Translated by: Erion Karabolli

By: Augusto Monterroso

When I discovered Borges (Jorge Luis Borges), in 1945, I didn't understand him, I'd rather say I was stunned.

While searching for Kafka, I came across his prologue to The Metamorphosis and encountered for the first time his world of metaphysical labyrinths, of infinities, of eternities, of tragic ordinariness, of domestic relations comparable to the best possible hell. it is imagined.

A new, amazing and terribly fascinating universe.

The transition from that prologue to everything else that belonged to Borges, for me (and for many others) became something as necessary as breathing, and at the same time as dangerous as the irresponsible approach to the lip of a slope.

I followed Borges, for me to discover and enter new circles: Chesterton, Melville, Bioi, Svendborg, Joyce, Faulkner, Woolf;

to recover old relationships: Cervantesi, Kevedoja, Hernandesi;

and finally to return to the imaginary Paradise of the everyday: the neighborhood, the cinema, the police novel.

On the other hand, language.

Today we take it with a certain naturalness, but, at that time, that Spanish was so spare, so precise, so expressive, it created the same impression on me that would be experienced by a person who, with the ingrained thought that someone is dead and gone on the ground, he suddenly sees her on the road, healthy and alive like an apple seed.

As if by some magic, this language of ours, so dead and buried for my generation, was at once clothed with a power and a skill which we thought it no longer possessed.

Now, it appeared that our language was again able to express everything with clarity, precision and beauty;

it appeared that someone of ours could sing again and make Zeno's paradoxes come alive for us again, also that someone of ours could raise (I don't know if again) a police novel to the category of art.


Given that we are used to a certain type of literature, to certain ways of elaborating a story and solving a poem, it is not at all strange that Borhes' ways surprise us and that, from the very beginning, whether we accept it or not.

This is precisely his main literary asset: surprise.

From the first word of any of his stories, anything can happen.

However, reading the whole story proves to us that the only thing that could be similar was what Borhesi, master of an iron and unbreakable logic, had as his goal from the beginning.

So it is in the police story where the detective is mercilessly caught (a victim of his own wit, of his own sharp intrigue) and killed by the contemptible criminal;

thus it resembles the melancholic analysis of the supposed work of the Gnostic Nils Runeberg, in which,

When a book begins like Kafka's Metamorphosis, introducing us: "One morning, waking up in bed after a peaceful dream, Gregor Samsa found himself transformed into a monstrous insect," then readers, every reader, do not he has no choice but to decide, as soon as possible, on one of these two smart actions: throw the book away or read it to the end in one breath.

Knowing that the boring readers who decide on the first solution are countless, Borhesi does not stun us by giving us the first shot.

He is more elegant or more careful.

Like the Swift in Gulliver's Travels who begins by innocently confessing to us that he is merely the third son of a wise little manor, Borhes, in order to introduce us to the wonders of Tlön, prefers to settle in a cottage in Ramos Mehia,

in the company of a friend, a friend so real that, in front of the sight of a mirror, it occurs to him to "remember" a sentence like this: "Mirrors and construction are abominable, because they multiply the number of people".

We know that this friend, Adolfo Bioi Kasares, exists;

we know that he is a man of flesh who also writes fantastic stories;

but even if it wasn't, just this sentence out of his mouth would justify his existence.

In Kafka's terrible allegories, it begins with an absurd or improbable event, and immediately after that all the effects and consequences of this event are narrated with laid-out logic, with a realism that is difficult to accept without first having the good faith and easy faith of the reader. ;

but the reader is always convinced that it is a symbol, something necessarily imagined.

On the contrary, when you read Borges' Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis, Tertius, the most natural thing is to think that you are facing a simple and even boring scientific essay, which tends to prove, without any great effort, the existence of a unknown planet.

Many readers will continue to believe it throughout their lives.

Some others will have their doubts, and will boldly repeat what that bishop said of Rex Varner, who, referring to the events narrated in Gulliver's Travels, boldly declared that he himself was convinced that all she was nothing but a bag of lies.

A friend of mine managed to get so disorientated with the volume The Garden of Crossing Paths that he managed to confess to me that what attracted him most from the story The Library of Babel,

it was the shrewdness of the epigraph, taken from the Anatomy of Melancholy, a book that, according to him, was clearly apocryphal.

When I showed him Barton's volume, and believed that I proved to him that what he had made up was all the rest, from that moment he decided to believe everything, or to believe nothing, I do not remember.

Achieving this unique effect in Borhesi is helped by the inclusion in the story of real characters like Alfonso Reyes, supposedly real characters like George Berkeley, familiar and familiar places, works not so accessible, but whose existence is not completely different, like the Encyclopaedia Britannica, to which you can wear anything;

the lucid and journalistic style of De Fos;

the constant insistence of using epithets,

And finally, the big problem: the temptation to imitate him was almost unbearable;

imitating it is pointless.

Anyone can afford to imitate him without killing Conrad, Green, Durrell;

but not Joyce, not Borjes.

This is something very easy and very obvious.

The meeting with Borhesi never happens without consequences.

I am listing below some of the things that can happen, good and bad:

1. To pass by him without noticing (bad).

2. To pass him, turn and follow him a long way to see what he does (good).

3. Passing by him, turning back and following him forever (bad).

4. To find out that you are a fool and that until that moment you had not thought of any idea that was even worth it (good).

5. To discover that you are smart, since you like Borhesi (good).

6. Being fascinated by the fable of Achilles and the Tortoise and thinking that he is the essence (of evil).


To discover infinity and eternity (good).

eternity (good).

8. To worry about infinity and eternity (good).

9. Believing in infinity and eternity (bad).

10. Not to write anymore (good).