of planets or vegetables.
  • Like every writer, he measured the virtues of other writers by their performance, and asked that they measure him by what he conjectured or planned.
    • "The Secret Miracle"; Variant: Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.
  • The time for your labor has been granted.
    • "The Secret Miracle"
  • Toward dawn, he dreamed that he was in hiding, in one of the naves of the Clementine Library. What are you looking for? a librarian wearing dark glasses asked him. I’m looking for God, Hladik replied. God, the librarian said, is in one of the letters on one of the pages of one of the four hundred thousand volumes in the Clementine. My parents and my parents’ parents searched for that letter; I myself have gone blind searching for it.
    • "The Secret Miracle"
  • In adultery, there is usually tenderness and self-sacrifice; in murder, courage; in profanation and blasphemy, a certain satanic splendour. Judas elected those offences unvisited by any virtues: abuse of confidence and informing.
    • "Three Versions of Judas"
  • On the floor, and hanging on to the bar, squatted an old man, immobile as an object. His years had reduced and polished him as water does a stone or the generations of men do a sentence. He was dark, dried up , diminutive, and seemed outside time, situated in eternity.
    • "The South". Cf. "The Man on the Threshold", in The Aleph (1949)
    • Variant: On the floor, curled against the bar, lay an old man, as motionless as an object. The many years had worn him away and polished him, as a stone is worn smooth by running water or a saying is polished by generations of mankind.
      • tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • If Dahlmann was without hope, he was also without fear. As he crossed the threshold, he felt that to die in a knife fight, under the open sky, and going forward to the attack, would have been a liberation, a joy, and a festive occasion, on the first night in the sanitarium, when they stuck him with the needle. He felt that if he had been able to choose, then, or to dream his death, this would have been the death he would have chosen or dreamt. Firmly clutching his knife, which he perhaps would not know how to wield, Dahlmann went out into the plain.
    • "The South"

[edit] Other Inquisitions (1952)

Otras inquisiciones (1952); first translated by Ruth L. C. Simms as Other Inquisitions, 1937–1952 (1964)

Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire.
  • And yet, and yet … Negar la sucesión temporal, negar el yo, negar el universo astronómico, son desesperaciones aparentes y consuelos secretos. Nuestro destino no es espantoso por irreal: es espantoso porque es irreversible y de hierro. El tiempo es la sustancia de que estoy hecho. El tiempo es un río que me arrebata, pero yo soy el río; es un tigre que me destroza, pero yo soy el tigre; es un fuego que me consume, pero yo soy el fuego. El mundo desgraciadamente es real; yo, desgraciadamente, soy Borges.
    • And yet, and yet … Denying temporal succession, denying the self, denying the astronomical universe, are apparent desperations and secret consolations. Our destiny is not frightful by being unreal; it is frightful because it is irreversible and iron-clad. Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges.
    • "A New Refutation of Time" (1946) ["Nueva refutación del tiempo”]
    • Variant translations:
      • And yet, and yet… Denying temporal succession, denying the self, denying the astronomical universe, are obvious acts of desperation and secret consolation. Our fate (unlike the hell of Swedenborg or the hell of Tibetan mythology) is not frightful because it is unreal; it is frightful because it is irreversible and ironclad. Time is the thing I am made of. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that tears me apart, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges.
      • Time is the substance from which I am made. Time is a river which carries me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that devours me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire.

Universal history is the history of a few metaphors.
  • I cannot walk through the suburbs in the solitude of the night without thinking that the night pleases us because it suppresses idle details, just as our memory does.
    • "New Refutation of Time"
  • Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon.
    • "The Wall and the Books" ["La muralla y los libros"] (1950)
      • Variant translation: Music, feelings of happiness, mythology, faces worn by time, certain twilights and certain places, want to tell us something, or they told us something that we should not have missed, or they are about to tell us something; this imminence of a revelation that is not produced is, perhaps, the esthetic event.
  • Universal history is the history of a few metaphors.
    • "Pascal’s Sphere" ["La esfera de Pascal"] (1951)
      • Variant translations: Perhaps universal history is the history of the diverse intonation of some metaphors.
      • It may be that universal history is the history of the different intonations given a handful of metaphors.
  • In the course of a life devoted less to living than to reading, I have verified many times that literary intentions and theories are nothing more than stimuli and that the final work usually ignores or even contradicts them.

