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Borges and Space


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 5 - Power 143


Chapter 5 Power The new monumentality of space will symbolize the limitless power of the human mind. Man trembles facing the universe. — R.M. Schindler1 As an architect, Rudolph Schindler was sensitive to the need we feel to find ways of controlling and ordering the spatial contexts in which we find our- selves. Literary narratives often ref lect that concern, always relating, at least to some extent, to the social reality within which they are produced. The connection between word and world may appear tenuous at times – stories, including many of Borges’s stories, often appear to be ‘pure fantasy’ – but the fact that the material with which they are created is human language means they must bear some relationship to that social reality which is the ambit of our everyday existence. The spaces within which the stories examined in this chapter operate are seen to be ‘fantastical’, but they are also seen to be socially produced, at least to the extent that they interrogate issues relat- ing to human and political power; the stories in question are ‘Las ruinas circulares’, ‘El brujo postergado’ and ‘Tema del traidor y del héroe’. Representational Space and the Magic Ruins In ‘Las ruinas circulares’ [‘The Circular Ruins’], as Borges himself noted, ‘todo es irreal’ (OC1: 429) [everything is unreal ]. The setting is depicted as a kind of ‘nowhere’, an unidentifiable place deliberately evoked as a mythical, 144 Chapter 5 primal location, suited to the theme of creation and to the specific task of the...

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