The imagination of Jorge Luis Borges is a place of endless proliferation. His stories are filled with images of mirrors, masks, and mazes, and they abound with allusions not only to other literary texts but also to the whole range of intellectual history. Technically, they are endlessly intricate, as identities merge and fracture, actions multiply and repeat, and texts serve as testing grounds for the metafictional enterprise. The narrative conventions of plot, character, and setting are redefined in these stories. They may more appropriately be seen as language problems or inquiries into the nature of how fiction is created and read. For example, “Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote” parodies literary criticism, as a pedantic reviewer analyzes the superiority of a verbatim twentieth century “reinvention” of the classic novel to its original. Other stories, such as “The Library of Babel,” “The Lottery in Babylon” and “TLON, UQBAR, ORBIS TERTIUS,” present fantasticated worlds in which the boundaries between reality and illusion are erased. Another group, highlighted by “The Garden of the Forking Paths,” “Death and the compass,” and “The Form of the Sword,” seem to turn plot into a conspiracy of form, so that the reader must double as detective, burrowing his way through layered identities and texts within texts. Or Borges will explore the possibilities opened up by impossible premises, as in “The Secret Miracle,” whose heroes create...
(The entire section is 455 words.)