Circular+Ruins+x+5 - Borges

Circular+Ruins+x+5 - Borges - C From: Jorge Luis Borges,...

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Unformatted text preview: C From: Jorge Luis Borges, Labyrinths, Ed. by Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby (New York: New Directions, 1964). .Tb'CimfiriRuiw' . . . . -.,And-if.he left ofidreamingsaboutyou .- -. . g -.'--i ,. Throughtbe Looking GIas:,-VI Nb(meswfhEIdfimfiflkintfienmmhmmsngmgnowme envflmInmbmfomfiesmkhgimfifihesmuflqnmttmtyfiflh nfiavdqmtmwmevasfimnmmeflntdwsmmtnmncum§fihm South'iind'tlutfhis' 'hon'1e'wasi6ne'Of the hymnmronflmemmtnwmnfimfik,wfiqeth32¢fiinqme ismntbmmmhmuiwthha*andnfimmfiqfimwishfinhmmn Ihehmfl1ktmutm:dmuuen?nkkfid1henmd,dmwlqaflw bank' without " ' ‘ “babl' without f‘eehng‘ ° ') the bnmflms'wmkh'dmmmmmd‘hgnhemrand_¢m§¥d hmudfi . nauseous and bloodsmined,"tol'th'e enclosure crowned -__J.-.,: by a stone tiger-'01: horse'which the'Color'of fire ' ' " nmw*wu dmtofadwehThkpdnm3vms3 mnwh.kmgago r. dammwdbyfingnmkhflmummmmjmghlfidpnmmmiufl “mangodnohmguru$Wdiwehfimgeofmmximemnmgu stretched‘olat' beneath the'pedesthL'He was awakened, by the smnhghzmmn.Ek amkmufl'wfimnutmnmflmmmzflmthh wounds had closed; he shut his pale eyes'and slept, not out‘qf bodily weakness but out of determination of 'will. He knew that . this temple was the place requiredby his invincible purpose; he ' knew that, downstream, the incessant trees had not managed'to choke the ruins of" another propitious temple, whose gods were ‘skolmnmdamidenghekmwvdmthbimmwfimecbmpfimx vhsu>wwp'nwnmknmkqwtheunsmmfimmdbytm:&9- 4f ‘61. O Labyrinth: consolate cry of a bird. Prints of bare feet, some figs and a jug told him that men of the region had respectftu spied upon his and were solicitous of his favor or feared his magic. He felt the chill of fear and sought out a burial niche in the dilapi- dated wall and covered himself with some unknown leaves. The purpose which guided him was not impossible, though it wassupernaturaLHewantedtodreamaman: hewantedto dreamhimwithminuteintegrityandinserthimintoreality. This magical project had exhausted the entire content of his soul;ifsomeonehadaskedhimhisownnameoranytraitof his previous life, he would not have been able to answer. The uninhabited and broken temple suited him, for it was a minimum of visible world; the nearness of the peasants also suited him, for they would see that his frugal necessities were supplied. The rice and fruit of their tribute were suficient sustenance for his body, consecrated to. the sole task of sleeping and dreaming. At first, his dreams were chaotic; somewhat later, they were of a dialectical nature. The stranger dreamt that he was in the center of a circular amphitheater which in some way was the burned temple: clouds of silent students filled the gradins; the faces of the last ones hung many centuries away and at a cosmic height, but were entirely clear and The man was lecturing to them on anatomy, cosmography, magic; the countenances listened with eagerness and strove to respond with understanding, as if they divined the importance of the examination which would redeem one of them from his state of vain appearance and interpolate him into the world of reality. The man, both in dreams and awake, considered his phantoms’ replies, was not deceived by impostors, divined a growing intelligence in certain perplexities. He sought a soul which would merit participation in the universe. After nine or ten nights, he comprehended with some bitter- ness that he could expect nothing of those students who passively accepted his doctrines, but that he could of those who, at times, would venture areasonable contradiction. The former, though worthy of love and afl’ection, could not rise to the state of individuals; the latter pre-existed somewhat more. One after- noon (now his afternoons too were tributaries of sleep, now 46 The Circular Ruins 0 he awake only for a couple of hours at dawn) he dism1ssed the vast illusory college forever and kept one single student. He was a silent boy, sallow, sometimes obstinate, with sharp features which reproduced those of the dreamer. He was npt long disconcerted by his companions' sudden elimination; his progress, after a few special lessons, astounded his teacher. Nevertheless, catastrophe ensued. The man emerged from one day as if from a viscous desert, looked at the vain light of afternoon, whichatfirstheconfusedvviththatofdawmand understood that he had not really dreamt. All that night and all day, intolerable lucidity of insomnia weighed upon him. He tried to explore the jungle, to exhaust himself; amidst the hemlocks, he was scarcely able to manage a few snatches of feeble sleep, fleetineg mottled with some rudimentary visions winch were useless. He tried to convoke the college and had scarcelgefugrded :nflew brief words of exhortation‘, when it-be- came 0 was extinguished. In his almost etual sleeplessness, his old eyes burned with tears of Hecomprehended that the efl'ort to mold the incoherent and verngmousmatterdreamsaremadeofwasthemostarduous task a man could undertake, though he might penetrate all the emgmas the upper and lower orders: inuch more arduous thanweawngampeofsandorcoiningthefacelessvvindHe comprehended that an failure was inevitable. He swore he would forget the enormous hallucination which had misled him at first, and he sought another method. Before putting it into efl’ect, he dedicated a month to replenishing the powers his delirium had wasted. He abandoned any premeditation of dreaming and, almost at once, was able to sleep for a considerable ' part of the day. The few times he dreamt during this period, he didnottakenoticeofthedreams.Totakeuphistaskagain, he waited until the moon’s disk was perfect, Then, in the after- noon, he purified in the waters of the river, worshiped the planetary gods, uttered the lawful syllhbles of a powerful game and slept. Almost immediately, be dreamt of a beating cart. ' ‘ 'He dreamt its active, warm, secret, the size of a closed fist, of garnet color in the penumbra of a human body as yet without 47 . . . . . ..-_ . I . I .I . 1-1,!"- m-I‘umnranz-vc'a Jams-lav.u- n—é ‘fl—‘éH-JA-fi‘limfiflulfifsm EHM .a_' m...ar....a'u.-=_-'._tiir_i&..a..111._;-L_;..-:. as 22', _.= _.-.-|.'.a .1, .- at...“ 2.5:: . 79L 0 Labyrinth: face or sex; with minute love he dreamt it, for fourteen lucid nights. Each night he perCeived it with greater .clarity. He did not touch it, but limited himself to Witnessmgut, observing it, perhaps correcting it with his eyes. He perceived it, lived it, from many distances and many angles. the fourteenth night he touched the pulmonary artery With. his. finger, and then the whole heart, inside and out. The examination satisfied him. De- liberately, he did not dream for a night; then he took the again, invoked the name of a planet and set about to env1sion another of the principal organs. Within a year he reached the skeleton, the eyelids. The innumerable hair was perhaps the most dificult task. He dreamt a complete man, a youth, this youth could not rise nor did he speak not could be open his eyes. Night after night, the man dreamt as asleep. In the Gnostic cosmogonies, the demiurgi knead and mold a red Adam who cannot stand alone; as unskillful and crude and elementary as this Adam of dust was the Adam of dreams fabri- cated by the magician’s nights of eEort. One afternoon, the man almost destroyed his work, but then repented. (It would have been better for him had he destroyed it.) Once he had completed his supplications to the numina of the earth the river,hethrewhimselfdownatthefeetofthe effigywhichwas perhaps a tiger and perhaps a horse, and implored its succor. That twilight, he dreamt of the statue. He dreamt o it as a living, tremulous