Jorge Luis Borges


"I used to stop for a long time in front of the tiger's cage to see him pacing back and forth. I liked his natural beauty, his black stripes and his golden stripes. And now that I am blind, one single color remains for me, and it is precisely the color of the tiger, the color yellow."
(Jorge Luis Borges)

The outstanding genius, Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina, on August 24, 1899. He was always expected to be a genius because when he was nine, he translated Oscar Wilde's "The Happy Prince" into Spanish! Unfortunately, the blindness of his father increased over the years, and it became a tacit understanding that his son would carry on the tradition, too.  blindness was beginning to manifest itself in Borges as it had in his father, who was at about 1927 completely blind. None operation succeeded. At about 1955, Borges was going completely blind. In 1940's received Borges the first glimmer of international fame and in 1961 he gained really a genuine world-wide recognition. He dies in Geneva at age 86.

Jorge Luis Borges was extremely interested in time paradoxes and parallel realities. The Many Worlds are clearly seen in the fictive book (book completely invented by Borges himself) "The Garden of Forking Paths" written by Ts'ui Pen, the governor of Yunnan. Borges defined the latter book as "largely considered to be next to Finnegans Wake in inscrutability. Ts'ui Pen retired from rulership to write a book and construct a labyrinth; and for thirteen years he labored on that task. Upon his death, all his relatives found were the myriad pages to an almost incomprehensible manuscript -- no real book, and certainly no physical labyrinth. Saved from the fire by a Buddhist monk, the pages were organized into some sort of form and published, much to the shame of Ts'ui Pen's family. Virtually ignored in China, the work was finally revised, corrected, and restored to its intended form by the English Sinologist Stephen Albert, who began a translation. To him goes the credit for the discovery of the book's strange form: the book is the labyrinth. It is a non-linear work in which anything that can happen, does -- each possible plot outcome is pursued, multiplying into a seemingly infinite chaos. In this way, the book represents Ts'ui Pen's view of time: and endless series of possibilities that spread their web through all of eternity".

Borges' short story "The Garden of Forking Paths" about a mythical labyrinth ("El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan", firts publ. in Buenos Aires, Sur, 1941) is a fascinated picture of Many Worlds.

quotations from Borges' works:

"It seemed incredible that this day, a day without warnings or omens, might be that of my implacable death. In despite of my dead father, in despite of having been a child in one of the symmetrical gardens of Hai Feng, was I to die now?
Then I reflected that all things happen, happen to one, precisely now. Century follows century, and things happen only in the present."

(Jorge Luis Borges: "The Garden of Forking Paths")

"Whosoever would undertake some atrocious enterprise should act as if it were already accomplished, should impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past."
(Jorge Luis Borges: "The Garden of Forking Paths")

"I know something about labyrinths. Not for nothing am I the great-grandson of Ts'ui Pen. He was Governor of Yunnan and gave up temporal power to write a novel with more characters than there are in the Hung Lou Meng, and to create a maze in which all men would lose themselves. He spent thirteen years on these oddly assorted tasks before he was assassinated by a stranger. His novel had no sense to it and nobody ever found his labyrinth.
Under the trees of England I meditated on this lost and perhaps mythical labyrinth. I imagined it untouched and perfect on the secret summit of some mountain; I imagined it drowned under rice paddies or beneath the sea; I imagined it infinite, made not only of eight-sided pavilions and of twisting paths but also of rivers, provinces and kingdoms... I thought of a maze of mazes, of a sinuous, ever growing maze which would take in both past and future and would somehow involve the stars."

