Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

In “The Gospel According to Mark”’ the author rewrites the myth of the return to the origin and, as is often the case with Jorge Luis Borges, constructs his tale drawing on a literary model, here the Bible. At one point in the text, the narrator refers to the climax of St. Mark’s account of the life of Christ—the Passion—as one of the two stories that men have repeated down through time. In fact, many structural and thematic elements found in “The Gospel According to Mark”’ especially those associated with the ranch, are of an archetypal nature: the eternal way of life at La Colorada; Baltasar’s dreams about the Flood; the representation of the ranch as an island; the fanaticism and superstitions that the Gutres have in their blood; their identification with a primitive race of human beings; the circle of men strumming the guitar. Through these primordial references, Borges evokes the dark, forgotten beginnings of existence.

Another set of symbols in “The Gospel According to Mark” issues from Christian mythology and is related to Baltasar and his influence on the Gutre family. Curiously, he is not a confirmed believer and it is ironic not only that he should introduce to them the concept of faith in a savior but also that he himself should be the victim in the crucifixion. The chain of events leading up to that finish is seen to be no more than a series of accidents (how he arrives at La Colorada, Daniel’s sudden departure, the rains that lead him to explore the house and find the Bible, his decision to practice translation by reading the Gospel, the cure of the lamb, even his casual answers to the father’s questions). Thus, his experience becomes a nightmare based on mistaken interpretation, more akin to a trip to hell than a return to paradise.