thing: it was not an atrocious mongrel of tiger and horse, but both these vehement creatures at once and also a bull, a rose, a tempest. This multiple god revealed to him that its earthly name was Fire, that in the temple (and in others of its kind) people had rendered it sacrifices and cult and that it would magically give life the sleeping phantom, insuchawaythatallcreatures exceptFireitselfandthe dreamer would believe him to be a man of flesh and blood. The was ordered by the divinity to instruct his creature in its rites,.and send him to the other broken temple whose pyramids downstream, 53 that in this deserted edifice a vorce might give glory to the god. In the dreamer’s dream, the dreamed one awoke. The magician carried out these orders. He devoted a period of time (which finally comprised two Years) t° “ding th" 48 The Circular Rain: 0 arcanaoftheuniverseandofthefireculttohisdreamchild. Inwardly, it pained him to be separated from the boy. Under the pretext of pedagogical necessity, eaiih day he prolonged the hours he dedicated to his dreams. He also redid the right shoulder, which was perhaps deficient. At times, he was troubled by the impression that all this had happened before . . . In general, his days were happy; when he closed his eyes, he would think: Now I shall be with my son. 0r, less often: The child I have engendered await: me and will not exist if I do not go to him. Gradually, he accustomed the boy to reality. Once he ordered him to place a banner 'on a distant peak. The following day, the banner flickered from the mountain top. He tried other analogous experiments, each more daring than the list. He understood with certain bitterness that his son was ready—and perhaps impatient —to be born. That night he kissed him for the first time and sent him to the other temple whose debris showed white down- stream, through many leagues of inextricable jungle and swamp. But first (so that he would never know he was a phantom, so that he would be thought a man like others) he instilled into him a complete oblivion of his years of apprenticeship. The man’s victory and peace were ' ed by Weariness. At ' dawn and at twilight, he would pro te himself before the stone figure, imagining perhaps that his unreal child was practic~ ing the same rites, in other circular ruins, downstream; at night, he would not dream, or would dream only as all men do. He perceived the sounds and forms of the universe with a certain colorlessness: his absent son was being nurtured with these dimimitions of his soul. His life’s purpose was complete; the man persisted in a kind of ecstasy. After a time, which some narrators of his story prefer to compute in years and others in lustra, he was awakened one midnight by two boatmen; he could not see their faces, but they told him of a magic man in a temple of the North who could walk upon fire and not be burned. The magician suddenly remembered the words of the god. He re- called that, of all the creatures of the world, fire was the only one that knew his son was a phantom. This recollection, at first soothing, finally tormented him. He feared his son might medi- tate on his abnormal privilege and discover in some way that 49 "\ . C.) Labyrinth: his condin'on was that of a mere image. Not to be a man, to be the projection of another man’s dream, what a feeling of humilia- tion, of vertigo! All fathers are interested in the children they have procreated (they have permitted to exist) in mere confusion or pleasure; it was natural that the magician should fear for the future of that son, created in thought, limb by limb and feature by feature, in a thousand and one secret nights. The end of his meditations was sudden, though it was foretold in certain signs. First (after a long drought) a faraway cloud on a hill, light and rapid as a bird; then, toward the south, the sky which had the rose color of the leopard’s mouth; then the nnoke which corroded the metallic nights; finally, the flight of the animals. For what was happening had happened many centuries ago. The ruins of the fire god’s sanctuary were destroyed by fire. In a birdless dawn the magician saw the concentric blaze close round the walls. For a moment, he thought of refuge in the river, but then he knew that death was coming to crown his old age and absolve him of his labors. He walked into the shreds of flame. But they did not bite. into his flesh, they caressed him and engulfed him without heat or combustion. With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he too was a mere appearance, dreamt by another. Translated by I. E. I. 5'0 Q 74- / large Luis Borges wizard should fear for the future of his son, thought out entrail by entrail and feature by feature on a thousand and one secret nights. The end 'of his caviling was abrupt, but not without fore- warnings. First (after a long drought) a remote cloud, light as a bird, appeared over a. hill. Then, toward the South, the sky turned the rosy color of a. leopard’s gums. Smoke began to rust the metallic nights. And then came the panic flight of the animals. And the events of several centuries before were repeated. The ruins of the fire god’s sanctuary were destroyed by fire. One birdless dawn the wizard watched the concentric oonflagration close around the walls: for one instant he thought of taking refuge in the river, but then he understood that death was coming to crown his old age and to absolve him of further work. He walked against the florid banners of the fire. And the fire did not bite his flesh but caressed and engulfed him without heat or combustion. With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he, too, was all appearance, that some- one else was dreaming him. —Translated by ANTHONY KERRIGAN GROVE PRESS / NEW YORK M 67 "R \ ‘. ,3 e_.J THE CIRCULAR RUINS Andiiheleitofidreamingaboutyou . .. -Tltrough the Looking Class, VI. No one saw him disbark in the unanimous night. No one saw the bamboo canoe running aground on the sacred mud. But within a few days no one was unaware that the taciturn man had come from the South and that his home had been one of the infinity of hamlets which lie upstream, on the violent flank of the mountain, where the Zend language is uncontaminated by Greek, and where leprosy is infrequent. The certain fact is that the anonymous gray man kissed the mud, scaled the bank without pushing aside (probably with- out even feeling) the sharp-edged sedges lacerating his flesh, and dragged himself, bloody and sickened, up to the circular enclosure whose crown is a stone colt or tiger, for- merly the color of fire and now the color of ash. This circular clearing is a temple, devoured by ancient confiagration, pro- faned by the malarial jungle, its god unhonored now of- men. The stranger lay beneath a pedestal. He was awak- ened, much later, by the sun at its height. He was not astonished to find that his wounds had healed. He closed his pale eyes and slept, no longer from weakness of the flesh but from a determination of the will. He knew that this temple was the place required by his inflexible purpose; he knew that the incessant trees had not been able to choke the ruinsoi another such propitious temple down river, a temple whose gods also were burned and dead; he knew that his immediate obligation was to dream. The disconsolate shriek of a bird awoke him about midnight. The prints of bare feet, some figs, and a jug told him that the people ' oi the region had reverently spied out his dreaming and 68 O A Personal Anthology / 69 solicited his protection or feared his magic. He felt the cold chill of fear, and sought in the dilapidated wall for a sepulchral niche where be concealed hiniself under some unfamiliar leaves. The purpose which impelled him was not impossible