Mary Lim

Monday, September 30, 2013

Image: Book Cover Project

Labyrinths | Selected Stories & Other Writings

This short story is an event told from an unconventional perspective of when an attack between British divisions against the Serre-Montauban was postponed from the 24th to the 29th. Told from the point of view of Dr. Yu Tsun, a English professor at Tsingtao, Tsun is an undercover German spy. He states that he has been exposed, and must flee from Richard Madden, while still achieving his mission of telling the "Chief" the city's name. He takes a train to meet Stephen Albert, where he is lead to a garden. They begin to talk about Ts'ui Pen's The Garden of Forking Paths as a labyrinth, and continue on with a philosophical discussion about time and fate. At the end, Tsun unexpectedly shoots Albert in the back and is arrested by Madden. After this event is put in the newspaper, the "Chief" understands Tsun's attempt in conveying that "Albert" was the name of the city. 
TIME - "Time forks perpetually toward innumerable futures. In one of them I am your enemy...""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." 
The short story, "Garden of Forking Paths," hinges on the progression of time. First, the story is simply about the implications behind the postponement of the attack by the British against the Serre-Montaubau. Dr. Yu Tsun's life and mission are timed and have a deadline, yet time becomes obscured when Yu Tsun and Albert have a long philosophical chat in the "garden", despite having Richard Madden on his tail. Borges describes time as an infinite system, that does not occur linearly. 
LABYRINTHS AND CHAOS - "In all fictional works, each time a man is confronted with several alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others; in the fiction of the almost inextricable Ts'ui Pen, he chooses - simultaneously - all of them. He creates in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which themselves also proliferate and fork." 
Borges presents an interesting riddle for the reader: The Garden of Forking Paths is about a man who learns about his ancestor who wrote The Garden of Forking Paths. Suddenly, the short story becomes infinite. 
FATE"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." 
Even from the beginning of the story, Yi Tsun tells the reader that he will die. Though he has the choice to carry out his mission or not, he accepts it as his duty. Calling his future as "irrevocable as the past," he considers his mission as inevitable as fate.

A wizard travels to an isolated temple in attempts to create a clone of himself through his dreams. He wanted to "dream a man: he wanted to dream him with minute integrity and insert him into reality." Through lucid dreaming, the wizard forms his "son." First, he dreams about a crowd of students. Only one of the students was deemed suitable, however, until the wizard faces insomnia. He then tries a different approach. Instead of envisioning a pre-made being, he envisions someone from scratch. He starts building his son from the beating heart, and finally creates a human being. The God of the temple, Fire, brings the boy to life. The boy, however, is not completely human because as he is born of Fire, fire has no effect on him. In the end, the wizard realizes that he too, was a product of a dream, when he willingly walks into the flames.
IDEALISM - "He wanted to dream a man: he wanted to dream him with minute integrity and insert him into reality." 
The wizard desperately wants to create a clone of himself. He has a fixed image of who he wants his son to be. Constructed from his dreams, the son becomes a perfect human being. 
IMMORTALITY - "With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he too was a mere appearance, dreamt by another." 
Borges conveys the problem of the chicken or the egg. He implies that one cannot exist without their predecessors. Just as the boy was constructed by the wizard, someone else constructed the wizard in their dreams as well. This cycle will continues on infinitely, backwards and onwards. 
Throughout the story, the wizard had to dream up his clone. It took him longer to dream the boy than for the boy to become reality. The Fire God clearly shows the distinction between fantasy and truth through granting the boy life. 

In The Library of Babel, Borges calls the universe the Library, composed of "an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries..." The hallways leading to each room have a mirror, reflecting its interminable number of rooms. The Library has existed forever, each book only uses 25 symbols, and the Library includes all the information there is to know about the universe. However, the books do not seem to make sense. People try to find the "sacred texts," the books that explain the other books, yet fail to find it. The narrator ends by saying that he has hope that the universe has order.

ORDER AND DISORDER - "The Library is unlimited and cyclical. If the eternal traveler were to cross it in any direction, after centuries he would see that the same volumes were repeated in the same disorder (which, thus repeated, would be an order: the Order)."  
Borges presents the reader with a paradox. The Library seems to be in disorder; no one can decipher the language and they are placed randomly in the space. Borges also writes in a logical way, using mathematics and structure. 
Though the enormous Library could be considered a great treasure, it is also useless. With numerous books in every language placed in random, the boundless information almost means nothing. With no way to access and understand the information, it is no different than having no Library.  
Religious sects were formed to make sense of the Library. He references different philosophies and theories, and shows how though religion tried to create order, it caused conflict and turmoil. 

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