Borges' "Collected Fictions"

Argentine writer, essayist and translator Jorge Luis Borges was one of the first writers to make writings in Spanish and Mexican writing popular the world over. The writer, who died in 1986, has some amazing short stories. Borges writes about behavior, generally by illustrating a specific situation and a character’s reaction to this situation, but doesn’t comment from a biased point of view about his feelings on the behavior or about why this behavior occurred. Borges’ uses a non-emphatic method in which he doesn’t comment on the situation, but lets the situation and its implications stand alone. This method allows the reader draw his own conclusions. Let’s look at some of his most famous short stories now:

“Guayaquil” is about two professors of Latin American history, one Argentine and the other German, fighting for the same translation assignment. Borges, through his use of description of the characters and components of a situation, says outside social situations influence behavior because the person being influenced doesn’t want to be rude. In “Guayaquil,” the narrator doesn’t say anything improper or socially unacceptable to his German guest, even though they are fighting for the same thing and they dislike each other. Both hold their tongues because they are influenced by their academic society’s set of social guidelines when regarding another member of the society.

“The South” tells the story of an Evangelical minister, Dahlmann, experience with Arabian Nights and some rowdy ranch hand. Borges, through the narrative of “The South,” says outside social forces can influence someone to do something negative or morally wrong he may not necessarily do in other situations. For example, in Borges, the young thug from “The South” challenges Dahlmann to a duel because his buddies are around and he wants to appear a certain way in front of his friends. The young thug was making his behavior bigger and more intense than it would be in normal situations. This behavior, exaggerated for the benefit of friends, was probably the reason Dahlmann was killed rather than maimed because Borges gives little motivation for the duel which ultimately kills Dahlmann outside of this one. Again, in this story Borges does not say anything about the cause of the thug’s behavior, but the reader can draw obvious conclusions it was influenced by the thug’s friends from Borges sets up the situation.

“The Congress” is about the possibility of creating a universal congress that represents everyone in the entire world. Borges presents a situation in “The Congress” in which those influenced protest against something person who is influencing, but really have no intention of stopping. For example, the members of the group in “The Congress” followed the orders of one man with only a “murmur” of objection from one person. This seems to be a way for the dissenter to feel like an individual and to stand up for his own personal beliefs, without physically splitting from the group. Borges only spends a short time on this in the story and doesn’t comment on it again, but its impact is nevertheless picked up by readers.


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