Tuesday, August 12, 2014

"Ficciones" by Jorge Luis Borges (Part 2)





The second half of Borges’s “Ficciones” was originally a collection of stories called “Artificios” (1944). It collected six stories. Borges added three stories in a later edition bringing the grand total for “Ficciones” up to sixteen. The second half is (for me at least) a little less inspiring and impressive. Here they are briefly summarized:


Funes el memorioso

Borges recounts a fictitious encounter with a man who remembers everything after hitting his head. This curse of a gift causes the man to go a little bit crazy and Borges introduces some of his novel thought concepts such as a numerical system where every cypher has a randomly assigned name (a completely useless system).

La forma de la espalda

The story of how a man got a scar on his face. This story is unremarkable, except that it plays with our expectations based on how stories are narrated. Post-Borges, readers will likely anticipate the outcome of the story, as we are used to unconventional narrative styles.

Tema del traidor y del héroe

A dense investigation into the death of a national hero that turns out to be an elaborate play designed to simultaneously punish a traitor and provide a heroic martyr to the national cause (both of whom are one in the same man).

La muerte y la brújula

A detective story where the investigator is manipulated by the villain, who knows the sleuth has a propensity to look for patterns even where there may not be any.

El milagro secreto

A man sentenced to execution is granted an extra year of life by God to finish his masterpiece. The only problem is that only he is witness to this miracle, living the entire year consciously in a split second of frozen reality. Sounds more like a punishment than a blessing.

Tres versiones de Judas

A scholarly essay describing three fictitious heretical texts that all attempt to give Judas the real credit in the redemptive plan of God. Varying degrees of arguments that fail to understand good in the absence of evil; or “evil is a necessary good” confusion.

El fin

An ambiguous little story that is even more difficult to understand for the majority of us who have not read the Argentine epic poem that it references.

La secta del Fénix

A study about a secret society that differs from the general population in no way other than the practice of a secret ritual. It is a bit of a riddle to which there have been several explanations suggested. It is most likely about sex.

El sur

The story of a man who nearly dies (or perhaps does so) after a random and silly accidental bump on the head. In the story the man suddenly recovers and, upon his release from the hospital, heads to the south where he experiences a much more dramatic (and for him, heroic and meaningful) death.

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