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Reading Circle - Ficciones, March 2008

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kTFox has successfully completed an LD4all Quest!
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Mar, 2008  Reply with quote

I have read the first chapter of Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius and I'm already confused on whats happening. Its like he thinks we already know whats happening and we don't. It seems it just dropped into a middle of a story.

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PostPosted: Tue 11 Mar, 2008  Reply with quote

I've just finished the book. In my edition, The South wasn't included.

It's even better written than I remembered. What a style! No doubt Borges is one of the very best writers of the XXth century. But I really don't know what I could say about all this. lachtraan


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PostPosted: Tue 11 Mar, 2008  Reply with quote

kT wrote:
I have read the first chapter of Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius and I'm already confused on whats happening. Its like he thinks we already know whats happening and we don't. It seems it just dropped into a middle of a story.

What don't you understand? ^^ (Use spoiler tags if you need to wink5).

Bas wrote:
I've just finished the book. In my edition, The South wasn't included.

Aww, that's a shame, it's a great story. I love the way it becomes something completely unexpected and then renders into a big great wow. Your book is probably based in the first edition of Ficciones, then? "El Sur", together with "La Secta del Fénix" and "El fin" were only introduced in a later edition. (My own edition, bought in a porteńo newspaper booth, includes those three stories, but not Al-Mu'tasim).

Bas wrote:
It's even better written than I remembered.

It probably gets better as you grow older. I realise there's a lot about those stories that I'll only understand --- or even acknowledge --- at a later time.

Bas wrote:
What a style! No doubt Borges is one of the very best writers of the XXth century. But I really don't know what I could say about all this.

Well, I don't know. There's actually a couple of things I'd like to discuss about Borges and which I never could, due to lack of interlocutor. For instance,

"La lotería en Babilonia" spoiler below.
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PostPosted: Tue 11 Mar, 2008  Reply with quote

Bruno wrote:
Your book is probably based in the first edition of Ficciones, then?

Yes indeed. Curiously, "La Secta del Fénix" (not very good IMO) is included.
Quote:
My own edition, bought in a porteńo newspaper booth, includes those three stories, but not Al-Mu'tasim.

sadblauw Too bad, it's a wonderful story. I hadn't read your comments about the Lottery in Babylon when I wrote my post, I'll anwer your message later. smile

(I don't think there are really spoilers in the further lines. Now they may gravely endanger your own vision and understanding of Ficciones so that it's certainly better to read them after having finished the book.) wink

If Bruno hadn't asked me to, I wouldn't have reread Borges. His pompous and quite latine style, his paradoxical and disenchanted way of thinking are too much contagious and, certainly too, too much recognizable when you hope to write something one day.

I'll venture here two remarks which didn't strike my mind when I've read Borges for the first time. Borges is without any doubt a master in the way of entangling tracks and making believe he had been influenced by philosophers he didn't read, and never read writers which the most visibly acted upon his stories. Frank Kafka wrote a short story, quite a poem in prose - entitled The Messenger if I remember well - in which the messenger enters the Forbidden City in Beijing with an important message he will never be able to brought to the Emperor of China because, before he could enter the last golden portal which discovers the vast throne hall, he has to go through a previous portal, and through another portal through the last rampart, and another portal, and another rampart which protects the Son of Heaven from the common of mortals. In Ficciones, Kafka is never summoned, with the exception of The Lottery in Babylon - definitely a Kafka's short story - in which his disfigured name adorns an urinal.

An incidental remark which most likely is no related to what was said above : Kafka was a Jew. Ficciones were written during the WWII. You possibly have noticed that jews are very present in the pages of Ficciones... but I prefer to immediatly stop here the godwinisation of Bruno's thread and not to make observe that, in a paragraph in the Sect of the Phoenix, the word jews has been so obviously replaced afterwards by gypsies that inconsistencies remain in the development of the argument.

Idiotically pretending that Borges was antisemit is certainly not in my mind. As one of his specialities is writing from the point of view of a stubborn and pedantic narrator - like in Pierre Menard - it seems to me more logical to think that he's just mocking the litterary publications of his epoch, when to look like interesting you would have to spread the word jew through your whole lines. In Tlön, Borges says: "ten years ago, any symmetry that may have the semblance of an order - dialectical materialism, antisemitism, nazism - was sufficient to entrance the minds of men." And here comes my second remark :

Forgetting Ficciones were written during the WWII - I already said it - sounds like unforgiveable : the dates (perhaps true, most often false) are written at the end of each short story. Apart from Jews, three other themes cross this Borges' work : cowardice, relativity - and eventually inanity - of human thought, justification of his own life. Tlön (circa 1940) describes a new and absurd idealism overwelming the world - at the same times when ideologies like stalinism and nazism were spreading, it was more often illustrated in fantastic litterature by UFO invasions. Those ideologies are overtly cited in the lines of Tlön. Tlön is the first story of the book.

