Thursday, February 16

Borges: You da man!

I was going to quote a passage from "The Library of Babel", but I found this one, which is even better and more appropriate to the previous thread, in "The Writing of the God":

I reflected that even in the languages of humans there is no proposition that does not imply the entire universe; to say "the jaguar" is to say all the jaguars that engendered it, the deer and the turtles it has devoured, the grass that fed the deer, the earth that was mother to the grass, the sky that gave light to the earth. I reflected that in the language of a god every word would speak that infinite concatenation of events, and not implicitly but explicitly, and not linearly but instantaneously. In time, the idea of a divine utterance came to strike me as peurile, or as blasphemous. A god, I reflected, must speak but a single word, and in that word there must be absolute plenitude. No word uttered by a god could be less than the universe, or briefer than the sum of time. The ambitions and poverty of human wordsall, world, universeare but shadows or simulacra of that Word which is the equivalent of a language and all that can be comprehended within a language.


At 11:41 PM, Blogger Zosja said...

that's right. whatever is relevant to the things I SAY is always better

I don't know what exactly he is talking about though (ironically): that we are one with the Earth-the environment - is he a deep ecologist - or is he pushing God on us - a utopist, poor poor fella?

At 2:52 PM, Blogger Sam said...

The story is about a man, the nameless narrator, who is imprisoned in a semicircular cell; a jaguar is imprisoned in the opposing semicircular cell. He starts thinking about a story he knows that the name of god is written in the spots on a jaguar, and so goes on to ruminate on related concepts, which leads to the quoted passage.

[begin english major voice]I think he's talking about language and what it means to speak a word. It's interesting to read Borges next to Paul Auster; I strongly favour Borges' attitude. Borges' seems more optimistic. Both recognize that a word is a symbol, and both suggest that a divine word is somehow a perfect symobl: Borges says that the perfect symbol represents everything instantaneaously, while Auster says the perfect symbol, the perfect word, was spoken by Adam as he was naming the beasts, before the Fall. Adam's "tongue had gone straight to the quick of the world".

I would like to say to Auster, or rather the character that we hear speak these things in Auster's novel, that words have been spoken, concepts identified, that were not available to Adam in his time, but arose afterward. "Blog", for example. So we all have a certain degree of Adam's power, even after "the fall of language". Borges suggests to me that if we let our word-symbols take on more and more meaning, we approach divinity. Which in turn can, I think, be seen as a form of relativity, language relativity, perhaps.

"The Library of Babel" is about language relativity too. In the Library, all word-symbols are present, and no one is any more meaningful than another. The Librarians have their own language, but... anyway I'll get back to that later. [end english major voice]


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