Borges and I

This is something I wrote about a year ago for a module on short stories. It’s based on a short story called ‘Borges and I’, by an Argentinian writer called Jorge Luis Borges.


It is to my other self, to Borges, that things happen. I walk about Buenos Aires and I pause, almost mechanically, to contemplate the arch of an entry or the portal of a church: news of Borges comes to me in the mail, and I see his name on a short list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I am fond of hourglasses, maps, eighteenth-century typography, the etymology of words, the tang of coffee, and the prose of Stevenson: the other one shares these enthusiasms, but in a rather vain, theatrical way. It would be an exaggeration to call our relationship hostile. I live, I agree to go on living, so that Borges may fashion his literature; that literature justifies me. I do not mind admitting that he has managed to write a few worthwhile pages, but these pages cannot save me, perhaps because good writing belongs to nobody, not even to my other, but rather to language itself, to the tradition. Beyond that, I am doomed to oblivion, utterly doomed, and no more than certain flashes of my existence can survive in the work of my other. Little by little I am surrendering everything to him, although I am well aware of his perverse habit of falsifying and exaggerating. Spinoza understood that everything wishes to continue in its own being: a stone wishes to be a stone, eternally, a tiger a tiger. I must go on in Borges, not in myself (if I am anyone at all). But I recognize myself much less in the books he writes than in many others or in the clumsy plucking of a guitar. Years ago I tried to cut free from him and I went from myths of suburban life to games with time and infinity; but those games belong to Borges now and I will have to come up with something else. And so my life leaks away and I lose everything, and everything passes into oblivion, or to my other.

I cannot tell which one of us is writing this page.

It has such an interesting premise that I had to try myself. Maybe you can give a try as well (if you do, send it my way please. I wanna give it a read!).


She is me but I am not Watkins. I could never be her. My mind doesn’t think like hers. My mind wanders aimlessly through ideas; Watkins takes imaginings to tangible places, instinctively stamping the empty space between the lines on a page with possibilities. I have blurred visions; she has concrete judgements. While I’m at war with my brain cells, she charms the deepest parts of hers to bring up their possessions for her to examine and manipulate. I ask her for help, to teach me, to mould me. She tries to tame my disobedient thoughts with the ink falling from the tip of her pen or the tap-tap-tap of computer keys. She writes the words that I cannot speak and puts them on display. I tell her ‘the sky is dark’; she writes ‘come midnight the sky looks sorrowful. I want to write romance; she wants horror. I start with a chance meeting but my paper is soon filled with tears and screams. My hand trembles around my pen. I’m giddy from words and emotions, but my hand refuses to be merciful and continues writing. I heave ‘expeditiously’ and feel ‘timorous’. My words are lost in her lexicons. I am a prisoner of ink and she draws the lines. I begin to doubt if she is indeed Watkins and not I.

I begin to doubt if she is indeed Watkins and not I …


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