Sunday, September 14, 2008

Borges and I

The great Jorge Luis Borges wrote a short piece titled "Borges and I" (or, at least, that's its title in translation; Borges wrote in Spanish). I take it from the book Labyrinths, which is a collection of short pieces. The piece is in a section of the book titled "Parables."

A "parable" is often defined as a story meant to teach a simple lesson.

The parable "Borges and I," is, as I read it, largely concerned with the public persona, and the persona captured in the public eye (i.e., the "Borges" of the title) as opposed to the internally experienced life. And this part of the parable, I have some trouble connecting with, because I do not really have a public persona--at least not that is strongly reflected back at me by others; unlike Borges, people do not write about me.

But the latter part of the parable (which is all of maybe 500 words) speaks to me of a different sense--a sense of the difference between who I am today and who I was in the past.

I recognize myself less in [Borges's] books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the suburbs to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things.

As we write, and as we explore ideas and work on learning from them, we change and grow. As a result our perspective changes. We come to deeper understanding.

When you're trying to write a work of 100 or more pages, you have the danger that what you write at the start will not match what you write near the end due to the natural learning process that we would expect.

I often find myself looking at what I wrote in the past and wondering how to reconstruct the idea that drove me then.

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