WRITING ABOUT WRITING
An Allegorical Interpretation of “Las Ruinas Circulares” by Jorge Luis Borges
Sahil Singh Gujral
Rice University Houston, TX August, 2006
A Bruce W. Dunlevie Summer Writing Fellowship Project Mentored by Professor Robert Lane Kauffmann
This work was made possible through generous financial support from the Rice University Dunlevie Summer Writing Fellowship during the summer of 2006. I thank Bruce Dunlevie for funding this opportunity as well as Dr. Harvey Yunis for selecting my project proposal. The staff of the Mid-Manhattan branch of the New York Public Library system graciously assisted me in tracking down numerous publications I would otherwise not have had access to. I owe an inestimable intellectual debt to the support, suggestions, and continued guidance of my faculty mentor, Professor Robert Lane Kauffmann. Finally, my friends and family were invaluable to me throughout the course of writing this paper and without their support and encouragement I might have given up long ago. As the saying goes, any success in this work should be attributed to the above-named but all mistakes are entirely my own.
" –Dencombe in The Middle Years. (Twenty Four Interviews with Borges)
. Henry James “Dreams have a magical. and it is very possible for that reason he could not enter the realm of dreams.We work in the dark – we do what we can – we give what we have. and that he did not seek the realm of dreams. which is generally inhabited by the uncertain and the illogical. I suspect that Quevedo never dreamed. mystical quality that Quevedo's texts lack – that quality found in Alice in Wonderland by Lewis Carroll. Our doubt is our passion and our passion is our task. I have said that there is no emotion in his work. The rest is the madness of art.” –Jorge Luis Borges in an interview with Roberto Alifano.
Soud's “Borges the Golem-
1 The Narrow Act: Borges' Art of Allusion (118-119) 2 “The Circular Ruins. 3 Naomi Lindstrom in Jorge Luis Borges: A Study of His Short Fiction (42-43) touches on this possibility in passing but does not exhaustively explore it. as in “Three Version of Judas” or in the effort of reshaping life from literary principles. the effort of criticism and interpretation.. Characters in Borges' stories are frequently literary figures .Ronald Christ. The story is hereafter referred to as TCR. has commented that
“I have frequently pointed to the pervasiveness of reading and writing in all of Borges' fiction: I should add here that he has consistently built a picture of himself as a man who has devoted his life to those pursuits rather than to living. writing. Uqbar. and elucidating as basic metaphors for the metareality Borges tries to represent. Orbis Tertius. Averroës. Carlos Argentino. almost as if in conscious conformity with the myth that has been perpetrated about Henry James and Flaubert. But whatever the balance of these activities in his fiction.”2 Specifically. not even a way [emphasis original] of life. and Borges himself – whose lives.Scharlach's weaving the net of clues. I would like to extend Christ's thesis to Borges' frequently analyzed tale of “Las Ruinas Circulares.” All quotations from this story are taken from De Giovanni’s translation done in direct cooperation with Borges.. but an acceptable metaphor for life itself. as in “Tlön. author of the only critical monograph about the works of Jorge Luis Borges that Borges himself read and praised. there is a constant demand that we recognize the acts of reading. as in Pierre Menard's attempt to write Don Quijote.” Some of his fiction – most notably “Death and the Compass” pose the effort of criticism – Lönnrot's unraveling of the text – against the effort of creation . Nils Runeberg.The majority of his stories are either centered in the effort of writing. to the extent that we know them. [emphasis added]”1
In this work. Literature is for Borges not an activity in one's life. are defined in and by their literary pursuits. Also see Stephen E. I will explore the notion that TCR is both an extended metaphor for and commentary upon the creative process that writers (and other artists) must frequently struggle through in the production of their texts.like Pierre Menard. Herbert Quain.
is virtually nonexistent. you are immersed in your everyday world. however.4 (1995) 739-754.. comes to modern scholars from
Maker” in Modern Language Notes 110.” 'Zend' here refers to Avestan.. the world of the book. quite significant) Borgesian red herring.the numberless villages upstream. Most of what is known about early Zoroastrian culture. TCR situates us within a nebulous landscape of the unknown and unexplored. and then you have to remove yourself to another world." –Jorge Luis Borges. The only geographical hint we are given of the story's location comes in that famous. as we shall shortly see. 91. That long opening sentence [by Cervantes in Don Quijote] seems very successful because when you read it you forget the things around you. meandering first sentence: “the quiet man had come from.Background of the Protagonist “When you begin to read a book. Both in Borges' own time and in ours so little is known about early Zoroastrian culture that the literature on Avestan-Greek linguistic interaction. But what to make of the second part? Where and when on earth was the Avestan language “tainted by Greek”? Here we have a classic (but. Twenty Four Conversations with Borges
From the beginning..... an ancient Persian language in which many of the holy texts of the Zoroastrian religion are written.