(Jorge Luis Borges: "The Garden of Forking Paths")


""Here is the Labyrinth, " (the learned Sinologist Stephen) Albert said, pointing to a tall, lacquered writing cabinet.
"An ivory cabinet? " I (Yu Tsun, the great-grandson of Ts'ui Pen) exclaimed. "A tiny labyrinth indeed... !"
"A symbolic labyrinth, " he corrected me. "An invisible labyrinth of time. I, a barbarous Englishman, have been given the key to this transparent mystery. After more than a hundred years most of the details are irrecoverable, lost beyond all recall, but it isn't hard to imagine what must have happened. At one time, Ts'ui Pen must have said: "I am going into seclusion to write a book, " and at another, "I am retiring to construct a maze." Everyone assumed these were separate activities. No one realized that the book and the labyrinth were one and the same... ""

(Jorge Luis Borges: "The Garden of Forking Paths")

"(Stephen Albert said:) "... Naturally, my attention was caught by the sentence, "I leave to various future times, but not to all, my garden of forking paths. " I had no sooner read this, than I understood. The Garden of Forking Paths was the chaotic novel itself. The phrase, "to various time futures, but not to all" suggested the image of bifurcating in time, not in space. Re-reading the whole work confirmed this theory. In all fiction, when a man is faced with alternatives he chooses one at the expense of the others. In the almost unfathomable Ts'ui Pen, he chooses - simultaneously - all of them. He thus creates various futures, various times which start others that will in their turn branch out and bifurcate in other times...
... In Ts'ui Pen's work, all the possible solutions occur, each one being the point of departure for other bifurcations. Sometimes the pathways of this labyrinth converge. For example, you come to this house; but in other possible pasts you are my enemy; in others my friend...""

(Jorge Luis Borges: "The Garden of Forking Paths")


"(Stephen Albert said:)"... The Garden of Forking Paths is an enormous guessing game, or parable, in which the subject is time. The rules of the game forbid the use of the word itself. To eliminate a word completely, to refer to it by means of inept phrases and obvious paraphrases, is perhaps the best way of drawing attention to it.... I can state categorically that not once has the word time been used in the whole book.
The explanation is obvious. The Garden of Forking Paths is a picture, incomplete yet not false, of the universe such as Ts'ui Pen conceived it to be. Differing from Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not think of time as absolute and uniform. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a dizzily growing, ever spreading network of diverging, converging and parallel times. This web of time - the strands of which approach one another, bifurcate, intersect or ignore each other through the centuries - embraces every possibility. We do not exist in most of them. In some you exist and not I, while in others I do, and you do not, and in yet others both of us exist. In this one, in which chance has favoured me, you have come to my gate. In another, you, crossing the garden, have found me dead. In yet another, I say these very same words, but am an error, a phantom. "
"In all of them, " I enunciated, with a tremor in my voice. "I deeply appreciate and am grateful to you for the restoration of Ts'ui Pen's garden. "
"Not in all, " he murmured with a smile. "Time is forever dividing itself towards innumerable futures and in one of them I am your enemy. "
 Once again I sensed the pullulation of which I have already spoken. It seemed to me that the dew-damp garden surrounding the house was infinitely saturated with invisible people. All were Albert and myself, secretive, busy and multiform in other dimensions of time... "

(Jorge Luis Borges: "The Garden of Forking Paths")


" was also hoped that a clarification of humanity's basic mysteries -- the origin of the Library (i.e., universe) and of time -- might be found."

(Jorge Luis Borges, short story "The Library of Babel" orig. publ. as "La biblioteca de Babel" in the collection: "El jardin de senderos que se bifurcan", Buenos Aires, Sur, 1941.)

"And yet, and yet... Denying temporal succession, denying the self, denying the astronomical universe, are obvious acts of desperation and secret consolation. Our fate (unlike the hell of Swedenborg or the hell of Tibetan mythology) is not frightful because it is unreal; it is frightful because it is irreversible and ironclad. Time is the thing I am made of. Time is a river that sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger that tears me apart, but I am the tiger; it is a fire that consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I, unfortunately, am Borges."
(Jorge Luis Borges: "New Refutation of Time" - orig. "Nueva refutacion del tiempo"
in "Other Inquisitions" - orig. "Otras inquisiciones", 1952)

"Time is the substance I am made of. Time is a river which sweeps me along, but I am the river; it is a tiger which destroys me, but I am the tiger; it is a fire which consumes me, but I am the fire. The world, unfortunately, is real; I unfortunately, am Borges..."
(Jorge Luis Borges, dtto, other translation)

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