So - in my opinion - Ficciones are war litterature. As war litterature, everybody would notice it's not very committed. In The Secret Miracle (1943), the destiny of Jaromir Hladik (a jew, a writer) takes a tragical turn just because his publisher exagerated, for marketing purposes, his reputation on a book he translated. What to write when you know that any handsomely presented ideology is "sufficient to entrance the minds of men", that in those conditions your friends of today may become your enemies of tomorrow, and you don't want your life to quickly turn to tragedy because of war times ? You can justify your life - you know some other people are sacrifying theirs - you can justify your noticeable uncommitment by discussing the inanity of reason - a specialization of madness. You perfectly know that your justifications are as foolish and unfounded as the absurd ideologies which are killing millions of people. You can flee in a labyrinth of numerous misty theories refuting numerous misty theories. You can write stories about cowardice. You can write Ficciones.

[Edit: I corrected a mistake: a passage I cited by memory was not in The Death and The Compass but The Sect of the Phoenix. overspannen ]


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PostPosted: Thu 13 Mar, 2008  Reply with quote

Reply to Bruno about the Lottery in Babylon:
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


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double-o-darko
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PostPosted: Thu 20 Mar, 2008  Reply with quote

First of all, I would just like to thank Bruno for recommending this book for this month's reader's circle. All controversy aside (ahem), I thought it was a really fascinating and stimulating read. I haven't seen much discussion going on, so I 'm just gonna go ahead and go for it. I should mention that these are not necessarily spoilers (?) but just brief passages from the book and some of my thoughts about them. I have only posted passages from the 1st half of the book (or the first book, technically), so hopefully some of you are at least that far along.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


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PostPosted: Sun 23 Mar, 2008  Reply with quote

Bas wrote:
Yes indeed. Curiously, "La Secta del Fénix" (not very good IMO) is included.

Hahaha, I don't like that one either! lachtraan

Bas wrote:
His pompous and quite latine style, his paradoxical and disenchanted way of thinking are too much contagious and, certainly too, too much recognizable when you hope to write something one day.

You're right. There's a je ne sais quoi in Borges' fiction that sticks. I dare say his books are dark magic: upon reading them, one seems to summon a cretain Borgean bug. Borgesbugs, like their close cousins the Kafkabugs, once summoned will hide behind the reader's ears, and stay put, waiting for a situation in which to whisper doubt and discord into your life. It is very hard, once you're infected by a Borgesbug, to avoid the Borgean way of thinking. yes

Bas wrote:
Borges is without any doubt a master in the way of entangling tracks and making believe he had been influenced by philosophers he didn't read, and never read writers which the most visibly acted upon his stories.

And in that sense, I'd very much like to have a look at his essays, at some point in my life, and whatever pieces of specialised criticism there are on that particular matter.

Bas wrote:
I prefer to immediatly stop here the godwinisation of Bruno's thread and not to make observe that, in a paragraph in the Sect of the Phoenix, the word jews has been so obviously replaced afterwards by gypsies that inconsistencies remain in the development of the argument.

By all means, throw whatever hypothesis you come up with on the table, this is a topic to discuss, and any new idea is very welcome. You're right--- re-reding La Secta del Fénix, it was clear to me as well that the mention of gypsies was a late, lousy edition made to the manuscript.

Bas wrote:
Idiotically pretending that Borges was antisemit is certainly not in my mind.

Borges himself made a point at claiming he was most definitely not one. smile

Bas wrote:
As one of his specialities is writing from the point of view of a stubborn and pedantic narrator - like in Pierre Menard - it seems to me more logical to think that he's just mocking the litterary publications of his epoch, when to look like interesting you would have to spread the word jew through your whole lines.

...but I don't think this is his intention --- not to spread the word Jew thoughtlessly, but rather (I think) to spread that structuralist (if not downright pseudo-biological) racist inquiry on the behaviour of different groups of people. Using a group, a culture, an identity as an argument --- if this is so natural to the {gypsies, jews}, why not to the secret sect as well?, he would claim --- sounds downright racist to a modern listener, but was a bit more reasonable, easy on the ear to a mid 20th century Western intellectual. Borges seems to be mocking this kind of mindset throughout his book: rather than anti-semitism, any prejudice, against any minority, as exposed in many points regarding many different minority groups.