though it was supernatural. He willed to dream a man. He - wanted to dream him in minute totality and then impose him upon reality. He had spent the full resources of his soul on this magical project. If anyone had asked him his own name or about any feature of his former life, he would have been unable to answer. The shattered and deserted temple suited his ends, for it was a minimum part of the visible world, and the nearness of the peasants was also convenient, for they took it upon themselves to supply his frugal needs. The rice and fruits of the tribute were nourish- ment enough for his body, given over to the sole task of sleeping and dreaming. . At first his dreams were chaotic. A little later they were The stranger dreamt he stood in the middle of a circular amphitheater which was in some measure the fired temple; clouds of taciturn students wearied the tiers; the faces of the last rows looked down from a distance of several centuries and from a stellar height, but their every feature was precise. The dreamer himself was delivering lectures on anatomy, cosmography, magic: the faces listened anxiously and strove to answer with understanding, as if they guessed the importance of that examination, which would redeem one of them from his insubstantial state and interpolate him into the real world. In dreams or in waking the man continually considered the replies of his phantoms; he did not let himself be deceived by the impostors; in certain paradoxes be sensed an expanding intelligence. He was seeking a soul worthy of participating in the universe. At the end of nine or ten nights he realized, with a certain bitterness, that he could expect nothing from those students an. (x ., | . I x_,_,/ 70 / Jorge Luis Borges who accepted his teaching passively, but that he could of those who sometimes riskai a reasonable contradiction. The former, though deserving of love and affection, could never rise to being individuals; the latter already existed to a somewhat greater degree. One afternoon (now even the afternoons were tributaries of the dream; now he stayed awake for only a couple of hours at daybreak) he dis- missed the entire vast illusory student body for good and retained only one pupil'. This pupil was a silent, sallow, sometimes obstinate boy, whose sharp features repeated those of his dreamer. The sudden elimination of his fellow students did not disconcert him for very long; his progress, at the end of a few private lessons, made his master marvel. And nevertheless, catastrophe came. One day the man emerged from sleep as from a viscous desert, stared about at the vain light of evening, which at first he took to be dawn, and realized he had not dreamt. All that night and all the next day the intolerable lucidity of insomnia broke over him in waves. He was impelled to explore the jungle, to wear himself out; he barely managed some quick snatches of feeble sleep amid the hemlock, shot through with fugitive visions of a rudimentary type: altogether unserviceable. He strove to assemble the student body, but he had scarcely uttered a few words of exhortation before the college blurred, was erased. Tears of wrath scalded his old eyes in his almost perpetual vigil. He realized that the effort to model the inchoate and vertiginous stuff of which dreams are made is the most arduous task a man can undertake, though he get to the bottom of all the enigmas of a superior or inferior order: much more arduous than to weave a rope of sand or mint coins of the faceless wind. He realized that an failure was inevitable. He vowed to forget the enormous hallucina- tion by which he had been led astray at first, and he sought out another approach. Before assaying it, he dedicated a O A Personal Anthology Ii 71 month to replenishing the forces he squandered in delirium. He abandoned all premeditati concerned with dreaming, and almost at once managed to sleep through a goodlypartoftheday.Thefewtimeshediddreamduring this period he took no notice of the dreams. He waited imtil the disk ofthe moon should be perfect before taking up histaskagain.Then,ontheeve,hepurifi himselfinthe waters of the river, worshiped the plan gods, pro- nounced the lawful syllables of a powerful name and went to sleep. Almost at once he dreamt of a beating heart. He dreamt it active, warm, secret, the size of a closed fist, garnet-colored in the half-light of a liuman body that boasted as yet no sex or face. He dreamt this heart with meticulous love, for fourteen lucid nights. Each night he saw it more clearly. He never touched it, but limited him- - self to witnessing it, to observing it or perhaps rectifying it with a glance. He watched it, lived it, from far and from ' near and from many angles. On the fourteenth night he ran his index finger lightly along the pulmonary artery, and then over the entire heart, inside and out. The examination satisfied him. The next night, he deliberately did not dream. He then took up the heart again, invoked the name of a planet, and set about to envision another one of the principal organs. Before the year was up he had reached the skeleton, the eyelids. The most dificult task, perhaps, proved to be the numberless hairs. He dreamt a whole man, a fine lad, but one who could not'stand nor talk nor open his eyes. Night after night he dreamt him asleep. In the Gnostic cosmogonies, demiurges fashion a red Adam who never manages to get to his feet: as clumsy and equally as crude and elemental as this dust Adam was the dream Adam forged by the nights of the wizard. One after- noon, the man almost destroyed all his work, but then changed his mind. (It would have been better for him had he destroyed it.) Having expended} all the votive Lat: F 2’ 72 / Iorge Luis Borges offerings to the numina of the earth and the river, he threw himself at the feet of the effigy, which was perhaps a tiger or perhaps a colt, and implored its unknown help. That evening, at twilight, he dreamt of the statue. He dreamt it alive, tremulous: it was no atrocious bastard of a tiger and a colt, but both these vehement creatures at once and also a bull, a rose, a tempest. This multiple god revealed to him that its terrestrial name was Fire, that in this same circular temple (and in others like it) it once had been offered sacrifices and been the object of a. cult, and that now it would magically animate the phantom dreamt by the wizard in such wise that all creatures—except Fire itself and the dreamer—would believe the phantom to be a man of flesh and blood. It directed that once the phantom was instructed in the rites, he be sent to the other broken temple, whose pyramids persisted down river, so that some voice might be raised in glorification in that deserted edifice. In the dream of the man who was dreaming, the dreamt man awoke. The wizard carried out the directives given him. He dedi- cated a period of time (which amounted, in the end, to two years) to revealing the mysteries of the universe and the cult of Fire to his dream creature. In his intimate being, he sufiered when he was apart from his creation. And so every day, under the pretext of pedagogical necessity, he protracted the hours devoted to dreaming. He also re- workai the right shoulder, which was perhaps defective. At times, he had the uneasy impression that all this had happened before. . . . In general, though, his dayswere happy ones: as he closed his eyes he would think: Now I shall be with my son. Or, more infrequently: The son I have engendered is waiting for me and will not exist if I do not go to him. Little by little he got his creature accustomed to reality. Once, he ordered him to plant a flag on a distant mountain O A Personal Anthology / 73 top.Thenextdaythefiagwasflutteringonthepeak. He tried other analogous