Analysis of ‘Labyrinth’ by Jorge Luis Borges
Analysis of ‘Labyrinth’ by Jorge Luis Borges – Labyrinth is a compilation of stories written in Spanish by Jorge Luis Borges and was published in 1962. It went on to become an award winning collection of stories and was translated to English by many authors. Labyrinth has 23 short stories, 10 essays and 8 parables. Jorge Luis Borges was an Argentine writer, poet, essayist and translator. He is an important figure in the Spanish literature. His works has contributed to fantasy genre and philosophical literature. He is also said to have started the magic realist movement in the Latin American literature. For Labyrinth Borges was awarded International Publishers’ Prize.
Some of the stories included in this book have been published in other collections. The stories in this collection have been selected by its common themes which include libraries, labyrinths, philosophy, dreams and mythology.
“Tlön, Uqbar, OrbisTertius is a story told in first person and it revolves around the author’s discovery of a world called Tlön, a fictional world of course. The inhabitants believed in subjective idealism and spoke a language without nouns. The story also alludes to some intellectuals of Argentina. Some of the ideas are epistemology, literary criticism, language and metaphysics. “Tlön is surely a labyrinth, but it is a labyrinth devised by men, a labyrinth destined to be deciphered by men”
The Garden of Forking Paths is said to be on quantum mechanics through the tale of an Asian working as an Axis agent. It is inspired by the work of Olaf Stapledon, a science fiction author and philosopher. This book has inspired many new media scholars, especially the field of hypertext fiction.
The Lottery in Babylon is a story in mythical Babylon. All activities are controlled by a lottery. The lottery moves to different levels. In the second level there is punishment and bigger rewards, and then it became mandatory for all except the elite. Finally it became all-encompassing and secretive. Some believed that the company did not exist. This story is a metaphor of chances in life.
Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote is review of the work of Pierre Menard who was a fictional French writer of the 20th century. He was a polymath but was considered to be eccentric. His review is full of irony, fantasy and humour. Borges wrote this after a head injury and it was a test to see if his creativity was affected. The head injury had affected his creative writing.
The Circular Ruins is built around the epigraph of Through the Looking Glass written by Lewis Carroll. The passage which inspired this story was the one where Tweedledee points out that Alice is simply a character in his dream. The theme in this story is idealism, meaningful dreams, thoughts in the real world and immortality. This story highlights the fact that writers are inspired by other writers and it is the same in Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.
The Library of Babel is about a universe which contains big hexagonal rooms that contains things needed for human survival. There are four walls of bookshelves and the books on these shelves, is the plot of the story. There is no order in the books based on its content. Most of the books are meaningless while some are sensible. All kinds of books are found in this library. Some librarians consider themselves to be purifiers and destroy the worthless books. Others believe that there might be an index book amongst those books and a ‘Man of the Books’ must have read all the books and they were looking out for him.
Funes the Memorious is a story about IreneoFuneswho got paralyzed after falling from a horse. What was strange was that he began to remember every detail from his past. Thinking involves abstractions, generalisations, specifications but Funes could do nothing of it because everything was remembered to the last detail.
The Form of the Sword was the story of an Irishman whom Borges had met. They become friendly and he tells Borges about the war and a comrade John Vincent Moon who was boastful but in reality a coward. Moon was hurt by a bullet and he saved the man and escaped to the general’s house. After nine days there the Irishman went out to avenge the death of his comrades Moon informs the police and he is caught. But before the police came he cornered Moon and made a moon shaped mark on his forehead. When Borges asks what happened to Moon he replied “I denounced the man who protected me: I am Vincent Moon. Now despise me.”
The Theme of Traitor and the Hero is a story about a hero, Fergus Kilpatrick an Irish nationalist, who was actually a traitor. Ryan is a descendant of Kilpatrick and he delves into the past to find out that his forefather was actually a traitor; he betrayed the nationalists to the British authorities. Ryan decides not to break the hero myth of Kilpatrick.
Death and Compass is about a detective who tries to solve a mysterious series of assassinations that followed a pattern called the kabbalistic pattern. The Secret Miracle is a story about a playwright named JaromirHladík. He is sentenced to death. The day before his death he prays to god for time to complete his play. Next day he is summoned and the soldiers fire and then time stands still for a day. He completes his play and the firing reaches him. No one realises this frozen time. Three Versions of Judas is a critical analysis of work of a fictional writer Nils Runeberg. The story ends with the death of Nils Runeberg.
The Secret of Phoenix is a description of an ancient secret society. Every member of this society resembles every man in the world. The membership to this society is by doing a strange ritual. The Immortal is a story of Marcus Flaminius Rufus who goes in search of the river of immortality as told by a wounded dying mysterious man. The Theologians is collection of historical and semi-historical allusions to Christian heretical sects where orthodoxy and unorthodoxy is dealt with.
The Story of the Warrior and the Captive is about an Englishwoman who is taken captive by a tribe. When she meets another Englishwoman and is offered help to escape the woman prefers to stay with the tribe where she married its chief. This story is told by the grandson of the Englishwoman who offered the help. Emma Zunz is the protagonist of this story who avenges the death of her father.
The House of Asterion is a monologue by Asterion describing himself and his house and his pastime. Deutsches Requiem is the testament of Otto Dietrich zurLinde. He had only one leg yet he commanded a Nazi concentration camp. He now awaits his death and recalls his own sins and the atrocities of Nazi Germany. Averroes’s Search is about a famous Islamic philosopher and translator who did not understand theatre. The process of writing is also analysed in this story.
Zahir is thing or a person that creates an obsession in everyone who sees it. In this story Zahir is a coin. The author wonders “Others will dream that I am mad, and I [will dream] of the Zahir. When all men on earth think day and night of the Zahir, which one will be a dream and which a reality, the earth or the Zahir?” The Writing of God is told by Aztec priest named Tzinacán. It a search for patterns of leopards fur. Apart from this Labyrinth has collection of essays and parables.