. a religion also unmistakably alluded to in TCR's scattered references to fire worshipping. loosely constructed. if such interaction ever actually occurred.where the Zend language is barely tainted by Greek.
.”4 This sense of “it could be everyone.. There is thus no verifiable geographic or chronological reference to be found here. As Barbara Schaffer has observed. TCR “begins with a man disembarking from a 'canoa de bambú. Even the language is contradictorily multi-sourced. as a brief glance at the article on “Zend-Avesta” in the eleventh edition of the Encyclopedia Britannica. far away. only a vague suggestion of one. Like George Lucas' “A long time ago in a galaxy far. telling a tale that could be happening to anyone and yet is happening to no one we can particularly find. This fateful region of both treasure and danger may be variously represented. Borges' favorite general reference. and impossible delight.unimaginable torments..' Canoa (canoe) is a word derived from the language of the Arawak Indians of the Antilles. it is no coincidence that the vague geographic and chronological suggestion Borges does give points to the lands of the original myths that lie at the foundation of Western Civilization – Greece and the Near East..the Wikipedia) will confirm.themodernword.” (58)
http://www.” Borges has effectively opened his tale by situating us in the middle of nowhere and everywhere. superhuman deeds. In this sense.but it is always a place of.. anyplace you particularly know” is the essential setting of a universal myth (even a myth about myth excavators).com/borges/borges_paper_schaffer..Greek historians. (or . Joseph Campbell writes in the The Hero With a Thousand Faces that
“This first stage of the mythological journey – which we have designated the 'call to adventure' – signifies that destiny has summoned the hero and transferred his spiritual center of gravity from within the pale of his society to a zone unknown. everywhere but it isn't anyone.postBorges but arguably more Borgesian in spirit . while bambú (bamboo) is from the Malay.html
Often. Borges gives just enough concrete pieces of reality for the reader to hang onto the actions of the protagonist while willfully suspending inclination toward disbelief.
Preparation for the Act and The Invocation of the Muse
Having established the mythical universality of his tale in one opening sentence. as it lists all the reasons the project will likely fail before the creative process is even begun. which represent the artist's creative mindset or creativity frame (TCR. Cited in Soud. the temple. Eventually.
. Borges proceeds to depict in short order. 55). I believe. landing a boat." American Poetry Review 17. The contrary internal pressures are represented by “the brushy thorns that tore [the creator's] flesh” on his way into “the circular opening” of the ruins.5 (1988): 25. the creative process itself
5 See Jorge Luis Borges: An Interview. in a place we cannot ever quite identify). both (1) the torment that many artists go through in deciding to pursue their creative act against internal pressures to the contrary and self-consciousness about societal perceptions and (2) the budding relationship with their internal resources of creativity (their “muse” to use Borges' own terminology5).By starting off with the generic in the middle of the unfamiliar (a man doing a recognizable action. however. despite all that could go wrong. a decision simply to go ahead precedes the completion of all artistic works. Writers and artists must often tear through the bramble of their internal self-critic. As the story progresses we are drawn ever deeper into the – and now I will finally use the word – magical world Borges has created.