experiments, each one more audacious than the last. He came to realize, with a bitterness, that his son was ready—and perhaps t{Expatient-n—to be born. That night he kissed his child for first time, and sent him to the other temple, whose remains were whitening down river, many leagues across impas able jungle and swamp. But first, so that his son sh never know he wasaphantomandshouldthinkhimselfamanlikeother men, he imbued him with total forgetf ess of his ap- prentice years. His triumph and his respite were sapped by tedium. In the twilight hours of dusk or dawn he would prostrate him- self before the stone figure, imagining his unreal child practicing identical rites in other circular ruins down- stream. At night he did not dream, or drth as other men do. The sounds and forms of the universe reached him wanly, pallidly: his absent son was being sustained on the diminution of the Wizard's soul. His life’s purpose had been achieved; the man lived on in a kind of ecstasy. After a time—which some narrators of his story prefer to compute in years and others in lustre—he was awakened one mid- night by two boatmen: he could not seeI their faces, but theytoldhimofamagicalmanatatempleintheNorth, who walked on fire and was not burned. The wizard sud- denly recalled the words of the god. He remembered that of all the creatures composing the world, only Fire knew his son was a phantom. This recollection, comforting at first, ended by tormenting him. He feared lest his son meditate on his abnormal privilege and somehow discover his condition of mere simulacrum. Not to be a man, to be the projection of another man’s dream—what incomparable humiliation, what vertigo! Every fatheris concerned with the children he has procreated (which he has permitted) in mere confusion or felicity: it was only natural that the "H411 0 O The C ircular Ruin-s i l g ' And if he left off dreaming about you. . . ._ ‘ Through the Looking-Class, IV I I E From: Borges The Aleph and Other S a t 2 1933-1969, ed. and tr. by N. T?rd:s Giovanni (New York: Dutton, 1978). /‘-'..._ ' ‘ Nobody saw him come ashore in the encompassing night, tubmhrnmrdmlmmfimo¢xdtunrqgopmlhidmsmxul mud. but within a few days everyone knew that the quiet man had come from the south and that his home was among the number-less villages upstream on the steep slopes of dmimmmufin,whuetm:2afllmgmq¢isbmdytfinmd hkaaizaulwmmmlqwn:nerm3.1hef&1isdntdm gray man pressed his lips to the mud, scrambled up the bank without parting (perhaps without feeling) the bunhythonu dun flue hh flah,and dnqggd hhnnflfi faint and bleeding. to the circular opening watched over by a stone tiger, or horse, which once was the color of fire and is now the color of ash. This opening is a temple vflfidhvwmdennnmdqgsagobyflmmwnvflfidzdmswmnqw vnkkxneu Immr demxxauxL and “dune god no longer receives the rwerence of men. The stranger laid himself down at the foot of the image. ' Wakened by the sun high overhead, he noticed—some- ' how without amusement—that his wounds had healed. He 55 van-v.- .- . v WfifflhflflwWMM—nwww- —-—-:--M——- -—.—~_. _——.____.. . \ shut hisT-Jle eyes and slept again, not because of weariness but because he willed it. He knew that this temple was the place he needed for his unswerving purpose; he knew that downstream the encroaching trees had also failed to choke the ruins of another auspicious temple with its own fire-ravaged, dead gods; he knew that his first duty was to sleep. Along about midnight, he was awakened by the forlorn call of a bird. Footprints, some figs, and a water jug told him that men who lived nearby had looked on his sleep with a kind of awe and either sought his protec- tion or else were in dread of his witchcraft. He felt the chill of fear and searched the crumbling walls for a burial niche, where he covered himself over with leaves he had never seen before.’ His guiding purpose, though it was supernatural, was not impossible. He wanted to dream a man; he wanted to dream him down 50 the last detail and project him into the world of reality. This mystical aim had taxed the whole range of his mind. Had anyone asked him his own name or anything about his life before then, he would 'not have known what to answer. This forsaken, broken temple suited him because it held few visible things, and also because the neighboring villagers would look after his frugal needs. The rice and fruit of their offerings were nourishment enough for his bedy, whose one task was to sleep and to dream. _ At the outset, his dreams were chaotic; later on, they were of a dialectic-nature. The stranger dreamed himself 'at the center of 'a circular amphitheater which in some way was also the burnt-out temple. Crowds of silent dis- ciples exhausted the tiers' of seats; the faces of the far- thest of them hung centuries away from him and at a height of the stars, but their features were clear and exact. The man lectured on anatomy. cosmography, and witch- 56 ——..- .._._ _ . .- craft. The faces listened, bright 'and eang, and did tQ best to answer sensibly, as if they felt the importance of his questions, which would raise one of them out of an existence as a shadow and place him in the real world. Whether asleep or awake, the man pondered the answers of his phantoms and, not letting himself lie misled by im- postors, divined in certain of their quan ties a growing intelligence. He was in search of a soul worthy of taking a place in the world. J After nine or ten nights he realized, f cling bitter over it, that nothing could be expected from those pupils who passively accepted his teaching but that he might, how- ever, hold hopes for those who from time to-time hazarded reasonable doubts about what he taught. The former, al- though they deserved love and affection. could never be- come real; the latter, in their dim way, were already real. One evening (now his evenings were also given over to sleeping, now he was only awake for an1 hour or two at dawn) he dismissed his vast dream-school forever and kept a single disciple. He Was a quiet, sallow, and at times re- bellious young man with sharp features akin to those of his dreamer. The sudden disappearance of his fellow pupils did not disturb him for very long, and hip progress, at the end of a few private lessons, amazed his teacher. None- theless, a catastrophe intervened. One mbrning, the man emerged from his sleep as from a sticky wasteland, glanced up' at the faint evening light, which at first he confused with the dawn, and realized that he had not been dream- ing. All that night and the next day, the hideous lucidity of insomnia weighed down on him. To tire himself out he tried to explore the surrounding forest, but all he managed, there in a thicket of hemlocks, were some snatches of broken ' sleep, fleetineg tinged with visions of a qrude and worth- less nature. He tried to reassemble his school, and barely 57 had thltteted a few brief words of counsel when the whole class went awry and vanished. In his almost endless wakefulness, tears of anger stung his old eyes. He realized that, though he may penetrate all the riddles of the higher and lower orders, the task of shaping-the senseless and dizzying stuff of dreams is the hardest that'a man can attempt—much harder than weaving a rope 'of sand or of coining the timeless wind. He realized that an . initial failure was to be expected. He then swore he would forget the populous vision which in the beginning had led him astray, and he sought another method. Before attempt- ' ing it, he spent a month rebuilding the strength his fever had consumed. He gave up all thoughts of dreaming and almost at once to sleep a reasonable part of the day. The few times he dreamed during this period he did not dwell on his dreams. Before taking up his task again, he mired until the moon was a perfect circle. Then, in the evening, he cleansed himself in the waters of the river, worshiped the gods of the planets, uttered the prescribed syllables of an all-powerful name, and slept. Alm'ost at once, he had a dream of a beating heart. He dreamed it throbbing, warm, secret. It was the size of a closed fist, a darkish red in the dimness of a human body still without a face or sex. With anxious love he dreamed it for fourteen lucid nights. Each night he per- eeived it more clearly. He did not touch it, but limited himself to witnessing it, to observing it,'to correcting it now and then with a look. He felt it, he lived it from different distances and from many angles. On the fourteenth night he touched the pulmonary artery with a finger and then the whole heart, inside and out. The examination satisfied him. For one night he deliberately did not dream; after that he went back to the heart again, invoked the name of a planet, and set out to envision another of the 58 ._.