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Creator / Jorge Luis Borges

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"...It is clear that there is no classification of the Universe not being arbitrary and full of conjectures. The reason for this is very simple: we do not know what thing the universe is."
Jorge Luis Borges, The Analytical Language of John Wilkins.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) is considered the greatest Argentine writer of the twentieth century and an immensely influential author. His short stories, essays and poetry blend truth and fiction in unexpected ways, playing Mind Screwsnote  on the reader at every turn, and exploring deep philosophical themes (idealism, determinism, infinity, the search for personal identity, fiction vs. reality, humanity vs. divinity...) in a rigorous but entertaining way. He is considered an important precursor and originator of many Post Modern devices. Borges himself was an Ultraist, a short lived movement that originated in early 20th-century Spain (where Borges arrived around 1920).

Politically, Borges described himself as a Spencerian anarchist and a classical liberal. He was an outspoken critic of both populist Peronism in his native Argentina and Marxism, and one of his recurring themes was the use of literature and the written word to fabricate false and delusional worldviews, a common classical liberal criticism of fascism and Marxism. However, his vocal support for right-wing capitalist dictators such as Augusto Pinochet and a purported undercurrent of elitism and snobbery in his life and in his work have earned him his fair share of detractors.


Borges became blind due to an inherited disease in his middle age and blindness is a recurring Motif in his later works. Other common motifs are labyrinths, mirrors, libraries, tigers, and daggers. The blind monk Jorge de Burgos in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose is one allusion to Borges. The blind librarian in The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe may be another.

Some of his best known short stories (Borges didn't write any novels) are:

  • "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius ": An Ancient Conspiracy to create a complete fictional universe is discovered by the narrator in the form of an encyclopedia describing the nation of Uqbar and its mythology about the land of Tlön. Its plan is to recreate Earth in the form of Tlön by subconsciously persuading everyone that it is true. They succeed.
  • The Library of Babel: This story describes a universe consisting of a huge, endless library, that contains all possible books (that is to say, all possible combinations of letters, spaces, and punctuation given a certain number of characters per book)— but arranged with no discernible order or pattern.
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  • "The Garden of Forking Paths": The Framing Device is a spy story set at World War I where The Protagonist is visiting Mr. Exposition who explains the idea of time branching forwards into Alternate Universes note .
  • "Death and the Compass": A Genre Deconstruction of the Detective Fiction that seems to follow a Connect the Deaths plot — but with a twist at the end.
  • "Funes the Memorious": After being concussed and paralyzed from the waist down in a riding accident, a young man suddenly finds that he has a literally photographic memory — he can remember everything that he has experienced, every second of every day of his life, down to the minutest possible detail. As he goes on living, the number of things he remembers continues piling up. This has a very strange effect on the way he sees the world, and after meeting him, Borges' narrator cannot decide whether Funes is Cursed With Awesome or Blessed with Suck.
  • The House of Asterion (1947): A monologue from Prince Asterion where he denies the claims he is arrogant, misantrophist or mad, or how he isn't prisoner of his home of infinite doors. A Perspective Flip of the myth of the Minotaur from the monster's point of view.
  • "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote": A brief memoir of a French poet and essayist whose final project was to attempt to copy Don Quixote, but in a new way: rather than slavishly copying the original, he attempted to arrive — from his own experiences — at a number of lines identical to the original. (He succeeded in reconstructing two and a half chapters without ever rereading the book.) The narrator, presenting us with two identical passages, points out the incredible effort needed for a twentieth-century man to be inspired to write the same words as Miguel Cervantes, given their inevitable differences in point of view.
  • "The Aleph": A mediocre poet has found in his basement an Aleph, a point that reflects every other point in the universe and from which everything can be seen simultaneously and together... and he uses it to write a poem.
  • "The Cult of the Phoenix": A group of madmen, outcasts, women, children, and urchins founds a philosophical school that lasts for thousands of years and secretly manipulates all other religions behind the scenes. They're the good guys.
  • "Averroes's Search" An exploration of the Tragic Dream in the character of Averroes, an Islamic philosopher who hoped to explain Aristotle’s works to Islamic culture. Averroes's problem is that, being confined to the sphere of Islam, he cannot understand the terms “Tragedy” and “Comedy” that constantly pop up in Aristotle’s canon. Suddenly there is No Ending and Borges is Breaking the Fourth Wall to inform us that this story is his own Tragic Dream, because as a twentieth-century author with nothing better to go on than some literary references, he has no better chance of successfully comprehending the character of a twelfth-century Arab than that twelfth-century Arab could comprehend Aristotle.
  • "The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths": A deconstruction of Sealed Room in the Middle of Nowhere: The prideful King of Babylon mocks the King of Arabia by forcing him to enter his labyrinth. The King of Arabia asks for God's help, and gets out. He tells the King of Babylon he knows a better labyrinth and some day he will show it to him. Years later, the Arabian King makes war and dethrones the King of Babylon, drags him out into the Arabian desert and abandons him there, where he died from thirst and hunger in a "labyrinth with no walls".
  • "The Immortal:" A literary agent announces the discovery of a diary of a man that claims to have achieved Complete Immortality.
  • "The Dead Man:" Borges narrates the seemingly impossible life and death of Benjamín Otalora, a courageous Argentinean hoodlum who emigrated to the frontier and became the leader of a band of smugglers, explaining why it was possible.
  • "Deutsches Requiem:" The last testament of Otto Dietrich zur Linde, the one-legged commandant of a Nazi concentration camp. After being tried and convicted of crimes against humanity, Zur Linde reflects that while his comrades were mere Straw Nihilists, he (and Hitler) were real Ubermenschen, and tries to explain humanity's future while he awaits the firing squad; his position is that the violence of Nazi Germany has successfully dethroned and destroyed the weak, hypocritical phantoms of Judaism and Christianity forever... and all it took was the sacrifice of Germany itself.
    • Alternatively: A twentieth century German Torture Technician tries in vain, before his execution, to exculpate himself, never suspecting that the secret justification for his life is that he has inspired a writer to create a new trope.