a “moment of selfconsciousness” that many artists must wrestle with. the vibrant force that takes hold of artists and gives them something higher to surrender to as they place their trust in the creative process and allow it to unfold. But what exactly is the nature of this creative force? One interpretation 5
.” (56) Again. Fire at first crackles. is indeed an eternal one. and inescapable one for both creators and their creations. before beginning the creative process. self-consciousness about societal perspectives (and anxiety at the reception of the finished product) is presented in the story as those “men who lived nearby [that] looked on his sleep with a kind of awe [and did not harm him because they] either sought his protection or else were in dread of his witchcraft. much as artists must often reawaken the creative muse within themselves. On the other hand. there is always the nagging doubts of how the work will ultimately be perceived. and brims. he is beginning the process of reawakening the Fire god. since in the end both of these mutually affect one another. Creativity – like fire – annihilates the existing thought landscape in order to lay a foundation for something new.later heals the wounds inflicted by the internal self-critic. as we see toward TCR's end. The cycle of destruction and creation. like creative sparks. I take this creative force to be symbolized in the Fire god of the ruins (which the artist must initially reawaken in the story's beginning) and later the artist's dreams. When the dreamer enters the temple. flying chaotically before they yield a steady flame. The solution to overcoming both of these hurdles against the act of creation is the creative whirlwind itself. much as the temple god heals the wounds of the dreamer.
. If the writer truly is the link between divinity and mankind.comes from Edna Eizenberg's documentation of Borges' conception of divine inspiration and the Holy Spirit:
“What strikes Borges most in relation to Scripture is the traditional view of the writer not as creator. Another line of insight into the nature of the Fire muse can be discerned from the way it is used in the story when the creator suddenly becomes supremely frustrated with his “clumsy and crude and elementary. 55) creativity and divinity in the heavens of dreams.” (TCR. not as originator. This manifold god revealed to him that its earthly name was Fire.Adam” (TCR. to bring something from the realm of the divine into the realm of man. quivering. that it had been worshiped. but as amanuensis. that there in the circular temple (and in others like it) sacrifices had once been made to it. 59). it was no unnatural cross between a tiger and a stallion but at one and the same time both those violent creatures and also a bull. then what is uniquely his creation once it appears in “the world of reality” (TCR. and that through its magic the phantom of the man's dreams would be wakened to life in such a way that – except for Fire itself and the dreamer – every being in the world would accept him as a man of flesh and blood. He dreamed it alive. [the creator] threw himself down at the feet of the stone image that may have been a tiger or a stallion. a thunderstorm. willing to suffer the burden of the act of creation... That same evening he dreamed of the image. from beyond. but as transmitter of something which comes from outside him. and asked for its blind aid.” (The Aleph Weaver. Borges writes:
“Having exhausted his prayers to the gods of the earth and the river. 56) may still belong to “unanimous” (TCR. a rose. 71)
I suggest for a moment that the dichotomy Eizenberg has set up here is not a necessary one.
. if you will) to bring his creation to ultimate life in reality... 71-72)
. warm.Before a year was over he came to the skeleton.” (The Hero with a Thousand Faces. 58-59)
To quote Campbell on the archetype of supernatural aid in mythology (which aptly characterizes the Fire-muse):
“What such a figure represents is the benign. phallic fertilization (“tiger…stallion…bull…rose [phallic shape]…thunderstorm”) to the womb and fetus-like imagery of the man the creator is dreaming up directly beforehand:
“He dreamed it throbbing.that though omnipotence may seem to be endangered by the threshold passages and life awakenings. The creator has finally acknowledged and turned to his creative life force to inspire and aid him to finish the job when all other options have been exhausted. or just behind. that it supports the present and stands in the future as well as the past. protective power is always and ever present within the sanctuary of the heart and even immanent within. a darkish red in the dimness of a human body without a face or sex. The fantasy is a reassurance – a promise that the peace of Paradise. the eyelids. the unfamiliar features of the world. The Fire muse also presents a masculine.the hero finds all the forces of the unconscious at this side. One only has to know and trust. protecting power of destiny.The creator here is entering into a collaboration with his creative life force (or divinity.. It was the size of a closed fist. in a way such that only the two of them will know about it. virile.. and the ageless guardian will appear. is not to be lost. which was known first within the mother womb...” (TCR. secret.. With anxious love he dreamed it for fourteen lucid nights.
finally. Indeed. particularize. 56)
Is this not the essential description of the creative act? To hone. his particularities. the protagonist has left the boat. like all creators. he wanted to dream him down to the last detail and project him into the world of reality.Formation of a Singular Goal and Brainstorming
I have diverged slightly in the last section from a strictly sequential treatment of TCR. we need only look to the next sentence to see that Borges is acutely conscious of the struggle involved. arrived at the temple. 56) should be interpreted.” (TCR. He wanted to dream a man. he becomes aware of the surrounding people's impressions of him and then. and refine what were formerly only suggestively ethereal notions in the back of one's mind (or the collective unconscious. we learn of our protagonist's true purpose:
“His guiding purpose. Immediately after awakening.