__.____- _—.———. -'M- —______.—.__w . . .—.——_...——-___——_._. principal organs. Before a year was over he cameQ the skeleton, the eyelids. The countless strands of hair were perhaps the hardest task of all. He dreamed a whole man, a young. man, but the young man could ot stand up or speak, nor could he. open his eyes. Night after night, the man dreamed him asleep. In the cosmogonies of the Gnostics, the demiurges mold a red Adam who is unable to stand on ' feet; as clumsy and crude and elementary as that Adam of dust was the Adam of dreams wrought by the nights of the magician. One evening the man was at the point of estroying all his handiwork (it would have been better for 'm had he done so), but in the end he restrained himself. Having exhausted . his prayers to the gods of the earth and river. he threw himself down at the feet of the stone image that may have been a tiger or a stallion, and asked for its blind aid. That same evening he dreamed of the image. He dreamed it alive, quivering; it was no unnatural cross between tiger and stallion but at one and the same time both these violent creatures and also a bull, a rose, a thxinderstorm. This manifold god revealed to him that its eirthly name was Fire, that there in the circular temple (and in others like it) sacrifices had- once been made to it, that it had been worshiped, and that through its magic the phantom of the man's dreams would be wakened to life such a way that —except for Fire itself and the dream —-every being in the world would accept him as a man of[ flesh and blood. The god ordered that, once instructed in the rites, the disciple should be sent downstream to the other ruined temple, whose pyramids still survived, so that in that abandoned place some human voice migl'lt exalt him. In the drmmer’s dream, the .dreamed one awoke. The magician carried out these orders. He devoted a period of time (which finally spanned two years) to 59 initiaQis disciple into the riddles of the universe and the worship of Fire. Deep inside, it pained him to say good- bye to his creature. Under the pretext of teaching him more fially, each day he drew out the hour's” set aside for sleep. Also, he reshaped the somewhat faulty right shoulder. From time to time, he was troubled by the feeling that all this had already happened, but for the most part his days were happy. 0n closing his eyes he would think. “Now I will be with my son." 0r, less frequently, “The son I have begotten awaits me and he will not exist ifI do not go _ to him." Little by little, he was training the young man for reality. On one_occasion he commanded him to set up a flag on a distant peak. The next day, there on the peak. a fiery pennant shone. He tried other, similar exercises, each bolder than the' one before. He realized with a certain bitterness that his son was ready—and perhaps impatient—to be born. That night he kissed him for the first time and sent him 06 down the river to the other temple. whose whitened ruins l9 were still to be glimpsed over miles and miles of impenetra- ble forest and swamp. At the very end (so that the boy would never know he was a phantom, so that he would think himself a man like all men). the magician imbued with total oblivion his disciple’s long years of apprentice- ship. His triumph-and his peace were blemished by a touch of weariness. In the morning and evening dusk, he prostrated himself before the stone idol, perhaps imagining that his unreal son was performing the same rites farther down the river in other circular ruins. At night he no longer dreamed, or else he dreamed the way all men dream. He now perceived with a certain vagueness the sounds and shapes of the world, for his absent son was taking nourishment from 60 I i t __....— ._...-—_—__ . __. Othe magician’s decreasing consciousness. His life’s purpose was fulfilled; the man lived on in a kind of ecstasy. After a length of time that certain tellers of the story count in years and others in half-decades; he was awakened one midnight by two rowers. He could not see their faces, but they spoke to him about a magic man in a temple up north who walked on fire without being burned. The magician suddenly remembered the god’s words. He remembered that of all the creatures in the world, Fire was the only one who knew his son was a phantom. This recollection. comforting at first, ended by tormenting him. He feared that his son might wonder at this strange privilege and in some way discover his condition as a mere appearance. Not to be a man but to be the projection of another man's dreams—whatanunparalleledhumiliation,howbewildering! Every father cares for the child he has bego —-he has allowed—in some moment of confusion or hap iness. It is understandable, then, that the magician should r for the future of a son thought out organ by organ and feature by feature over the course of a thousand and one secret nights. The end of these anxieties came suddenly, but certain signs foretold it. First (after a long drought), a far-off cloud on a hilltop, as light as a bird; next, toward the south, the sky, which took on the rosy hue of a Ieopard’s gums; then. the pillars of smoke that turned the metal of the nights to rust; finally, the headlong panic of the forest animals. For what had happened many centuries ago was happening again. The ruins of the fire god’s shrine were destroyed by fire. In a birdless dawn the magician saw the circling sheets of flame closing in on him. For a moment, he thought of taking refuge in the river, but then he realized that death was coming to crown his years and to release him from his labors. He walked into the leaping 61 perung of flame. They did not bite into his flesh, but caressed him and flooded him without heat or burning. In relief, in humiliation, in terror, he understood that he, too, was an appearance, that someone else was dreaming him. a 62 -—--———.-.— ...