One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.
  • "Wakefield" prefigures Franz Kafka, but the latter modifies, and sharpens, the reading of “Wakefield.” The debt is mutual; a great writer creates his or her precursors. He or she creates them and in some fashion justifies them.
    • "Nathaniel Hawthorne"
  • In the critic’s vocabulary, the word “precursor” is indispensable, but it should be cleansed of all connotations of polemic or rivalry. The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.
    • "Kafka and His Precursors" ["Kafka y sus precursores"], as translated in Labyrinths (1964)
      • Variant translation: The fact is that all writers create their precursors. Their work modifies our conception of the past, just as it is bound to modify the future.
  • A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.
    • "Note on (toward) Bernard Shaw" ["Nota sobre (hacia) Bernard Shaw"] (1951)
  • Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.
    • "Note on (toward) Bernard Shaw"
      • Variant translation: A book is not an autonomous entity: it is a relation, an axis of innumerable relations. One literature differs from another, be it earlier or later, not because of the texts but because of the way they are read: if I could read any page from the present time — this one, for instance — as it will be read in the year 2000, I would know what the literature of the year 2000 would be like.

There is no act that is not the coronation of an infinite series of causes and the source of an infinite series of effects.
  • The future is inevitable and precise, but it may not occur. God lurks in the gaps.
    • "Creation and P.H. Gosse" ["La creacin y P.H. Gosse"]
  • To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god.
    • "The Meeting in a Dream"
  • In the order of literature, as in others, there is no act that is not the coronation of an infinite series of causes and the source of an infinite series of effects.
    • "The Flower of Coleridge" ["La flor de Coleridge"] — The title of this work makes reference to a line by Samuel Coleridge in Anima Poetæ : From the Unpublished Note-books of Samuel Taylor Coleridge (1895), p. 282 : “If a man could pass through Paradise in a dream, and have a flower presented to him as a pledge that his soul had really been there, and if he found that flower in his hand when he awake — Aye, what then?”
  • Coleridge observes that all men are born Aristotelians or Platonists. The latter feel that classes, orders, and genres are realities; the former, that they are generalizations. For the latter, language is nothing but an approximative set of symbols; for the former, it is the map of the universe. The Platonist knows that the universe is somehow a cosmos, an order; that order, for the Aristotelian, can be an error or a fiction of our partial knowledge. Across the latitudes and the epochs, the two immortal antagonists change their name and language: one is Parmenides, Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Francis Bradley; the other, Heraclitus, Aristotle, Locke, Hume, William James.
    • "The Nightingale of Keats"

[edit] The Analytical Language of John Wilkins

"El idioma analítico de John Wilkins" (in Spanish & English)

It is clear that there is no classification of the Universe that is not arbitrary and full of conjectures. The reason for this is very simple: we do not know what kind of thing the universe is.

If there is a universe, its aim is not conjectured yet; we have not yet conjectured the words, the definitions, the etymologies, the synonyms, from the secret dictionary of God.
  • These ambiguities, redundances, and deficiences recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.
  • It is clear that there is no classification of the Universe that is not arbitrary and full of conjectures. The reason for this is very simple: we do not know what kind of thing the universe is.
    • As translated by Will Fitzgerald
  • Cabe ir más lejos; cabe sospechar que no hay universo en el sentido orgánico, unificador, que tiene esa ambiciosa palabra. Si lo hay, falta conjeturar su propósito; falta conjeturar las palabras, las definiciones, las etimologías, las sinonimias, del secreto diccionario de Dios.
    • We can suspect that there is no universe in the organic, unifying sense, that this ambitious term has. If there is a universe, its aim is not conjectured yet; we have not yet conjectured the words, the definitions, the etymologies, the synonyms, from the secret dictionary of God.
      • As translated by Lilia Graciela Vázquez
      • Variant: We can go further; we suspect that there is no universe in the organic, unifying sense of that ambitious word. If there is, we must conjecture its purpose; we must conjecture the words, the definitions, the etymologies, the synonyms, from the secret dictionary of God.
  • The impossibility of penetrating the divine pattern of the universe cannot stop us from planning human patterns, even though we are conscious they are not definitive. The analytic language of Wilkins is not the least admirable of such patterns.
    • As translated by Lilia Graciela Vázquez
    • Variant: The impossibility of penetrating the divine scheme of the universe does not, however, dissuade us from planning human schemes, even though we know they must be provisional. The Analytic Language of Wilkins is not the least admirable of these schemes.
      • As translated by Will Fitzgerald