“This mystical aim had taxed the whole range of his mind. as Borges the writer paying homage to the creative struggle of writers (and artists) everywhere. and become a sort of everyman so that he may tap into the universal wellspring of creativity from which art comes. must at least temporarily forget his past. concrete reality of humankind? That this act is described as being both “supernatural” and “mystical” (TCR. but I would like to resume that mode here. 56)
The creator in this story. It follows that in attempting to 8
. I believe. was not impossible. Had anyone asked him his own name or anything about life before then.” (TCR. or the mind of divinity) and manifest them into the palpable. though it was supernatural. To recount the story so far. and gone to sleep. he would not have known what to answer.
filled with the ideas of the collective unconscious and the brainstorm of the creator himself.The faces listened bright and eager. 56)
Next Borges presents a brilliant metaphor for the brainstorming process: a teacher presenting to his students. as if they felt the importance of his questions. feeling bitter over it. 56).” (TCR.. He was in search of a soul worthy of taking a place in the world. each one representing an individual idea or thought. but their features were clear and exact. and did their best to answer sensibly. not letting himself be misled by impostors. After nine or ten nights. core ideas. the faces of the farthest of them hung centuries away from him and at a height of the stars. the man pondered the answers of his phantoms and. broken temple suited himself because it held few visible things. In addition to this attempt to winnow a brainstorm down to the best. depriving himself of sensory distraction like a Buddhist monk meditating to become a bodhisattva:
“This forsaken. that nothing could be
. Crowds of silent disciples exhausted the tiers of seats. this process being aptly summarized by Borges as the transition from “chaotic” to “dialectic[al]” thinking (TCR. divined in certain of their quandaries a growing intelligence. hoping that eventually one of them will challenge him and tug back when he tugs at it. the mention of centuries of distance). and also because the neighboring villagers would look after his frugal needs. Or as Borges writes:
“The stranger dreamed himself at the center of a circular amphitheater which in some ways was also the burnt-out temple. When asleep or awake. the students also represent the numerous other ideas contributed to the universal creative wellspring by other writers and the general Fire-muse creative force (hence the resemblance of the temple to the amphitheater.. the writer will enter a sort of mental (and perhaps physical) isolation and asceticism. which would raise one of them them out of an existence as a shadow and place him in the real world.catalyze this process. The creator's classroom is the creative wellspring itself.. he realized.
The former.. the writer-artist finally selects an idea from his brainstorm that does “tug back”. Consider also that it is the inevitable truth of art that you need to work with ideas that you. but also in some ways reflect the deepest (if least recognizable) parts of who they are (hence the “sharp features akin to those of the
. was not “real” or substantive enough to be worthy of manifestation. could never become real. were already real.expected from the pupils who passively accepted his teaching but that he might. the latter. 57)
Obviously continuing the metaphor here. 57)
The bitterness the creator experiences is a feeling known to any writer. that will form the basis of his completed work (notwithstanding the obstacles that the artist runs into slightly later in the story):
“One evening. hold hopes for those who from time to time hazarded reasonable doubts about what he taught. and at times rebellious young man with sharp features akin to those of his dreamer. artist. yourself find provocative and challenging if you are ever to provoke or challenge your audience. He was a quiet. Borges is perhaps also alluding to the fact that writers and artists tend to settle on those ideas that are not only “rebellious” enough to challenge them.. [emphasis added]” (TCR.he dismissed his vast dream-school forever and kept a single disciple. or creator who has ever had to discard a good idea or tidbit (or at least temporarily put it aside) because it simply could not fit the work that was being created.” (TCR. however. sallow. although they deserved love and affection.
Selecting an Idea and Dealing with Obstacles
Immediately following the text quoted above. in their dim way.
