final paper

final paper - Kirsten Ferreri ENGL 169A – Magical Realism...

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Kirsten Ferreri ENGL 169A – Magical Realism Prof. Babli Sinha March 19, 2008 Dead in his own labyrinth: The multiple meanings of the Borgesian labyrinth The most prominent image in the stories of Jorge Luis Borges is the labyrinth. Of the seventeen stories which constitute the book El Aleph , nine feature the word labyrinth itself, and five take place, entirely or in part, in a physical labyrinth. The labyrinth is a complex image, which associates itself variously with different correlatives in different stories. But taking the book as a whole, there is a pattern among the references to labyrinths. Interestingly, the patterns that emerge differ between the original Spanish version and the most recent English version, translated by Andrew Hurley. Between the two versions of the same book, the concept of the labyrinth takes on very different meanings, each related to the artistic process which the text’s creator goes through. Borges’ discussion of the labyrinth deals most directly with the creative process. To Hurley, however, the labyrinth is not simply the process of writing, but language itself, and the impossibility of communication – and, by extension, the impossibility of translation. As Hurley translates the book, therefore, his own interpretation of the key terms and concepts in the book is imposed on the text, and the meaning of the text changes fundamentally.
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Ferreri 2 Borges introduces a labyrinth in the very first story, “El Inmortal.” Here, the labyrinth is, in fact, the location of the story. The narrator, later revealed to be the immortal Cartaphilus, dreams a prophetic dream in the beginning of the story, in which, at the center of “un exiguo y nitido laberinto” (Borges 10, lit. “a sharp and meager labyrinth” ) he encounters a black well, from which he longs to drink, but is prevented by the knowledge that he will die before he reaches the end of the labyrinth. This labyrinth becomes literal later in the story, when he visits the City of the Immortals and becomes trapped in the long series of caverns beneath the City. The third and final labyrinth comes at the very end of the story, when Cartaphilus and Homer resolve to find the river that removes – or borren (Borges 21, lit. “erases”) -- immortality. The desire to die becomes at last overwhelming, and in order to find death Cartaphilus – who only now adopts the name, which literally means “lover of maps” -- travels over the entire world until he finds the river that once again bestows mortality on him. This search is the third and final labyrinth, and the one that finally allows him to complete his quest. Significantly, it is only after passing through this labyrinth and arriving at the stage of contentment with his own mortality that Cartaphilus is able to evaluate his own account of his time with the immortals in the City. One year after drinking of the second spring, Cartaphilus revises and comments on his story, and then passes it along to the princess and departs, never to be seen again. It seems, then, that the journey which Cartaphilus takes at the end of the
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final paper - Kirsten Ferreri ENGL 169A – Magical Realism...

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