[edit] The Modesty of History

A Chinese prose writer has observed that the unicorn, because of its own anomaly, will pass unnoticed. Our eyes see what they are accustomed to seeing.
  • On September 20, 1792, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (who had accompanied the Duke of Weimar on a military expedition to Paris) saw the finest army of Europe inexplicably repulsed at Valmy by some French militiamen, and said to his disconcerted friends: "In this place and on this day, a new epoch in the history of the world is beginning, and we shall be able to say that we have been present at its origin." Since that time historic days have been numerous, and one of the tasks of governments (especially in Italy, Germany, and Russia) has been to fabricate them or to simulate them with an abundance of preconditioning propaganda followed by relentless publicity.
  • I have suspected that history, real history, is more modest and that its essential dates may be, for a long time, secret. A Chinese prose writer has observed that the unicorn, because of its own anomaly, will pass unnoticed. Our eyes see what they are accustomed to seeing. Tacitus did not perceive the Crucifixion, although his book recorded it.
  • There is a flavor that our time (perhaps surfeited by the clumsy imitations of professional patriots) does not usually perceive without some suspicion: the fundamental flavor of the heroic.
  • Only one thing is more admirable than the admirable reply of the Saxon king: that an Icelander, a man of the lineage of the vanquished, has perpetuated the reply. It is as if a Carthaginian had bequeathed to us the memory of the exploit of Regulus. Saxo Grammaticus wrote with justification in his Gesta Danorum: “The men of Thule [Iceland] are very fond of learning and of recording the history of all peoples and they are equally pleased to reveal the excellences of others or of themselves.”
    Not the day when the Saxon said the words, but the day when an enemy perpetuated them, was the historic date. A date that is a prophecy of something still in the future: the day when races and nations will be cast into oblivion, and the solidarity of all mankind will be established.

[edit] Dreamtigers (1960)

El hacedor : literal translation: The Maker; first translated as Dreamtigers (1964)

Myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.
  • Myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.
    • "Parable of Cervantes and Don Quixote" (January 1955)
    • Variant: In the beginning of literature there is myth, as there is also in the end of it.
      • Tr. Andrew Hurley, Collected Fictions (1998)
  • Yo, que me figuraba el Paraíso / Bajo la especie de una biblioteca. I have always imagined Paradise as a kind of library.
    • "Poem of the Gifts" ["Poema de los Dones"]
  • The flattery of posterity is not worth much more than contemporary flattery, which is worth nothing.
    • "Dead Men’s Dialogue"
  • A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.
    • Afterword

[edit] Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges (1968)

On Federico Garcia Lorca.