Bas wrote:
Forgetting Ficciones were written during the WWII - I already said it - sounds like unforgiveable : the dates (perhaps true, most often false) are written at the end of each short story. (...) So - in my opinion - Ficciones are war litterature.

Firstly, a curiosity, why do you say most often the dates are false? smile As for your claim that Ficciones is a piece of war literature... I'll agree with you that it is a clear aspect of it, but like you said yourself, it's not the one Borges is the most commited to. Having lived through the first world war and writing those stories during the second, Borges spoke of the absurd of reality, and certainly war and prejudice play a big role in the absurd of reality --- especially then.

But like you said, Hladík is chased and charged with death due to a merchant exaggeration of his writing, an unsuccessful marketing move. Capitalism, marketing, communism, fascism, war, prejudice, rationalism, relativism: everything Western seems to become a piece of unintentional humour to Borges' eyes, and his stories share that big, grothesque joke with us through his stories.

I'm begging to disagree on a very small detail, but one which, in my opinion, matters: you, by identifying his effects as ironic (when not downright sarcastic) are lead to conclude that his fiction is war fiction. On the other hand, when I see his literary trickery not as ironic, but rather as humoristic, I'm lead to a perfectly opposite conclusion: Borges is, indeed, pointing out the absurd of reality, but not with opposition --- rather, with resignation. The rhetoric of his text is that of pointing out an "unconvenient truth" leading the reader to prostration, to laugher. Like Kafka, and as opposed to, for instance, Dostoievski, Borges expresses pessimism, not resistence. So by reading him, the innocent reader (and, often, the not-as-innocent too) is lead to equal cynicism towards life, which is the perfect opposite of the resistence real war literature strives to achieve.

Bas wrote:
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

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00-Darko wrote:
First of all, I would just like to thank Bruno for recommending this book for this month's reader's circle.

touched

00-Darko wrote:
I haven't seen much discussion going on, so I 'm just gonna go ahead and go for it.

I apologize. I'm suppose to keep this up, but I was caught by a couple of unexpected events and ended up not being as active as I had promised to.

00-Darko wrote:
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I have to leave now, with an unfinished reply to Double o Darko. I'll finish this when I get back.


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Basilus West
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PostPosted: Sun 23 Mar, 2008  Reply with quote

Bruno wrote:
I dare say his books are dark magic: upon reading them, one seems to summon a cretain Borgean bug. Borgesbugs, like their close cousins the Kafkabugs, once summoned will hide behind the reader's ears, and stay put, waiting for a situation in which to whisper doubt and discord into your life. It is very hard, once you're infected by a Borgesbug, to avoid the Borgean way of thinking.


Now you answered, I've to reveal that my critic of Borges' work was second degree and mainly an example of what you call the Borgesbug. lachtraan It means, not to believe a word from what you write, making as if all the human concepts even the most stupid ones were equal, prefering spectacular and paradoxical summaries cause true theories are too long to explain hence boring. "Every man, out of his domain of specialization, is credule". I don't remember in which short story of Ficciones Borges wrote this. That's the very principle who is used by Borges when writing his stories.
Quote:
a curiosity, why do you say most often the dates are false?

First, Borges is a liar. wink Second, these dates are often related to the narrator time. In Pierre Menard, I suppose you won't believe this work has been written in Nîmes. Then why should the associated date be right? wink
Quote:
On the other hand, when I see his literary trickery not as ironic, but rather as humoristic

I think we agree on the principle. But what you call humour, I call it irony. I think Borges is doing a sort of disenchanted irony. We reach the same conclusion, "it is the perfect opposite of the resistence real war literature strives to achieve" cause his pessimism tends to resignation. Hence the only way of "justifying his life" is doing irony to say he disagree, but a subtle irony so that it's not understood by the reader.
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


double-o-darko wrote:
I think that was such a clever way to describe how the universe works and how it just briefly hints at the interconnectedness of the entire universe.

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)


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PostPosted: Fri 28 Mar, 2008  Reply with quote

Lottery in Babilon

00-Darko wrote:
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)
Bas wrote:
Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

Click here to see the hidden message (It might contain spoilers)

But now I owe addressing as much of your post as I did before writing this one. I didn't manage to move to the next quote. lachtraan


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double-o-darko
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

*Editor's Note: Sorry it took me so long to post here.... I just kept looking at this page everyday waiting for something magical to happen or something!* Bruno- you know you can quote me and my simpleton ramblings without discretion at any point in time, for I have no shame or reservations about what other people think about me or my ideas. I am kicking myself for not seeing the connection to Donnie Darko instead of Butterfly Effect, as you did, but this is the beauty of communication. I think it's funny that you expected the Circular Ruins to be more popular on this forum..... so did I!!!! I also found it funny but I do recall someone mentioning this story in an earlier post (or was that a dream? is this?). That was actually the first story that I read that made me feel like I might actually be able to make it through the book and even make some sense of it. There are more things about this book I would still like to discuss even though the month is over. Should we maybe start a "Borges, Continued" topic, or a "Ficciones, Cont'd." topic or something? And while it is probably too late to have a successful one for April, Bruno, would you consider hosting a May Reader's Circle. I know I would enjoy it, even if no one lese did! I will save my new discussions for either a new topic or a new post as this is one seems to be getting a trifle long!