—a—Hfl-_ _. ... O From: Borges, A Reader, ed. Emir Rodriguez Monegal & Alastair Reid (New York: Dutton, 1981). THE CIRCULAR RUINS Andifhelefiofl'dreamingaboutyou... —27mughthe£aaking€lau, VI Adina-f gamer [m 361 Noonesawhimdisembarkintheunanimousnight. noonesawthebsmbooeanoe sinkintothesauedmumhntinafewdsystherewasnoonewhodidnotknowthat thetsciturnmancamefromthesouthandthathishomehadbeenoneofthose numbulessvfllagesupstreaminthedeeplyclefisideofthemomhhwherethe ZmdlanguagehasnotheeneontaminatedbyGreekandwherelepmsyisinfre- qnmLWhatisoerministhatthegraymmkimedthemMclimbedupthebank without pushing aside (probably, without feeling) the blades which were lseerating hisfieshandcrawledmauseatedandhloodsminedmptothedrcularmclosm crownedwithastonefigerorhmsewhichsometimeswasthecolorofflameand mwwuthatofashaThisdrclewasatemplewhichhadbeendevouredby mdmtfiraprofanedbythemiasmfljunglqandwhosegodnobngerrweivedthe homageofmlhestrangerstretchedhimselfoutbeneaththepedesmLHewas awakenedbythesunhighoverheaifiewasnotasmnishedtofindthathiswounds hadhealed;heclosedhispaflideyesandsleptnotthmughweaknessoffleshbut thmughdetetminafionofwflhfieknewthatthistemplewasthephcerequiredfor hisinvincibleintennheknewthattheinoessantu'eeshadnotsucceededin stranglingtheruinsofanotherpropifioustempledownsu'eamwhichhadonce bdongedenowbmedmdtheknewthathisimmediateobfigationwas moreamTowardmidnighthewasawakenedbytheineonsohhleshfiekofam Tracksofbarefeet,wmeflgsandajugwarnedhimthatthemenoftheregionhad beenspyingrespecfl‘uflymhissleep,soficifinghisprotecfiomorafraidofhis magicHefeltachifloffearandsoughtMasepflchmlnicheinthedflapidated wallwherehe'conoealedhimselfamongunfamiliarleaves. ' Thepurposethatguidedhimwasnotimpossible. thoughsupernatumLI-Ie wantedtodreamamamhewantedtodreamhiminminutemfiretyandimpose himonreafltyflhismagieprojecthadathaustedtheenfireexpameofhisminrk ifwmeonehadukedhimhisnameormrdatemmeevmtofhisformafifehe wouldnothavebeenabletogiveananswer.1'hisuninhabited.minedtemple mitedhimforitcontainedaminimumofvisiblewofldfiheproximityofthe workmenalsosuitedhim,fortheytookituponthemselvestoprovideforhis ma O fru needslheficeandfi'uittheybmughthimw nourishmentenoughfor hisgzlody.whichwuwnsecraudmthesolemske$sleepingmddreamm§. Atflmthisdreamswerechmfiqtheninashort hiletheybecamedialecttc innature'l'hestrangerdreamedthathewasmthe terofacircularamphx- theaterwhichwssmoreorlesstheburnedtemple; oftacitusnstudents finedthefiasofseamme'facesofthefarthestoneshungatadismnceofmany ammfiesmduhighuthembmmeirfeaumsweremtnpletelyprwsem manlecnuedhispupflsonanatomymosmographyandmagtczthefaeeshstened mxionslyanduiedtoanswu'understandingly.asiftheyguessedthempmmnce ofthatexaminationwhichwouldredeemoneofthem hiscondmonofempty illusionandintetpolatehimintotherealworld. orawake.thenian thoughtoirerthemswersofhisphanmdidnot .hixnself-tobedeceNed byimpostomandincertsinperplexitieshesenseda gmtelhgenceHewas seekingasoulworthyofparticipatinghatheuni Afiernineortennightsheundexstoodwitha ' bitternessthathecouln expect nothing from those pupils who accepted his cuine passively. hut that hecouldexpectsomethingfromthosewhoo ' ydaredtoopposehmThe formugroup.althoughworthyoflovemdafi‘eefiomcouldmtascendmthelevel ofindividualsgthehnerpreexistedmasfighflygraterdegreeOneafimnoon sharp features resembled those of his dxeamer. Thelbrusque of his feflowsmdentsdidnotdisooncerthimforlongaflerafewpnvatelessons,his progress was enough to astound the teacher. Neyegthelessi a catastrophe took phnOneday.themanemergedfiomhissleepasxffi‘omamcousdesert.looked attheusdessafiernoonfightwhichheimmediatdyoonfusedwfihthedawmand understoodthathehadnotdreamfiAnthstnigltandalldaylongthemwler- abhluddityofmommfeuupmmmmedaphmngmefogmpeth hisstrength;amongthehemlockhebardysucceededme§pertencmgseveral shofimamhesofdeenvdnedwithflafingmdimentaryvmsthatwereuse- mmmmmbhthesmdmtbodybutmelyhadhearfiudatedafew briefwordsofexhortahon’ whmitbecameumeddefmmedmowmdwssthmaaseilnhm ' ' tearsofangerb ' eyes. . Elmogem“)etmlunderstooggitli'atmodelingthemeoheren' tandvertiginousmatterofwhmh dreamsuewmposedwssthemostdificultmskthatammcouldundenakeeven thoughheshouldpenehatealltheenigmasofasuperiormdmfemrordgmuch moredilficultthanweavingampeoutoi‘sandorcoiningthefacelesswiniHe sworehewouldforgettheenormoushaflucinafionwhiehhaflthrownhnnofi‘at Mandhe'soughtanothermethodofwork. Beforeiputtingit mto spmtamnthrwovuingfissumgthwhichhadhemsquanderedbyhmdehr- ianeabandonedaflpremedimtionofdreamingandslmost.mmediatelysuo- ceededinsleepingaressonablepaxtofeachday.Thefewumesthathehad drmdmhgmhpdomhepfidmammwmwmfomresumghmtpsk. hewaitedmfilthemom’sdiskwasperfectThmsntheafiernoomhepmified himsdfinthewatemofthefiver,womhipedtheplanetarygods,pronounoedthe 125 O prescribed syllables of a mighty name, and went to sleep. He dreamed almost immediately. with his heart throbbing. Hedreamedthatitwaswanmsecret.aboutthesizeofaclenchedfistand ofa garnet color within the penumbra ofa human body as yet without face or sex; during fourteen lucid nights he dreamed of it with meticulous love. Every night he perceived it more clearly. He did not touch it; he only permitted himself towimessittoobserveitandoccasionallytorectifyitwithaglancefie perceived it and lived it from all angles and distances. On the fourteenth night he lightly touched the pulmonary artery with his index finger. then the whole heart. outside and inside. He was satisfied with the examination. He deliberately didnotdreamforanight; hethentookup theheartagain, invoked thenameof a planet. and undertook the vision ofanother ofthe principal organs. Within a yearhehadcometotheskeletonandtheeyelids. Theinnumerablehairwas perhaps the most diflicult task. He dreamed an entire man—a young man, but one who did not sit up or talk, who was unable to open his eyes. Night afler night. the man dreamed him asleep. IntheGnosticcosmogonies,demiurgesfashionaredAdamwhocannot stand;asclumsy.crude.ahdelementalasthisAdamofdustwastheAdamof dreams forged by the Wizard's nights. One afternoon, the man almost destroyed hisenfireworhbutthmchangedhismind. (Itwouldhavebeenbetterhadhe destroyed it.) When he had exhausted all supplications to the deities of the earth. hethrewhimselfatthefeetoftheelfigywhichwasperhapsatigerorperhaps a colt and implored its unknown help. That evening, at twilight. he dreamed of the statue. He dreamed it was alive. tremulous: it was not an atrocious bastard ofafigerandacoltbutatthesametimethesetwofierycreaturesandalsoabull. aroseandastorm.Thismultiplegodrevealedtohimthathiseartblynamewas Fireandthatinthiscirculartemple(andinotherslikeit)peoplehadoncemade sacdficestohimandworshipedhimandthathewouldmagicallyanimatethe dreamedphantom.insuchawaythatancreatures,eaceptFireitselfandthe dreamer. would believe it to be a man of flesh and blood. He commanded that oncethismanhadbeeninstmctedinafltherites.heshouldbesenttotheother ruinedtemple whosepyiamidswerestillstanding downstream, sothatsomevoice wouldglorifyhiminthatdesertedcdifice. Inthedreamofthemanthatdreamed. the dreamed one awoke. Thewizardcarriedouttheordershehadbemigiven.Hedevotedacertain lengthoftime(whichfinallyprovedtobetwoyears)toinstructinghiminthe mysteries of the universe and the cult of fire. Secretly, he was pained at the idea of being separated from him. On the pretext of pedagogical necessity, each day be increased the number ofhours dedicated to dreaming. He also remade the right shoulder. which was somewhat defective. At times, he was disturbed by the impression thatallthishadalreadyhappened. . . . Ingeneral,hisdayswerehappy; when heclosed his eyes. he thought: Now] will be with mysan. Or. more rarely: The son I have engendered is waitingjbr me and will not exist iflda natgo to him. Gradually, he began accustoming him to reality. Once he ordered him to place a flag on a faraway peak. The next day the flag was fluttering on the peak. He tried other analogous experiments, each time more audacious. With a certain bitterness. he understood that his son was ready to be born—and perhaps impa- 12.6 tientmtnighthekissedhimforthefirsttimeandsenthimofi‘toLQu temple whose remains were turning white downstream, across many miles of mexuicablejungleandmmhaBeforedoingthiuandsothathissonshould neverknowthathewasaphantom,sothatheshouldthinkhimselfamanhke any other) he destroyed in him all memory ofhis years ofapprentieeahlp: I-Iisvictoryandpeacebmblurredwithbo Inthetwthghtumes ofdmkanddawmhewouldprosu'atehimselfbeforethestonefigure,perhaps imaginhghisumealsoncarryingoutidenficalfitesmotherdrcularruimdown- stream;atnighthenolongerdreamed.ordreamedasanymandoes:fhspercep~ tionsof thesoundsandforms of the