  • "I suppose he had the good luck to be executed, no? I had an hour’s chat with him in Buenos Aires. He struck me as a kind of play actor, no? Living up to a certain role. I mean, being a professional Andalusian… But in the case of Lorca, it was very strange bcause I lived in Andalusia and the Andalusians aren’t a bit like that. His were stage Andalusians. Maybe he thought that in Buenos Aires he had to live up to that character, but in Andalusia, people are not like that. In fact, if you are in Andalusia, if you are talking to a man of letters and you speak to him about bullfights, he’ll say, ‘Oh well, that sort of this pleases people, I suppose, but really the torero works in no danger whatsoever. Because they are bored by these things, because every writer is bored by the local color in his own country. Well, when I met Lorca, he was being a professional Andalusian… Besides, Lorca wanted to astonish us. He said to me that he was very troubled about a very important figure in the contemporary world. A character in whom he could see all the tragedy of American life. And then he went on in this way until I asked him who was this character and it turned out this character was Mickey Mouse. I suppose he was trying to be clever. And I thought, ‘That’s the kind of thing you say when you are very, very young and you want to astonish somebody.’ But after all, he was a grown man, he had no need, he could have talked in a different way. But when he started in about Mickey Mouse being a symbol of America, there was a friend of mine there and he looked at me and I looked at him and we both walked away because we were too old for that kind of game, no? Even at that time."
    • Richard Burgin, Conversation with Jorge Luis Borges, pages 92-93.
  • "Well, [Lorca had] a gift for gab. For example, he makes striking metaphors, but I think he makes striking metaphors for him, because I think that his world was mostly verbal.I think that he was fond of playing words against each other, the contrast of words, but I wonder if he knew what he was doing."
    • Richard Burgin, Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges, Holt, Rhinehart, & Winston, 1968. Pages 93-94.

On Pablo Neruda

  • "Well, he wrote a book — well, maybe here I’m being political — he wrote a book about the tyrants of South America, and then he had several stanzas against the United States. Now he knows that that’s rubbish. And he had not a word against Perón. Because he had a law suit in Buenos Aires, that was explained to me afterwards, and he didn’t care to risk anything. And so, when he was supposed to be writing at the top of his voice, full of noble indignation, he had not a word to say against Perón. And he was married to an Argentine lady, he knew that many of his friends had been sent to jail. He knew all about the state of our country, but not a word against him. At the same time, he was speaking against the United States, knowing the whole thing was a lie, no? But, of course, that doesn’t mean anything against his poetry. Neruda is a very fine poet, a great poet in fact. And when they gave Miguel de Asturias the Nobel Prize, I said that it should have been given to Neruda! Now when I was in Chile, and we were on different political sides, I think he did the best thing to do. He went on a holiday during the three or four days I was there so there was no occasion for our meeting. But I think he was acting politely, no? Because he knew that people would be playing him up against me, no? I mean, I was an Argentine, poet, he was a Chilean poet, he’s on the side of the Communists, I’m against them. So I felt he was behaving very wisely in avoiding a meeting that would have been quite uncomfortable for both of us.”
    • Page 96.

[edit] Autobiographical Notes (1970)

Published in The New Yorker, 1970-09-11
  • This was the first time Remington rifles were used in the Argentine, and it tickles my fancy to think that the firm that shaves me every morning bears the same name as the one that killed my grandfather.
  • Of course, like all young men, I tried to be as unhappy as I could — a kind of Hamlet and Raskolnikov rolled into one.
  • I found America the friendliest, most forgiving, and most generous nation I had ever visited. We South Americans tend to think of things in terms of convenience, whereas people in the United States approach things ethically. This — amateur Protestant that I am — I admired above all. It even helped me overlook skyscrapers, paper bags, television, plastics, and the unholy jungle of gadgets.
  • Any time something is written against me, I not only share the sentiment but feel I could do the job far better myself. Perhaps I should advise would-be enemies to send me their grievances beforehand, with full assurance that they will receive my every aid and support. I have even secretly longed to write, under a pen name, a merciless tirade against myself.
    • Cada vez que leo algo que han escrito contra mi, no sólo comparto el sentimiento sino que pienso que yo mismo podría hacer mejor el trabajo, quizá debería aconsejar a los aspirantes a enemigos que me envíen sus criticas de antemano, con la seguridad de que recibirán toda mi ayuda y mi apoyo. Hasta he deseado secretamente escribir con seudónimo, una larga invectiva contra mí mismo.
    • "Jorge Luis Borges visto por él mismo" (Jorge Luis Borges seen by himself) In the case of this work, the Spanish version seems to have been published after the English version.

