A Modern Master

The success of these poetic worlds is expressed by their all-inclusive and ordered wholeness. Their deceitful nature is harder to define, but essential to an understanding of Borges. Mirror images are indeed duplications of reality, but they change the temporal nature of this reality in an insidious fashion, even—one might say especially—when the imitation is altogether successful (as in Ménard’s Quixote). In actual experience, time appears to us as continuous but infinite; this continuity may seem reassuring since it gives us some feeling of identity, but it is also terrifying, since it drags us irrevocably towards an unknowable future. Our “real” universe is like space: stable but chaotic. If, by an act of the mind comparable to Borges’s will to style, we order this chaos, we may well succeed in achieving an order of sorts, but we dissolve the binding, spatial substance that held our chaotic universe together. Instead of an infinite mass of substance, we have a finite number of isolated events incapable of establishing relations among one another.

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