One evening the man was at the point of destroying all his handiwork (it would have been better for him [emphasis added] had he done so). but all he managed. it is often by internal cleansing and catharsis.. paint. at the end of a few private lessons amazed his teacher. only to immediately run into obstacles. In both cases. All that night and the next day the hideous lucidity of insomnia weighed down on him.and realized he had not been dreaming. To tire himself out he tried to explore the surrounding forest. or the pursuit of an alternative course of action (the banal modern analogy of reversing and driving around the brick wall comes to mind) that the writer/artist manages to continue. Nonetheless. 57)
This is the first of two major obstacles the dreamer/writer will encounter on his path to bringing the work to life.dreamer” that the young man possesses). While this obstacle consists of an aporia or inability to move forward. but in the end he restrained himself. Having settled on an idea. there in a thicket of hemlocks were some snatches of broken sleep. One morning.” (TCR. a catastrophe intervened. 59)
Both of these types of obstacles should be acutely familiar to anyone who has ever sat down to write. “prayers” to spiritual gods (Campbellian magical resources). fleetingly tinged with visions of a crude and worthless nature. as artists on a mission are prone to do:
“His progress.. or otherwise enter the creative process with the intent of producing a finished work. 11
.” (TCR. the writer now begins trying to nurture it. the second one centers around the frustration the artist experiences with the imperfection of his creation and his inability to craft his work to meet his own expectations quickly enough:
“As clumsy and crude and elementary as that Adam of dust was the Adam of dreams wrought bu the nights of the magician. the man emerged from his sleep as from a sticky wasteland.
I read agents of the divine inspiration from which the author is working (see the Eizenberg quotation above) in the case of the first obstacle (“the gods of the planets. the obstacles that the dreamer encounters in TCR parallel the obstacles Borges encountered in writing the story (and I would argue the obstacles that all artists encounter in their creative process):
Yates: In one story you wrote.Concerning the magical resources and gods to which the writer gives reverence. As Borges himself has commented in an interview with Donald Yates. in the case of the second. the Fire/creativity muse already discussed above (“the stone image that may have been a tiger or a stallion” (TCR. if he had simply failed to complete the work.” This applies both in the sense of the internal sanity an artist often regains once he or she exits the creative process and in the more immediate sense that the artist of TCR would not have been destroyed (by being someone else's dream) at the end of the story. and he tried several things that didn't work.. 59)).whoever . 58)) and. These were your attempts to write the story. I am sure I was very clever to have woven them into a story. Edited
.." your groping became part of the story since the magician or the stranger . "The Circular Ruins.was trying to find a way to imagine or dream or create another person. of course I was. Is that right?
--Interview with Donald Yates (1982) Reprinted in Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations.the all-powerful name” (TCR. Why would it “have been better” for the artist to destroy “all his handiwork”? I believe the key to understanding this sentence comes from the words “for him.
where he must survive a succession of trials.by Richard Burgin (page 192) (published in 1998)
It is deep in the throes of the creative struggle. and the recognition of the struggle inherent in the process is perhaps the first step to overcoming that struggle. faced with the possibility of utter failure while confronting his first obstacle (his inexplicable insomnia and inability to dream). more infuriating than attempting to create art. there are few things more frustrating. begins to 13
. the artist. more initially unrewarding. amulets. The hero is covertly aided by the advice. having cleansed himself and prayed. though perhaps some more viscerally than consciously:
“ He realized that. 58)
As Borges has portrayed it here. helping to make this tale both universal and archetypical. the task of shaping the senseless and dizzying stuff of dreams is the hardest that a man can attempt – much harder than weaving a rope of sand or of coining the faceless wind.” (TCR. He realized that an initial failure was to be expected. 97)
Nurturing the Work as a Child Going back to a chronological reading of TCR. As Campbell writes on the “The Road of Trials” in world mythology:
“Once having traversed the threshold. the hero moves in a dream landscape of curiously fluid.” (The Hero With a Thousand Faces. and secret agents of the supernatural helper whom he met before his entrance into this region. we should also be keenly aware of the mythical elements at work here. though he may penetrate all the riddles of the higher and lower orders. that the artist realizes what is one of the most profound truths about the creative process – a realization that all artists must come to at some point if they create for long enough. It has produced a world literature of miraculous tests and ordeals. ambiguous forms. This is a favorite phase of the myth-adventure. Again. after encountering the first obstacle of being unable to dream. He then swore he would [attempt another way].
