• Fantasy Lands

    • The brilliant Argentinean writer stretched the limits of reality to build imaginary spaces with an exquisite fidelity.

    When reality is no longer enough: Borges and imagined places / 

    Jorge Luis Borges had the well-known habit of making up inexistent references that endowed his work with ‘academic seriousness’, he used these as reliable sources that the reader could verify later, which left the curious readers who were unable to find the book, article or encyclopedia which had been so neatly referenced in one of Borges’ texts feeling uneasy.

    For a curious writer, but perhaps one which is more open to playing with reality, the objectivity and the authenticity that this tool evokes, would have the opposite effect; it would drive the desire to continue living —reading—the intricate imaginary world created by Borges.

    The endearing Argentinian was particularly generous with this second type of reader and he even offered him the idea of a place where he could take his imagination: he wrote ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ as part of Fictions. For this text, Borges concocted a world which had not been built by a single person but by many, individuals in a sect, who shared the discoveries of an invented world, one that had been invented and described by them:

    Who are the inventors of Tlön? The plural is inevitable, because the hypothesis of a lone inventor - an infinite Leibniz laboring away darkly and modestly - has been unanimously discounted. It is conjectured that this brave new world is the work of a secret society of astronomers, biologists, engineers, metaphysicians, poets, chemists, algebraists, moralists, painters, geometers... directed by an obscure man of genius. Individuals mastering these diverse disciplines are abundant, but not so those capable of inventiveness and less so those capable of subordinating that inventiveness to a rigorous and systematic plan. This plan is so vast that each writer's contribution is infinitesimal.

    In these imaginary lands (and which nonetheless firstly exist in the writing of a group of enthusiasts, secondly in the invented works of Borges, and thus become possible in the minds of every reader), are characterised by being idealistic. In this manner, there is no solipsism, because, how can we imagine a single individual if he is but the result of an accident in the idea of the individual? And everything is related to everything else. The nouns of the languages spoken in Tlön always encompass poetic objects; they never remit to purely real entities:

    The literature of this hemisphere (like Meinong's subsistent world) abounds in ideal objects, which are convoked and dissolved in a moment, according to poetic needs. At times they are determined by mere simultaneity. There are objects composed of two terms, one of visual and another of auditory character: the color of the rising sun and the faraway cry of a bird. There are objects of many terms: the sun and the water on a swimmer's chest, the vague tremulous rose color we see with our eyes closed, the sensation of being carried along by a river and also by sleep. These second-degree objects can be combined with others; through the use of certain abbreviations, the process is practically infinite. There are famous poems made up of one enormous word. This word forms a poetic object created by the author. The fact that no one believes in the reality of nouns paradoxically causes their number to be unending.

    The lack of a tangible substance opens a world of possibilities, one of unthinkable conceptions for the ordinary humans that inhabit the Earth, especially for those that are becoming more and more isolated from the world and those that surround them. And this could not happen in any other way since the discipline that inhabits Tlön is no other than psychology.

    In ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’ Borges created, using the degrees of possibility that a well-told lie enable, a fantastic and alluring world, which we can inhabit if we allow ourselves to read his story and break our ties with reality.

    Tagged: Borges, writers, literature, Fantasy Lands