Style and Technique

(Comprehensive Guide to Short Stories, Critical Edition)

“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” plays off an indisputably real account against a preposterous fantasy, managing to make reality seem unreal and fiction seem plausible. Readers trained to believe what they see in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the newspapers find themselves manipulated in this story by a worldwide mysterious plot. The story is extensively documented (like a credible encyclopedia article) with real and fictional sources so intertangled that the truth is lost. However, amid the shambles of Western civilization, the narrator in the end holds out some hope for humanity: Aggregates of words (manifestos, revisionist histories, political propaganda) may destroy, but words may also provide comfort, refuge, and communion with the past.