I believe it is fairly apparent that the description that follows (“Almost at once he had a dream of a beating heart. This manifold god revealed to him that its earthly name was Fire. and. that there in the circular temple (and in others like it) sacrifices had once been made to it..The countless strands of hair were perhaps the hardest task of all” (58-59. and expansion of their initial germ of an idea. a rose. once he wakes up. Critical mass for what? Nothing short of taking on a life of its own. What about the needed intervention of the creative-force-come-Fire-god in between the two halves of nurturing? According to the story:
“Having exhausted his prayers to the gods of the earth and river. within the context of the larger analogy to the creative process. The second half of nurturing is thus represented by the actual training of the dreamed man. but at one and the same time both these violent creatures and also a bull. submitting his child to all the challenges. it was no unnatural cross between a tiger and stallion. he must “flesh it out. development. that through its magic the phantom of
. and objections the artist can possibly anticipate that the outside world may one day present it with. if you will. he threw himself down at the feet of the stone image that may have been a tiger or a stallion.” allowing it to grow until it reaches the necessary critical mass. that it had been worshipped. and asked for its blind aid. a thunderstorm. tasks. in which the artist must test his or her “fleshed out” idea as much as possible. the rearing of the child.dream a different dream altogether. The creator must literally construct the skeleton and body of his idea.. this phase represents the first half of the artist's nurturing. That same evening he dreamed of an image. He dreamed it alive. quivering. It is once this occurs that the second half of nurturing may begin. TCR)) parallels that of the process of embryological development after conception.
then all autobiographical traces of the artist's identity are purged. have forgotten their inner creative instinct and it still haunts the deeper recesses of their souls. the request to send the finished man to the temple downstream likely represents the need for the work to leave the direct supervision of the artist and go out (published) into the world for others to consider. In the dreamer's dream. a bull in that) is ultimately the same unified force. and though it demands the artist's utmost sacrifice. in this respect it makes sense that “sacrifices had once [emphasis added] been made to it. the disciple should be sent downstream to the other ruined temple. it is often the case that if a work is successful. waiting to be discovered.” Finally. so that in the abandoned place some human voice might exalt him. 59)
“The advice this god offers makes the mental creation of a human being sound tellingly similar to the raising of a naturally conceived child as well as to the presentation of an artistic
. whose pyramids still survived. The god ordered that. the dreamed one awoke. once instructed in the rites. especially in the modern era. though many faced (a thunderstorm in this situation.the man's dreams would be wakened to life in such a way that – except for Fire itself and the dreamer – every being in the world would accept him as a man of flesh and blood. it makes perfect sense that “the phantom of the man's dreams would be wakened to life in such a way that – except for Fire itself and the dreamer – every being in the world would accept him as a man of flesh and blood” for that is the goal of almost every artist and his or her creativity.” (TCR. and individuals recognize the work as autonomous and possessing a life of its own (“real”) and not simply an extension of the artist himself. In this regard. is ultimately the truest collaborator the artist has in helping to bring the dreamlike conception to life. Also. As Lindstrom writes. But most humans.
” (Jorge Luis Borges: A Study of The Short Fiction.. both in the sense that 16
. (This is later echoed in “He realized with a certain bitterness that his son was ready – and perhaps impatient – to be born.”) This realization only intensifies the drive to make the most of the time for revision the artist/parent/writer has left:
“Under the pretext of teaching him more fully. to rearing the child.. As well as the parent's obligation to loosen its hold on a maturing child. this requirement parallels the creator's needs to give autonomy to his or her work when it goes out among audiences who read it in ways beyond authorial control.. Also.. From time to time. 60)
Along with recognizing that their creative process. each day he drew out the hours set aside for sleep. 59-60)
In that last sentence. 43)
Polishing and Revising. and Release Itself
In the next scene. akin. the dreamer finally enacts the second half of the nurturing process.” (TCR. he was troubled by the feeling that all this had already happened. as mentioned above. that soon the finished work will be ready to face the world on its own.work. of course. we have the understandable sorrow it causes almost every creative being (or parent) to realize that the end of the process is near. has an end. the artists must recognize too that they are not alone in creating.” (TCR.devoted a period of time (which finally spanned two years) to initiating his disciple into the riddles of the universe and the worship of Fire. it pained him to say goodbye to his creature. The new being cannot thrive until its maker takes the step of sending it away to another ritual site located on the same island. he reshaped the somewhat faulty right shoulder. as well as to putting the finishing touches (polishing and revising) on a work that is already bursting to be set free:
“The magician. The Anxiety Preceding Release. Deep inside. their childrearing.