The other half of his stories are about South Americans knife fighting, such as "The South". He also wrote poetry and literary criticism.

Some of his poems are:

Some of his best-known literary essays are:

  • "Half-Way House" by Ellery Queen: A simple critique of the rules of Mystery Literature and how that genre is different from the Adventure Novel or the Spy Fiction. Also explains why Ellery Queen works could be considered as Growing the Beard on the genre. You can find the quote at the Ellery Queen page.
  • Borges explains the Logic Bomb in his essay The perpetual Race of Achilles and the Turtle. Zeno's paradox has survived 23 centuries and now could be declared "immortal": In a race, the quickest runner can never overtake the slowest, since the pursuer must first reach the point whence the pursued started, so that the slower must always hold a lead. In Real Life Achilles really can outrun the Turtle, but all the mere logic in the world cannot help explain why. At his other essay, "Avatars of the Turtle", he comes to its Logical Extreme: The fact we cannot solve this paradox acts like a Dream Within a Dream, showing us that Real Life is All Just a Dream.
    Let us admit what all idealists admit: the hallucinatory nature of the world. Let us do what no idealist has done: seek unrealities which confirm that nature. We shall find them, I believe, in the antonomies of Kant and in the dialectic of Zeno. The greatest magician (Novalis has memorably written) would be the one who would cast over himself a spell so complete that he would take his own phantasmagorias as autonomous appearances. Would not this be our case? In conjecture that this is so: We (the undivided divinity operating within us) have dreamt the world. We have dreamt it as firm, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and durable in time; but in its architecture we have allowed tenuous and eternal crevices of unreason which tell us it is false.
  • ''Borges and I'': This short story (that you can read in the link) explains the curios relationship between the normal person Jorge Luis Borges was, and Borges, the literature Sacred Cow Sophisticated as Hell Gentleman Snarker his public were expecting to meet. You can see it's a essay about the Secret Identity Identity trope.

Other notable works of his are:

  • Book of Imaginary Beings: Borges details mythical creatures. Considered the Trope Codifier (or Ur-Example) of all books on mythical creatures today and popularized of many obscure mythical creatures, but it also includes literary creations and creatures he made up himself. The most notable of these joke mythical creatures is the Peryton, a half-stag, half-bird monster that cast a human shadow (for they were the souls of Atlantis survivors trapped in monstrous forms, only able to escape by killing a human and devouring the victim's heart). Borges claimed it came from Classical Mythology (specifically a medieval German tome on the subject that was destroyed in World War 2), which many people believed in, turning the Peryton into a fantasy staple.

This author's works provide examples of:


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