Reading from Collected Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges. The reading is going slow, but I’ve went through quite a bit of Borges work and I have mostly enjoyed The Library of Babel and The Garden of Forking Paths. Both stories themes deal with infinity and books.
Two. I did not get a lot done this week, but I am happy with some of the problems I worked out. I’m including a small excerpt below. It concerns a specific character. Feedback would be appreciated.
The woman’s body and lined face spoke of a century, at least. Gravity had bent her almost in two. She shuffled across the floor with the aid of a walking stick, then sat down heavily in a chair directly across from Two and Pete.
She wore heavy, dark clothing, indicative of an older generation. A scarf tied around her head, knotted under her chin. Her dress skirted dark ankles. She regarded the men distastefully, as a couple of bugs needing to be dealt with.
Two felt inadequate; as if he needed to win her approval. He felt the need to say or do something that would earn him a smile, or a kind word, but remained quiet because the opposite of approval would be unbearable. She was a goddess. A woman of substance and age, who had weathered atrocities, stood against time and won.
"¿Quien es?" Who is this? She asked cruelly. Her words cut into him. Kindness was reserved for loved ones, he knew this. Pete had warned him.
The younger woman who had answered the door and allowed their entrance, sat near the old woman. "Son ayudantes," explained the woman. They are helpers.
Pete spoke some Spanish and could translate, but allowed the younger woman to interpret between them. He wanted to make no mistakes. She was suspicious of everyone and even those attempting to aid the family were subject to a pointed and scathing interrogation.
But who were they, really? She asked. And why would they help her family?
Two glanced around the room, noting the place was small, but well kept. The worn wooden floor swept clean, sofa pillows plumped, nothing out of place. Religious iconography hung from walls. Miniature ceramic effigies of the Catholic faith stood in attendance.
What do you want from us? She asked through the younger woman.
“Nothing. We help because we can.” Pete seemed at a loss.
The older woman shook her head, narrowed her eyes. No one does anything for nothing. Especially if it costs them something. I’ll ask again, what do you want?
Two raised his brows and glanced at the younger woman, then at Pete, who nodded. “It couldn’t hurt.”
“Tell her that Pete’s wife runs the organization. The Homeless Center. Mary’s family is from Durango. They tried coming across and were caught. Now she helps others.”
Pete stood, shook his head and flicked a dismissive hand at Two. “I’m done. I’m going out to the car. I can’t do this.”
The older woman watched the retreating figure and made a sound, “Ptah!” she waved her hand as if swatting at a fly. Good riddance.
After the door slammed shut, the younger woman translated. Two detected a subtle change in the old woman’s demeanor. She looked directly at him, as if to penetrate his thoughts.
Despite the woman’s age, her eyes were clear and dark. Something moved behind those eyes. Surely, he would die here. He believed, with all his heart he believed she had penetrated some part of him.
She sat back a moment later with raised brows and glanced at the younger woman, then at the floor. “Esta bien.”
The younger woman smiled brightly. “Alright. You’re fine.” She reached over and patted his hand. “It’s okay. She’s not going to eat you.”
He felt a rise in his stomach, a lump in his throat. The thunder of emotion threatened to overwhelm him, but he smiled and nodded feeling like that statement was a little late and more than a little false. “Good,” he choked. “That’s great.”
Being Flynn. I think this is one of Deniro’s better parts. He’s great. The movie leaves you feeling a bit heavy though.
Getting the work done. Breaking past the word number barriers that seem to hold me back. It’s a good thing.
We bookish people sometimes think our dreams would be fulfilled if only we were surrounded by books and had the time to read them all.
I used to think I would be quite happy if someone would fill a shuttle full of classics and shoot me into space. I would live out eternity catching up on my reading. By the time I returned to Earth, all the in-fighting between countries would be over. Petty jealousies reduced to memory. Life would be good.
In some of the reading I’ve done lately, Borges explores the themes of books and eternity. In the Library of Babel, we find the known universe represented as the great library, built as two hexagons linked one upon another by a spiral staircase.
The narrator was born in the library and expects to die there. His body will then be thrown from the railing and spin out into space.
The horror of the library is that though there are endless hexagons of books, they are made up of nonsense. The citizens of the library constantly look for a book that makes sense. There are legends and myths about books that are keys to the library. That if found will explain or make clear the whole random mess.
While reading this, I had to wonder if Borges was really referring to the human condition. We’re always looking for that ‘key’ or guide (read: guru) that will lead us to clarity. The Great Book of Life; or, The Key to the Universe.
Perhaps I read too much into it. I’m bookish after all. I tend to read an awful lot into a few short sentences. And that… That idea alone would keep me from stepping into the shuttlecraft full of classics.
I can’t imagine reading all those books, having forty or fifty years of questions built up, only to realize at the end of my journey that there were no answers. If I hadn’t gone mad during the journey, surely I would then.