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Essay #4: Jorge Luis Borges
In Ficciones, Jorge Luis Borges attempts to skew the fundamental principles by which most people govern their lives. He constructs roughly allegorical worlds that reflect reality in their complexity and scope. By pulling the reader deeper into these labyrinths, Borges’ stories subtly and without mal-intent, demand a reexamination of the way we collectively relate to the world. Specifically, Borges questions the reliability of the past – something by which individuals, ethnicities and nations define themselves. In the first story of the collection, “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” Borges sets the precedent for later stories, by describing a completely fictionalized world that becomes a reality. By writing, “we know nothing about it with any certainty, not even that it is false,” Borges comments on the futility of attempting to determine that something is either true of false, when confronting it through writing. Therefore, the moment an act is recorded, it becomes an entity of its own – neither fact nor fiction. In “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote,” Borges writes, “historical truth, for [Menard], is not what took place; it is what we think took place.” History, as Menard understands it, resists commonplace phraseology like “truth” and “fact” altogether – instead, it becomes merely a widely accepted account of a lost moment in time. In “Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” and “Three Versions of Judas,” Borges presents two individuals struggling with the realization that our present-day conceptions of the past may be inconsistent with the actual truth. By undermining the traditional concepts of hero and traitor, as they are presented in historical and religio...
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