universebecame somewhat palhd:hisabsent sonwasbeingnourishedbythesediminutionsofhissoul.Thepurposeofh1shfe hadbeenfidfilleduhemanremainedinakindofecstasyAfteracertamume, whichsomechroniclersprefertocomputeinyearsandothersmdecades.two oammenawokehimatmidmghuhccouldnotsee ' faces.buttheyspoketo himofaeharmedmaninatemplcofthenorth.capable fwalkingonflrewithout burninghimselfiThewizardsuddenlyrememberaithewordsofthegodl-Ie remembuedthatofaflthecreamresthatpmplemeearmfirewastheonlyone whoknewhissontobeaphantom.Thismemory.whichatfirstcalmedhim, endedbytormentinghim.I-Iefeared lesthisson should meditateonthisabnormal privilegeandbysomemeansfindouthewasameresim Nottobeaman, tobeaprojection of another man's dreams-whatanincomparable humiliation. whatmadnesslAnyfatherisinterestedinthesonshehasproereatedmrpermit- ted)outofthemereconfirsionofhappiness;itwas thatthewtzardshould fearforthefiitureofthatsonwhomhehadthoughtoutentrailbyenu'ail.feature byfeamreinathousandandonesecretnights. . I His misgivingsendedabruptly. but not withoutcertamforewarnmgs. First (afteralongdrought)aremotecloud.aslightasabirti,appearedonahill;then. towardthesouth,theskytookontherosecolorofleopard'sgumsgthencame doudsofsmokewhichnmtedthemetalofthenightgafierwardcamethepamc- stricken flight ofwild animals. For what had happened inany centuries before was 'repeatingitselfi'I'heruinsofthesanctuaryofthegodofFirewasdestroyedby firelnadawnwithoutbirdathewizardsawtheconceptricfirefickingthewafla Foramomenthethoughtoftakingrefugeinthewa ,butthenheunderstood thatdeathwaseomingtoercwnhisoldageandabsolvehimfromhislabors.He walkedtowardthesheetsofflameTheydidnotbitehisfleshtheycaressedhim and flooded him without heat or combustion. With relief, With hunuhation. with terror. he understood that healso was an illusion. that someone else was dreaming him. PORTRAIT OF THE GBRMANOPHILB [11-3 37] ' ' ' ' do not show Etymology s implacable detractors reason that the of words what they mean now; its defenders can reply that onguis always show what words 127 TRANSLATED BY Andrew Hurley VIKING M573 The Circular Ruins And if he left off dreaming about you . . . Through the Looking-Glass, VI No one saw him slip from the boat in the unanimous night, no one saw the bamboo canoe as it sank into the sacred mud, and yet within days there was no one who did not know that the taciturn man had come there from the South, and that his homeland was one of those infinite Villages that lie up- river, on the violent flank of the mountain, where the language of the Zend is uncontaminated by Greek and where leprosy is uncommon. But in fact the gray man had kissed the mud, scrambled up the steep bank (without pushing back, probably without even feeling, the sharp«leaved bulrushes that slashed his flesh), and dragged himself, faint and bloody, to the circular enclosure, crowned by the stone figure of a horse or tiger, which had once been the color of fire but was now the color of ashes. That ring was a temple devoured by an ancient holocaust; now, the malarial jungle had profaned it and its god went unhonored by mankind. The foreigner lay down at the foot of the pedestal. He was awakened by the sun high in the sky. He examined his wounds and saw, without astonishment, that they had healed; he closed his pale eyes and slept, not out of any weakness of the flesh but out of willed determina— tion. He knew that this temple was the place that his unconquerable plan called for; he knew that the unrelenting trees had not succeeded in stran- gling the ruins of another promising temple downriver—like this one, a temple to dead, incinerated gods; he knew that his immediate obligation was to sleep. About midnight he was awakened by the inconsolable cry of a bird. Prints of unshod feet, a few figs, and a jug of water told him that the men of the region had respectfully spied upon his sleep and that they sought his favor, or feared his magic. He felt the coldness of fear, and he THE CIRCULAR RUINS sought out a tomblike niche in the crumbling wall, where he covered him- self with unknown leaves. The goal that led him on was not impossible, though it was clearly supernatural: He wanted to dream a man. He wanted to dream him com— pletely, in painstaking detail, and impose him upon reality. This magical ob- jective had come to fill his entire soul; if someone had asked him his own name, or inquired into any feature of his life till then, he would not have been able to answer. The uninhabited and crumbling temple suited him, for it was a minimum of Visible world; so did the proximity of the woodcutters, for they saw to his frugal needs. The rice and fruit of their tribute were nourishment enough for his body, which was consecrated to the sole task of sleeping and dreaming. At first, his dreams were chaotic; a little later, they became dialectical. The foreigner dreamed that he was in the center of a circular amphitheater, which was somehow the ruined temple; clouds of taciturn students com- pletely filled the terraces of seats. The faces of those farthest away hung at many centuries’ distance and at a cosmic height, yet they were absolutely clear. The man lectured on anatomy, cosmography, magic; the faces listened earnestly, intently, and attempted to respond with understanding—as though they sensed the importance of that education that would redeem one of them from his state of hollow appearance and insert him into the real world. The man, both in sleep and when awake, pondered his phan- tasms’ answers; he did not allow himself to be taken in by impostors, and he sensed in certain perplexities a growing intelligence. He was seeking a soul worthy of taking its place in the universe. On the ninth or tenth night, he realized (with some bitterness) that nothing could be expected from those students who passively accepted his teachings, but only from those who might occasionally, in a reasonable way, venture an objection. The first—the accepting—though worthy of affection and a degree of sympathy, would never emerge as individuals; the latter— those who sometimes questioned—had a bit more preexistence. One after— noon (afternoons now paid their tribute to sleep as well; now the man was awake no more than two or three hours around daybreak) he dismissed the vast illusory classroom once and for all and retained but a single pupil—a taciturn, sallow-skinned young man, at times intractable, with sharp features that echoed those of the man that dreamed him. The pupil was not discon~ certed for long by the elimination of his classmates; after only a few of the private classes, his progress amazed his teacher. Yet disaster would not be forestalled. One day the man emerged from sleep as though from a viscous 98 JORGE LUIS BORGES desert, looked up at the hollow light of the evening (which for a moment he confused with the light of dawn), and realized that he had not dreamed. All that night and the next day, the unbearable lucidity of insomnia harried him, like a hawk. He went off to explore the jungle, hoping to tire himself; among the hernlocks he managed no more than a few intervals of feeble sleep, fleetineg veined with the most rudimentary of visions—useless to him. He reconvened his class, but no sooner had he spoken a few brief words of exhortation than the faces blurred, twisted, and faded away. In his almost perpetual state of wakefulness, tears of anger burned the man’s old eyes. He understood that the task of molding the incoherent and dizzying stuff that dreams are made of is the most difficult work a man can under- take, even if he fathom all the enigmas of the higher and lower spheres— much more difficult than weaving a rope of sand or minting coins of the faceless wind. He understood that initial failure was inevitable. He swore to put behind