the Little Red Reviewer

the “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” rabbit hole

Posted on: December 2, 2019

I have finally had a chance to read “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” by Jorge Luis Borges,  and so many puzzle pieces have finally clicked into place.  Reading the story sent me to Wikipedia, which sent me down a glorious Gene Wolfe rabbit hole, and also reminded me of the weirdest story I ever read in Apex Magazine, and now my brain is having the best time ever!

 

Wait, what?

 

ok, so if you’re anything like me, you’ve come across references to the famous Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges (did you know he was from Argentina? me neither), and maybe, like me, you’ve assumed his work a)has nothing to do with your fave scifi/fantasy and b)is probably too literary for you to understand.

While writing a December guest post, I was flipping through The Big Book of Science Fiction, edited by Ann and Jeff Vandermeer, and why have I never flipped through this book before, what is wrong with me? This ginormous collection is sold gold! ah, maybe the fact that it weighs 38 pounds was a turn off? I’m sure it is available as an ebook for those who are interested. Anyways,  I came across Borges’ “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” in the table of contents and the story didn’t look very long . . .

 

And 30 minutes later I was sitting on the sofa, glassy eyed, and so many questions about stories I had read suddenly made sense.  So much of what I’ve read has referenced this story, so many authors I’d interviewed about their “made up worlds” were referencing Tlon, or other works by Borges (because reading 3 paragraphs on Wikipedia apparently makes me an expert? HA).

 

Some random thoughts after reading “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”  –

The introduction to the story mentions that, among other authors, Gene Wolfe was influenced by the work of Borges.  The second paragraph of the story begins:

“Bioy Casares had come to dinner at my house that evening, and we had lost all track of time in a vast debate over the way one might go about compsing a first-person novel whose narrator would omit or distory things and engage in all sorts of contradictions, so that a few of the book’s readers – a very few – might divine the horrifying or banal truth”

and all I could think was “oh, so that’s what was going on in Gene Wolfe’s An Evil Guest?”  I remember when I was reading that book, that i didn’t understand what was going on, and I was so angry that I didn’t get it! I felt left out.  I still don’t get that book, and I don’t plan to read it again, but i feel better about not getting it, even if my guess is completely wrong.

 

Now that I think about it tho,  I’ve been reading the grand children of this short story for decades. A place that doesn’t exist, but if we can convince people that it does exist, it will exist?  Reference books with editions that don’t match?   Life’s grandest wild goose chase?   And what I love even more about this, is that it doesn’t even matter if the place exists or not, it doesn’t matter that you can’t get there from here. The joy is in the creating, the joy is in the fun of the thing.

 

And I’m thinking about more short stories I’ve read over the years that had echoes of Borges, that when the authors said his work influenced them, I just politely nodded and hoped it wasn’t too obvious how under-read I was.  It was obvious, trust me. And they were very kind about it.

 

Borges was way ahead of his time, wasn’t he?

 

It’s like Borges’ work is an orchard, and nearly everyone has eaten from it, has their favorite trees, their favorite beehives, knows exactly when the apples, plums, cherries, and peaches are at their ripest, knows how to get the perfect photograph of the sun rising through the mist and the shadows of the trees.

 

Anyways, I have a ton of unread books on my bookshelf, stacks upon stacks of books that are in the “give away” pile, and all I want to do is going to the library and get some Borges, and keep falling down this rabbit hole.

2 Responses to "the “Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” rabbit hole"

Oh yeah, Borges is great stuff! You’ll love it. 🙂

Liked by 1 person

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some of the books reviewed here were free ARCs supplied by publishers/authors/other groups. Some of the books here I got from the library. the rest I *gasp!* actually paid for. I'll do my best to let you know what's what.
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