[edit] Unsourced

  • ¿De qué otra forma se puede amenazar que no sea de muerte? Lo interesante, lo original, sería que alguien lo amenace a uno con la inmortalidad.
    • How else can one threaten, other than with death? The interesting, the original thing, would be to threaten someone with immortality.
  • El fútbol es popular porque la estupidez es popular.
    • Football [soccer] is popular because stupidity is popular.
  • En mi juventud probé la mescalina y la cocaína pero enseguida me pasé a los pastillas de menta que me parecieron más estimulantes. Si las drogas producen el mismo efecto que el alcohol, no me interesan. Un borracho es evidentemente ridículo. He estado borracho algunas veces y lo recuerdo como una experiencia muy desagradable para los demás y para mí.
    • I tried mescaline and cocaine in my youth, but i immediately switched to mint candy, which was more stimulating. I am not interested in drugs if they produce the same effects as alcohol. A drunkard is evidently ridiculous. I have been drunk some times, and I remember them as horrible experiences for me and everyone else.
  • Hay que tener cuidado al elegir a los enemigos porque uno termina pareciéndose a ellos.
    • One must choose one’s enemies carefully, as one ends up resembling them.
  • He cometido el peor pecado que uno puede cometer. No he sido feliz.
    • I have committed the worst sin that can be committed. I have not been happy.
  • La duda es uno de los nombres de la inteligencia.
    • Doubt is one of the names of intelligence.
  • Que cada hombre construya su propia catedral. ¿Para qué vivir de obras de arte ajenas y antiguas?
    • Let each one build their own cathedral. Why live from alien and ancient works of art?
  • Que otros se jacten de las páginas que han escrito; a mi me enorgullecen las que he leído.
    • Let others brag about the pages they have written; I’m proud of those I’ve read.
    • Variant: Uno no es lo que es por lo que escribe, sino por lo que ha leído.
      • You are what you are not for what you’ve written, but for what you’ve read.
  • Sólo aquello que se ha ido es lo que nos pertenece.
    • Only that which is gone belongs to us.
  • Uno está enamorado cuando se da cuenta de que otra persona es única.
    • One is in love when one realizes that the other person is unique.
  • Yo no hablo de venganzas ni perdones, el olvido es la única venganza y el único perdón.
    • I don’t speak of revenge or forgiveness; forgetting is the only revenge and the only forgiveness.
  • I think I understood love better when I had no love.
  • Death (or its allusion) makes men precious and pathetic. They are moving because of their phantom condition; every act they execute may be their last; there is not a face that is not on the verge of dissolving like a face in a dream.
  • Democracy is an abuse of statistics.
  • I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities that I have visited, all my ancestors … Perhaps I would have liked to be my father, who wrote and had the decency of not publishing. Nothing, nothing, my friend; what I have told you: I am not sure of anything, I know nothing… Can you imagine that I not even know the date of my death?
  • Not granting me the Nobel Prize has become a Scandinavian tradition; since I was born — August 24, 1899 — they have not been granting it to me.
  • Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone.
  • The image of the Lord had been replaced by a mirror.
  • Through the years, a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face.
  • "The central fact of my life has been the existence of words and the possibility of weaving those words into poetry."
  • "I do not write for a select minority, which means nothing to me, nor for that adulated platonic entity known as ‘The Masses’. Both abstractions, so dear to the demagogue, I disbelieve in. I write for myself and for my friends, and I write to ease the passing of time." — Introduction to The Book of Sand
  • "I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library."

