Posts Tagged ‘perception’

The Other and Ulrikke by Borges – Story Review

May 20, 2010

I have been trying to get into Jorge Luis Borges for about five years now. I had a professor at Siena Heights who really pushed the guy and I really respected this professor, so when he leant me his collection of Borges’s fiction I really tried to bear down on the thing and get under its skin. And I failed. Miserably. The thing ended up sitting on my shelf for a few weeks until the time that I returned it to him, told him how much I enjoyed it but didn’t get far into it and silently promised to take up the task again in the near future.

Five years later I pulled the collection out of the local library and have begun again. I may or may not have given the thing a chance while at UT but I can’t say for certain as that period of my life is mostly filled with memories of darkness, destruction and calamity. And none of the aforementioned triumvirate of misery had anything to really do with grad school itself, which should really tell you how wonderful those two years were.

Now I am having just as difficult of a time but I’m still trying. Instead of starting at the beginning, I’m going through the book almost at random, reading what immediately catches my eye while skipping over the things that hold less interest. This is the first story that truly grabbed me.

It centers around Borges encountering a younger version of himself on a park bench. in Cambridge, in February 1969. The bulk of the story consists of the older Borges trying to convince the younger Borges that this meeting is actually taking place and that they are, in fact, the same person. Despite many repeated attempts, the younger Borges refuses to capitulate, refuses to believe in the assertions made by thee older Borges.

It finally turns at the end where the older Borges continues to believe that he is real but that the other Borges was dreaming, but dreaming poorly as he dreamed of  a paper bill that couldn’t have existed. It’s an almost easy ending that allows you to forget how well it just plain old works.

and I’m still trying to decide whether I like it or not. It is a variation on the old “and it was all a dream!” ending that reeks of an author taking the easy way out of a difficult situation. At the same time, Borges isn’t saying all of it was a dream, just the other guy; that everything else was real except the younger Borges was there while dreaming while the older Borges was awake during the conversation. And all of the proof the older Borges has is this dollar bill that was dreamed incorrectly.

At first I didn’t think there was much to it, despite the story being enjoyable. I thought it was just a cute little thing. But the most obvious question soon surfaced: why does the older Borges so stridently believe that he’s not the dreamer? After all, it could just as easily be him that dreamed the incorrect dollar bill and it may be more likely that the dreamer would believe in his reality more than the dreamed.

But there wasn’t much I could do with this until I read the next story, Ulrikke. It’s a story, again about Borges, but about his short affair with a Norwegian woman: Ulrikke. Like The Other, Ulrikke depends greatly on the author’s point of view and the knowledge pre-supposed. Taken together, it seems that memory and perception are focus points for Borges. In either story, the protagonist has a great belief in how they view the world being the correct view. They take assured steps because of this. But I’m not sure either protagonist has great reason to believe this.

The problem I am encountering with Borges is that his fiction is so short, that it is difficult to break one story down into enough, well, stuff to really do anything with. It appears that the only way to mine Borges is to read an entire collection (not necessarily his career collection but one of the individual collections he put out in his life) and to see where the whole goes.  I’ll keep mining.

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all that I see are stars

June 12, 2009

Going for a walk in the yard tonight, it is something that I have done for the past fifteen years of my life, give or take a few years. We have around three acres with duel rows of pine trees along the boundary of most of it. On two sides it borders roads – one paved, one gravel – and is bordered on the third by a field. The yard is a triangle, though I’m not sure what kind.

I take these walks and the night is usually pretty quiet. The wind blows. Trees rub and mutter against each other. The occasional cars goes by, its engine and the rumble of its tires against the pavement building, peaking, receding.

Overhead, far enough out in the yard, you’re effectively walking in shadow and the stars decide they can move from the safety of their depths and wink from the reaches of their existence.

Ten years ago I looked at the stars differently. They were beacons of the possible. I would look at the stars and think of speeches made by Kennedy’s in the 60s. The night sky was a reflection of a belief that life held limitless possibilities.

Walking around the yard tonight, I appreciate the beauty more. The feel of the breeze, cool, slipping across my face like lingering hands of a teen love. The smell of the pines of the grass and of the night air itself which just feels cleaner and smoother than the air of the day. Underfoot, the grass gives and is damp with the beginnings of the morning dew.

But the sky now feels like what might have been.

I had once dreamed of actually seeing the moon, setting foot on it. Maybe even seeing mars. I know now that neither will happen for me.

I dreamed of wealth, something I am also certain will not happen and which I’m also not entirely certain I would be able to handle anyway.

I dreamed that the world would just make sense at some point. That life would make sense.

Now it is more confusing than it was then and I see less point to it. Now it might be worse because I’m not longer riding the emotional highs of puberty so that even though I thought life was shit for long stretches of time, I was also too deliriously high on it to accept it.

Now whatever depressions I slip into I never dip too low but I also never rise too high. Life is.And I haven’t made myself okay with this yet.

Still, I love the stars. I love the night air in the country. I love just going for a quiet walk alone. In the end, maybe that’s the real essence of life. Finding what yuo like and love and being happy with that.