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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 6 - Cosmos 165


Chapter 6 Cosmos It is not in space that I must seek my human dignity, but in the ordering of my thought … Through space the universe grasps me and swallows me up like a speck; through thought I grasp it. — Blaise Pascal1 In line with Pascal’s comments on the link between the ordering of our thought and our place in the universe, the attempt we witnessed, in the last chapter, to yoke together our thoughts about life and our visceral experi- ence of it has a more cerebral counterpart in another type of Borges story, that is, dystopian stories about imagined worlds. We saw one such world conjured up in Chapter 2, in the story ‘El Inmortal’. Here, we turn to two classic examples of the genre, stories that raise issues about the links between people and the temporal and spatial universe they inhabit, but also inter- rogate the relationship between such cosmic concerns and the human use of language, often with a strong dose of irony and humour. The stories are ‘La biblioteca de Babel’ and ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’. Babel and the Limits of the Universe We saw in Chapter 1 how it can be useful to see the Aleph as both a loca- tion and an entity. The library in the story ‘La biblioteca de Babel’ [‘The Library of Babel’] is also depicted as both a location and an entity. It too functions as a place within which everything is located but also as an entity...

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