Reaction and Reflection on Jorge Luis Borges
This is a reaction and reflection paper on the implication of a quotation from Jorge Luis Borges, as gleaned on his short detective story “The Garden of Forking Paths” on the relationship between the imagination and reality.
Jorge Luis Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths”
“Life itself is a quotation.” (Borges 1899-1986)
The above quote from Jorge Luis Borges would perhaps distill any other reflection or analysis of the connection or relationship between reality and imagination; between reading and writing. As the famous Latin adage goes “Vita Brevis, Ars longa.” Moreover, another similar quotation goes to say that art imitates life. Interestingly, however, I am propelled to ask if this, indeed, is the case, or is it the other way around. Does art or literature for that matter, really imitate life, or is it life that imitates art? The quotation by Jorge Luis Borges which is the subject matter of this reflection paper goes:
“A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.” (Borges 1960)
Again, this speaks of how man lives his life, his struggles, his passions and his pre occupation that defines and distinguishes him from any other man in the world; struggles and passions that shape him as well as them being shaped by him. The short detective story “The Garden of Forking Paths” invites us to take a closer look at the parallel realities between the written word that is literature and the very lives we live. We are called to meditate on the very nature and possibilities of history, reality, space and time and their fictional realms. It also stimulates us to question whether time and history is a linear or single-path process instead of it being a multi-directional possibility that explodes right at the ‘moment.’ There is also the enigmatic quality of the story as being labyrinthine, in the narrative structure, in the story of the character Ts’ui Pen, as well as the labyrinth of time and space. Most importantly so, is the story’s showing us how the literary process or literary creation is a definition of multiple paths, dimensions and infinite possibilities.
What then is the relation between reality and literature? What then are its implications in reading and in living? For me, personally, the thread that connects and sews both together is reader’s response. In poetry, this is called the moment of epiphany; the Japanese had a term for this: the Ha-i-ku moment. Thus, the Japanese form of poetry. This is the moment of enlightenment when one gets into the text, anchors in to it, and in that moment of time, becomes one with the written word, past texts, sub texts or contexts.
This is also called significant human experience, where one feels kinship to that which is written. This enduring quality of good literature where on is able to relate to the written works. More so, as Jorge Luis Borges’ quotation suggests, this sense of one-ness with the work draws parallelism between literature and life itself. Furthermore, like in Borges’ prose, it is not only capable of one single ‘reading’ or interpretation, but should be multi-layered. The piece must be able to bring that Ha-i-ku moment, that enlightenment, that epiphany, to an audience with varied and diverse backgrounds; in accord with that reader’s own life, indeed making literature a garden of forking paths of epiphany.