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PostPosted: Tue 08 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

Haha. smile

Ah well, I'll poke Will to unsticky this topic, but it doesn't need to get locked. We had our month, people read (or reread) the book, but past that month, we don't magically forget what we read about --- especially when it comes to Borges. Sure, lets keep it alive! yes

As for the next moon --- now that you have participated in one, you can actually host as well. Interested? wink5 I'll always have a couple of suggestions in mind, what with being a student of Liberal Arts and all, but it would be nice to see someone else put a suggestion forward and host a book for a month. ^^ What do you say?


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Basilus West
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PostPosted: Tue 08 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

double-o-darko wrote:
There are more things...

Lol, There are more things is the title of another short story by Borges (not in Ficciones), which is inspired by Lovecraft's work. smile

The content of There are more things makes me think of Escher's drawings, and I realise that there is something "escheresque" in Ficciones. It's not the visual perspective which is distorted but we could say the temporal perspective, the causal perspective, etc. are. Like in Escher's works there are infinite loops that bug the narrative scheme. The Library of Babel IS an Escher's illustration in itself. The Circular Ruins have something fractal and from the story of one man we finally induce a story in which individuality is just a detail of an infinite background. In The Garden of Forkening Paths the relations between the two protagonists are not the same once the story of the Garden is told. The meaning of the act is different cause they are now two characters in the Garden. This is just some examples but I think we could find many other cases of this escherization of Borges' litterature.

Curiously, Escher began to draw in this particular way around 1937, which is quite the date of the first stories in Ficciones. This is rather curious and perhaps Escher and Borges were just two visible details of a vaster plan whose recursive motives extend through time and space.

(This conclusion was just another painful effect of the terrible Borgesbug. wink5 )


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PostPosted: Tue 08 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

I don't really know what to debate or what not about the book. But I have to say I enjoyed it a lot grin

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PostPosted: Thu 10 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

Ok, sweet, that's awesome that this topic is going to stay open, I plan to post some more interesting points I thought he made in the next day or so. I still really need some crutch people around that have read the book that can hopefully help me draw as much from this first run through it as I can. Basilu- very interesting parallel indeed! I went to google images and pulled up some Escher and sat and pondered the similarities for a little while. Then I though about how cool it would be to listen to Borges on audio tape and look at Escher drawings at the same time. Might have to do this is in Lucid Dream (although in that case, I would probably just have Borges read it to me). Petter- this isn't necessarily a contest or a who's right or wrong forum or anything- we are just discussing what stood out to out or how we interpereted some parts of the book we found interesting. Don't let the highly intellectual nature of a few individuals in this topic discourage you, I'm not terribly bright myself and have still been engaged in some discussion (at least to the point that I am mentally capable). Bruno- do you really think think that I am a suitable host for May's Reader's Circle? I would love to host May (which is my birth month) but I feel that people might get less out of it with a less distinguished host such as myself. However, I think if you help me here and there, I just might be able to pull it off. Yes, I would definitely need some recommendations on material, especially cause I'm a stupid American who doesn't really know as many books printed and/or translated into other languages than English as I should. If you think I can do it and not totally kill the momentum the Reader's Circle has built up this past month I am totally up to the challenge!
siiw


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PostPosted: Thu 10 Apr, 2008  Reply with quote

00-Darko wrote:
Bruno- do you really think think that I am a suitable host for May's Reader's Circle? I would love to host May (which is my birth month) but I feel that people might get less out of it with a less distinguished host such as myself.

lach2 Dude, chill, you're fine--- you're just fine! lach1

00-Darko wrote:
Yes, I would definitely need some recommendations on material, especially cause I'm a stupid American who doesn't really know as many books printed and/or translated into other languages than English as I should.

Oh, by all means nor do I. I only managed to pull that off thanks to our most valuable friend, Wikipedia. (And, yeah sure, a very very very limited knowledge of Norwegian --- but you can do better than that and just go to chat and ask for help).

00-Darko wrote:
If you think I can do it and not totally kill the momentum the Reader's Circle has built up this past month I am totally up to the challenge!

Then go for it. 8D


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