Jorge Luis Borges


Jorge Luis Borges Essay, Research Paper

“The Circular Ruins” begins with a man disembarking from a canoe. The stranger wanders around in the wilderness, sleeps, dreams, wakes up, and makes himself a son. This is a lot let less complicated than sex and, it appears, not that unusual. The fire god makes the magician’s creation come alive in such a way that all creatures, except the fire god and the magician, will take him for a man of flesh and bones. The young man is sent on his way, ignorant of his origins. The story ends with a fire, which the older man cannot escape. Prepared to accept to his death, he discovers that the flames do not consume him. “With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he also was a likeness, that someone else was dreaming him.”(Borges)

If there is a “universal truth” here, it is that we are condemned to be our parents, all the way back to Adam. Each individual is doomed to experience for the first time that which all his ancestors have gone through and all his children will go through: birth and death; love and loneliness; the quest for knowledge and disappointment; the circular ruin.

In the short story, ?The Library of Babel,? Borges makes a parallel between the Library and the Universe. He gives life to the Library, making every little thing seem important within the Library. From the lamps described as fruits emitting light, to the bathrooms where people relieve themselves by standing up or sitting down. As the story continues, he uses the Library/Universe parallel as a foundation to talk about a bigger issue. I believe Borges questions the credibility of the bible by discussing the language barrier that exists. For even if the first manuscript of the Bible were completely accurate, its translation would have been different, due to the fact that all languages differ, and certain words or phrases cannot be perfectly translated. It appears to me that there are many biblical references made in ?The Library of Babel.? The title itself gives some idea as to the biblical references that are to be made.

?You who read me, are you sure of understanding my language.? Here Borges comes out of the story and speaks directly to the audience. Up to this point Borges has used a large vocabulary which paints a much more colorful story than a normal vocabulary would, but this large vocabulary also makes the story much more difficult to interpret. Borges probably knows that his readers doubt whether or not they are interpreting the story correctly, and therefore asks his audience if they understand him in order to make evident, the language barrier that exists. This language barrier is also apparent in the bible. The bible was written using one language and then translated into many other languages, one being English. Man, the imperfect librarian, is the one who actually made these translations, and because man is imperfect, there are bound to be imperfections in the translation. Yet there are many religious people who take the bible as being literal, and completely true. Borges is asking his readers, how they can be sure of the word of God, if they cannot be sure of the word of Borges? They can?t. It seems unreasonable for any human to say they completely understand the bible, and believe everything it says. The bible is open to a world of interpretation in the same way that every book in the Library is open to a world of interpretation. We as humans all have different experiences, and will attach a different meaning to what we read. Therefore our translation and interpretation of the bible cannot be 100% accurate.

There are many other biblical references made in, ?The Library of Babel.? The title itself holds a great amount of meaning. It is referring to the biblical story of Babylon, where the people tried to make a tower that reached the heavens. In this story the people were concerned with what they wanted and not with what God wanted. Because of this God decided to mix up their languages and scatter the people all over the land in order to defer them from their self-destructive plans. It seems odd that this story would be in the bible because it offers a bit of hypocrisy. If God changed all the languages in order to confuse us, how are we then able to translate the bible from language to language and have it be accurate? Again this question comes up, and some may answer, it is accurate because it is the word of God and God wills us to read it, it is impossible for a translation, by man, to be completely accurate. In the King James translation of the bible, King James obviously had something to do with its translation. It would make sense to me that King James might, reword the bible a bit, in order to help him rule the people and get them to do what he wanted them to do.

Borges wants people to think about why they believe what they believe, especially in reference to the bible. He offers some material for people to work with and ponder by questioning the accuracy of the Bible due to language barriers.

Overall Borges writes stories that make the reader wonder, they make the reader think about what they are reading and what is going on. Borges in a brilliant writer, and these selections are great works. In making the reader think he shows them things about their life and there archetypes that they had not see in their lives before.

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