As mentioned earlier. The next step is to attempt to cleanse the work of as much of the author. similar exercises. he was training the young man for reality. the magician imbued with total oblivion his disciple's long years of apprenticeship. there on the peak. once the man finally has been “project[ed] into the world of reality”? There is of course certain exhaustion at having worked so intensely.. He tried other. as well as nagging curiosity and doubt about how one’s work is being received. just what it is doing with its newfound life of its own? :
. is to this reader by far the most interesting. The next day. That is. and the author's creative spirit as possible. the autobiographical element. Or is it?
Aftermath of Publication
The final phase of The Circular Ruins. so that he would think himself a man like all men). each bolder than the one before.Little by little. What happens once the work is finally released into the world at large. so that the work may stand on its own:
“At the very end (so that the boy would never know he was a phantom.there are countless other beings going through the creative process at any given time and that no work ever truly is the product of only one man or woman.” (TCR. a fiery pennant shone.” (TCR. 60)
And now the task is complete. the denouement that isn't one. On one occasion he commanded him to set up a flag on a distant peak..
“But for the most part his days were happy. this phase of the dreamer's creation process is similar to the testing of an almost finished-work that all successful artists and writers must put their creations through.
the creative self itself – that is. He could not see their faces. not just of the author. The 18
Fire here is the creativity. comforting at first. Fire was the only one who knew his son was a phantom.” (TCR.he was awakened one midnight by two rowers. 60-61)
Finally. the creator – is beginning to fade:
“He now perceived with a certain vagueness the sounds and shapes of the world. for his absent son was taking nourishment from the magician's decreasing consciousness. perhaps imagining that his unreal son was performing the same rites farther down the river in other circular ruins. and at that very moment he is paralyzed with fear at the thought of it being discovered for the simulacrum that it inevitably is:
“After a length of time. 60)
But there is something more as well. He remembered that of all the creatures in the world. 61)
The irony here.“His triumph and peace were blemished by a touch of weariness. but they spoke to him about a magic man in a temple up north who walked on fire without being burned. He feared that his son might wonder at this strange privilege and in some way discover his condition as a mere appearance. Not to be man but to be the projection of another man's dreams – what an unparalleled humiliation.” (TCR. At night he no longer dreamed.. or else he dreamed the way all men dream.
“This recollection. that the dreamer himself also undergoes the “unparalleled humiliation” he describes. is a keen statement on the postmodern turn. how bewildering!” (TCR. the creator hears factual news of how his work is being received. but of the readers and audience as well.. The magician suddenly remembered the god's words. As Borges foreshadows in the following sentence.” (TCR.e. as they may somehow deconstruct and critique the work back to its root. unveiling it as a non-real (i. constructed) thing. In the morning and evening dusk. he prostrated himself before the stone idol. ending up tormenting him.
both are condemned to their intertextuality. 61-62)
Simply put. in terror.. In relief. but the text as well must influence the author. but then he realized that death was coming to crown his years and to release him from his labors. but certain signs foretold it. when the man discovers himself to be someone else's dream as well. he thought of taking refuge in the river. / There is no remembrance of former things. whole. he understood that he too was an appearance. and somehow original (a pure referent) is sharply contradicted by the interconnectedness expressed at the end of the story. See. that someone else was dreaming him. As much as the text is inevitably tied to other texts. if one would prefer the pre-postmodern words of Ecclesiastes. this is new? it hath been already of old time. it is that which shall be.” (Ecclesiastes 1:9-11.For what had happened many centuries ago was happening again. In a birdless dawn the magician saw the circling sheets of flame closing in on him. in humiliation. and that which is done is that which shall be done: and there is no new thing under the sun. or. but caressed him and flooded him without heat or burning. neither shall there be any remembrance of things that are to come with those that shall come after. The ruins of the fire god's shrine were destroyed by fire.essentially modernist notion that a worthwhile subject must be discrete.. KJV)
For every nuance. the shocking realization that:
“The thing that hath been. not only is the author an influencer of the text./ Is there any thing whereof it may be said. every organ. every strand of hair the author has conceived of his
. Thus we come to the true end of the tale. and an inevitable truth all writers and artists must face:
“The end of these anxieties came suddenly. They did not bite into his flesh. which was before us. the subject of the author is also here fragmented. [emphasis added]” (TCR. He walked into the leaping pennants of flame. For a moment.
text in sculpting his creation.
