Borges and I | Study Guide

Jorge Luis Borges

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Borges and I | Symbols

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Hourglasses and Maps

Hourglasses and maps, two of Borges's favorite things, are also symbols of the temporal and spatial relationships between Borges's two identities. Borges has an internal identity that cannot be placed spatially. However, his external "Borges" identity exists in the spatial world through his writing and the places his name appears. The author experiences this persona in the external world when he "see[s] his name on a list of professors or in a biographical dictionary." The interior identity remains internal and elusive, while the external identity exists in the physical and temporal world. That manifestation of the inner identity is what becomes the external persona, though Borges believes it to be inaccurate or "falsified."

There is also a temporal separation between the two selves. According to Borges, one of the selves—the internal one—is temporary and ceases to exist when a person dies. The external—or "Borges"—persona exists indefinitely in writing and in other people's minds. When he dies, Borges argues, a fragment of himself survives on in his public persona. There is situational irony in this. Though all beings desire to "persist in their being," Borges feels that the part of himself that persists after his death is an inaccurate reflection of who he is. It also has no consciousness and is a mere echo of the actual person.

The Tiger and the Stone

The tiger and the stone represent animate and inanimate existence. Borges uses both the animate tiger and the inanimate stone to illustrate an essential quality of existence. He argues that "all things long to persist in their being." Poetically, he assigns the feeling of "longing" to both tiger and stone, though longing is a human emotion. Yet, the tiger and stone represent the breadth of existence, and Borges makes the point that it is the goal of everything that exists to exist eternally. The stone and the tiger may lack awareness of this goal, but it is intrinsic to their being. Borges is alive and animate, yet he exists and persists in writing, through the inanimate. After Borges the man dies, his existence will continue in his books and the places his name is written down.

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