him the vast hallucination that at first had drawn him off the track, and he sought another way to approach his task. Before he began, he devoted a month to recovering the strength his delirium had squandered. He abandoned all premeditation of dreaming, and almost instantly man— aged to sleep for a fair portion of the day. The few times he did dream during this period, he did not focus on his dreams; he would wait to take up his task again until the disk of the moon was whole. Then, that evening, he purified himself in the waters of the river, bowed down to the planetary gods, uttered those syllables of a powerful name that it is lawful to pronounce, and laid himself down to sleep. Almost immediately he dreamed a beating heart. He dreamed the heart warm, active, secret—about the size of a closed fist, a garnet-colored thing inside the dimness of a human body that was still faceless and sexless; he dreamed it, with painstaking love, for fourteen brilliant nights. Each night he perceived it with greater clarity, greater cer— tainty. He did not touch it; he only witnessed it, observed it, corrected it, perhaps, with his eyes, He perceived it, he lived it, from many angles, many distances. On the fourteenth night, he stroked the pulmonary artery with his forefinger, and then the entire heart, inside and out. And his inspection made him proud. He deliberately did not sleep the next night; then he took up the heart again, invoked the name of a planet, and set about dreaming another of the major organs. Before the year was out he had reached the skeleton, the eyelids. The countless hairs of the body were perhaps the most difficult task. The man had dreamed a fully fleshed man—a stripling—but this youth did not stand up or speak, nor could it open its eyes. Night after night, the man dreamed the youth asleep. THE CIRCULAR RUINS In the cosmogonies of the Gnostics, the demiurges knead up a red Adam who cannot manage to stand; as rude and inept and elementary as that Adam of dust was the Adam of dream wrought from the sorcerer’s nights. One afternoon, the man almost destroyed his creation, but he could not bring himself to do it. (He’d have been better off if he had.) After mak- ing vows to all the deities of the earth and the river, he threw himself at the feet of the idol that was perhaps a tiger or perhaps a colt, and he begged for its untried aid. That evening, at sunset, the statue filled his dreams. In the dream it was alive, and trembling—yet it was not the dread—inspiring hybrid form of horse and tiger it had been. It was, instead, those two vehe— ment creatures plus bull, and rose, and tempest, too—and all that, simulta- neously. The manifold god revealed to the man that its earthly name was Fire, and that in that circular temple (and others like it) men had made sac— rifices and worshiped it, and that it would magically bring to life the phan- tasm the man had dreamed—so fully bring him to life that every creature, save Fire itself and the man who dreamed him, would take him for a man of flesh and blood. Fire ordered the dreamer to send the youth, once in— structed in the rites, to that other ruined temple whose pyramids still stood downriver, so that a voice might glorify the god in that deserted place. In the dreaming man’s dream, the dreamed man awoke. The sorcerer carried out Fire’s instructions. He consecrated a period of time (which in the end encompassed two full years) to revealng to the youth the arcana of the universe and the secrets of the cult of Fire. Deep in- side, it grieved the man to separate himself from his creation. Under the pretext of pedagogical necessity, he drew out the hours of sleep more every day. He also redid the right shoulder (which was perhaps defective). From time to time, he was disturbed by a sense that all this had happened be— fore. . . . His days were, in general, happy; when he closed his eyes, he would think Now I will be with my son. Or, less frequently, The son I have engen- dered is waitingfor me, and he will not exist ifI do notgo to him. Gradually, the man accustomed the youth to reality. Once he ordered him to set a flag on a distant mountaintop. The next day, the flag crackled on the summit. He attempted other, similar experiments—each more dar- ing than the last. He saw with some bitterness that his son was ready— perhaps even impatient—40 be born. That night he kissed him for the first time, then sent him off, through many leagues of impenetrable jungle, many leagues of swamp, to that other temple whose ruins bleached in the sun downstream. But first (so that the son would never know that he was a phantasm, so that he would believe himself to be a man like 100 JORGE LUIS BORGES other men) the man infused in him a total lack of memory of his years of education. The man’s victory, and his peace, were dulled by the wearisome same— ness of his days. In the twilight hours of dusk and dawn, he would prostrate himself before the stone figure, imagining perhaps that his unreal son per- formed identical rituals in other circular ruins, downstream. At night he did not dream, or dreamed the dreams that all men dream. His perceptions of the universe’s sounds and shapes were somewhat pale: the absent son was nourished by those diminutions of his soul. His life’s goal had been accom- plished; the man lived on now in a sort of ecstasy. After a period of time (which some tellers of the story choose to compute in years, others in de- cades), two rowers woke the man at midnight. He could not see their faces, but they told him of a magical man in a temple in the North, a man who could walk on fire and not be burned. The sorcerer suddenly remembered the god’s words. He remembered that of all the creatures on the earth, Fire was the only one who knew that his son was a phantasm. That recollection, comforting at first, soon came to torment him. He feared that his son would meditate upon his unnatural privilege and somehow discover that he was a mere simulacrum. To be not a man, but the projection of another man’s dream—what incomparable hu- miliation, what vertigo! Every parent feels concern for the children he has procreated (or allowed to be procreated) in happiness or in mere confusion; it was only natural that the sorcerer should fear for the future of the son he had conceived organ by organ, feature by feature, through a thousand and one secret nights. The end of his meditations came suddenly, but it had been foretold by certain signs: first (after a long drought), a distant cloud, as light as a bird, upon a mountaintop; then, toward the South, the sky the pinkish color of a leopard’s gums; then the clouds of smoke that rusted the iron of the nights; then, at last, the panicked flight of the animals—for that which had oc- curred hundreds of years ago was being repeated now. The ruins of the sanctuary of the god of Fire were destroyed by fire. In the birdless dawn, the sorcerer watched the concentric holocaust close in upon the walls. For a moment he thought of taking refuge in the water, but then he realized that death would be a crown upon his age and absolve him from his labors. He walked into the tatters of flame, but they did not bite his flesh—they ca- ressed him, bathed him without heat and without combustion. With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he realized that he, too, was but appearance, that another man was dreaming him. ...
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This note was uploaded on 02/06/2012 for the course COMPLIT 322 taught by Professor Shammas during the Winter '11 term at University of Michigan.

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Circular+Ruins+x+5 - Borges - C From: Jorge Luis Borges,...

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