. the text will eternally now resculpt the author as well.
Potomac. Jorge Luis..: Scripta Humanistica. An Altamira Inter-American ed. New York: E. Daniel. Borges on Writing. Norman Thomas De Giovanni. 1973. Together with Commentaries and an Autobiographical Essay. et al. 1970. Housatonic. 1988. 1st ed. Out of Context : Historical Reference and the Representation of Reality in Borges. Kabbalistic and Judaic Elements in Borges. 1993. New York: E. Borges. Durham: Duke University Press. P.Bibliography Aizenberg. Jackson: University Press of Mississippi. The Aleph and Other Stories. MA Borges. Jaime. Austin: University of Texas Press. Literary Conversations Series. ---. 2000. Jorge Luis. Trans & Ed. Borges and His Successors : The Borgesian Impact on Literature and the Arts. 1990. Texas Pan American Series. Dutton. 1933-1969. 1st ed. 1st ed. Jorge Luis Borges : Conversations. Jorge Luis. Bell-Villada. 1998. Rebecca E. Edna. and Roberto Alifano. The Aleph Weaver : Biblical. Borges. Borges. Alazraki. Twenty-Four Conversations with Borges : Including a Selection of Poems : Interviews. 1999. Balderston. Gene H. 1984. Nashville: Vanderbilt University Press. New York: Cambridge University Press. Borges and His Fiction : A Guide to His Mind and Art. Borges and the Kabbalah : And Other Essays on His Fiction and Poetry.P. Murder and Masculinity : Violent Fictions of Twentieth Century Latin America. Cambridge [England] . 1981-1983. 21
. Altamira InterAmerican Series. Columbia: University of Missouri Press. Jorge Luis. Md. Dutton & Co. 1st ed. and Richard Burgin. Biron.
and Clark M. Seven Conversations with Jorge Luis Borges. Troy. Naomi. Christ. The Cardinal Points of Borges. Mary Lusky. N. N. Costa. 1969. Durham: Duke University Press. Durham: Duke University Press. The Mystery to a Solution : Poe. Ronald J. Inc. New York. González. Co. Dunham.J. Sylvia.: Princeton University Press. Lowell. 1972. Fernando Sorrentino. Humor in Borges. Jorge Luis. the Poet. 1971. Merrell. and Ivar Ivask. Floyd. Detroit. London: Garland Publishing. Borges. Irwin. Norman. 1991. Baltimore: Johns Hopkins University Press. and Oscar Montero. 22
. José Eduardo. Lindstrom. New York . Molloy.: Whitston Pub. Carlos. 1994.Borges. Borges. Campbell. Signs of Borges. No. Bollingen Series . Cortínez.. Unthinking Thinking : Jorge Luis Borges. Joseph. 1982. 17. 1990. and the New Physics. Friedman.: University of Oklahoma Press. Ind. West Lafayette. Princeton. Mathematics. [1st ed. John T. René de. Borges' Art of Allusion. 2000. 1994. 16.Y.: Purdue University Press. Zlotchew. 1987. 1986.. MI: Wayne State University Press. and the Analytic Detective Story. AR: University of Arkansas Press. The Emperor's Kites : A Morphology of Borges' Tales. Fayetteville. The Narrow Act. Post-Contemporary Interventions. Jorge Luis Borges : A Study of the Short Fiction. 2d ed.: New York University Press. Boston: Twayne Publishers. 1998. Twayne's Studies in Short Fiction . The Hero with a Thousand Faces. Borges and the Politics of Form.
Paper Tigers : The Ideal Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. Oxford. John.4 (1995): 739-54. "Borges the Golem-Maker: Intimations Of ‘Presence’ In ‘The Circular Ruins’. Stephen E." Modern Language Notes 110. Sturrock. 1977.Soud.
. England: Clarendon Press.