[edit] Quotes about Borges

Extremes of fantastic hope and skepticism paradoxically coexist in Borges’ thought. ~ James Irby
  • Extremes of fantastic hope and skepticism paradoxically coexist in Borges’ thought. In “Pascal’s Sphere” he examines an image which is not only paradoxical in itself — the universe as an infinite sphere, in other words, a boundless form perfectly circumscribed — but which has also served to express diametrically opposite emotions: Bruno's elation and Pascal's anguish. But the other basic symmetry to note here is Borges' history of the metaphor. Not only paradoxes are found throughout this collection, but also various listings of ideas or themes or images which though diverse in origin and detail are essentially the same. In “The Flower of Coleridge" the coincidence of Valéry's, Emerson's, and Shelley's conceptions of all literature as the product of one Author seems itself to bear out that conception. At the beginning of the essay on Hawthorne, Borges again briefly traces the history of a metaphor — the likening of our dreams to a theatrical performance — and adds that true metaphors cannot be invented, since they have always existed. Such “avatars” point beyond the flux and diversity of history to a realm of eternal archetypes, which, though limited in number, “can be all things for all people, like the Apostle.” While the paradox upsets our common notions of reality and suggests that irreducible elements are actually one, recurrence negates history and the separateness of individuals. Of course, this too is a paradox, as “New Refutation of Time” shows: time must exist in order to provide the successive identities with which it is to be “refuted.” The two symmetries noted above, if we pursue their implications far enough, finally coalesce, with something of the same dizzying sense, so frequent in Borges’ stories, of infinite permutations lurking at every turn. Both are uses of what he calls a pantheist extension of the principle of identity — God is all things: a suitably heterogeneous selection of these may allude to Totality — which has, as he notes in the essay on Whitman, unlimited rhetorical possibilities.
    • James Irby in the Introduction to Other Inquisitions 1937-1952 (1952) as translated by Translated by Ruth L. C. Simms (1964)
  • When I met Borges some time ago and remarked that I was about to embark on writing a book about Schopenhauer, he became excited and started talked volubly about how much Schopenhauer had meant to him. It was the desire to read Schopenhauer in the original, he said, that had made him learn German; and when people asked him, which they often had, why he with his love of intricate structure had never attempted a systematic exposition of the world-view which underlay his writings, his reply was that he did not do it because it had already been done by Schopenhauer.

[edit] External links

Look man, we’d probably most of us agree that these are dark times, and stupid ones, but do we need fiction that does nothing but dramatize how dark and stupid everything is? In dark times, the definition of good art would seem to be art that locates and applies CPR to those elements of what’s human and magical that still lives and glow despite the times’ darkness. Really good fiction could have as dark a worldview as it wished, but it’d find a way both to depict this world and to illuminate the possibilities for being alive and human in it.
David Foster Wallace (via ilikeitshows)

(via maxistentialist)

"I love you sons of bitches. You’re all I read any more. You’re the only ones who’ll talk all about the really terrific changes going on, the only ones crazy enough to know that life is a space voyage, and not a short one, either, but one that’ll last for billions of years. You’re the only ones with guts enough to really care about the future, who really notice what machines do to us, what wars do to us, what cities do to us, what big, simple ideas do to us, what tremendous misunderstanding, mistakes, accidents, catastrophes do to us. You’re the only ones zany enough to agonize over time and distance without limit, over mysteries that will never die, over the fact that we are right now determining whether the space voyage for the next billion years or so is going to be Heaven or Hell."

- “Eliot Rosewater” to a group of science fiction writers

Kurt Vonnegut, God Bless You, Mr. Rosewater (1965)

We are what we pretend to be, so we must be careful about what we pretend to be.
Kurt Vonnegut (Born November 11, 1922), Mother Night
The realm of fairy-story is wide and deep and high and filled with many things: all manner of beasts and birds are found there; shoreless seas and stars uncounted; beauty that is an enchantment, and an ever-present peril; both joy and sorrow as sharp as swords. In that realm a man may, perhaps, count himself fortunate to have wandered, but its very richness and strangeness tie the tongue of a traveller who would report them.
On Fairy-Stories, J.R.R. Tolkien (via ahobbitstale)

(via pacalin)

"If you get bored with nothing to do, you are not a writer": Guillermo del Toro's words to live by"I’m going to sit, because I’m fat. I hope you’re drinking stuff," Guillermo del Toro said as he took the stage at Portland’s Baghdad Theater & Pub. Ostensibly he was there to read from his new book… but he digressed.

What really happened was this: del Toro talked about his book for like 10 minutes, then opened it up to questions for the next hour or two, talking about everything from the book (conceived “before vampires were teenybopper dreams”), to how the Hellboy comics saved his life while he was shooting Mimic, to Hitchcock (did you know he wrote a book on Hitchcock? Me neither).


[….]

Genius. I especially liked the part about humans being spiritual animals in need of totems & the benefits of naming things & treating the world as if it was alive & magic.

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