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Borges and Space

Series:

Bill Richardson

This book examines the relevance of the concepts of space and place to the work of Jorge Luis Borges. The core of the book is a series of readings of key Borges texts viewed from the perspective of human spatiality. Issues that arise include the dichotomy between ‘lived space’ and abstract mapping, the relevance of a ‘sense of place’ to Borges’s work, the impact of place on identity, the importance of context to our sense of who we are, the role played by space and place in the exercise of power, and the ways in which certain of Borges’s stories invite us to reflect on our ‘place in the universe’. In the course of this discussion, crucial questions about the interpretation of the Argentine author’s work are addressed and some important issues that have largely been overlooked are considered. The book begins by outlining cross-disciplinary discussions of space and place and their impact on the study of literature and concludes with a theoretical reflection on approaches to the issue of space in Borges, extrapolating points of relevance to the theme of literary spatiality generally.

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Chapter 1 - Aleph 27

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Chapter 1 Aleph The map … enjoys a paradigmatic relationship with exoticism. It func- tions both as model and as unreachable entry point. It invites us to see but does not allow us to seize. — Francis Af fergan1 As is implied by Af fergan’s statement, the function carried out by a map – of encapsulating and summarising the territory – is unsettling because it appears to of fer us something tangible while in reality af fording us only a glimpse into what is represented therein. In the story ‘El Aleph’ [‘The Aleph’], when the character called ‘Borges’ goes down some steps into the basement of a house in Garay Street in Buenos Aires, he sees a tiny orb – the Aleph – that contains the whole universe. This event occurs in the latter half of the story, by which time the ground has been laid for this notion of encapsulating and summarising the universe in an entity that both contains it and allows people to view or experience it. The way in which that ground has been laid is by reference to a literary creation, a long poem being composed by the character called Carlos Argentino Daneri, in whose house the Aleph is located. The narrator (who is also ‘Borges’) informs us that Daneri’s poem constitutes the latter’s attempt to describe the whole world in verse – to ‘versificar toda la redondez del planeta’ (OC1: 620) [versify every last bit of the planet] – and, furthermore, he tells us that Daneri is keen to share his creation...

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