Jorge Luis Borges

(Excerpt)

I now arrive at the ineffable center of my story. This is where my anguish as a writer begins. The use of language as a code assumes that speakers share a common past. How to transmit to others the infinite Aleph, which my appalled memory can hardly grasp? When confronted with a similar challenge, mystics are prodigal in emblems: to represent divinity, a Persian speaks of a bird that, in some way, is all birds; Alanus of Insulis, of a sphere where the center is everywhere and the circumference nowhere; Ezekiel, of a four-faced angel looking East and West, North and South. (Not in vain do I recall those inconceivable analogies; some of them bear some kind of relationship with the Aleph.) The gods might not deny me finding an equivalent image, but then this report would be contaminated with literature and falsity. The problem is insoluble anyway: the enumeration, however partial, of an infinite set. In that gigantic instant I saw millions of delectable and atrocious actions; none of them astonished me as much as the fact that they all occupied the same point, without either superposition or transparency. What my eyes saw was simultaneous: I will attempt to describe it in succession, as such is the nature of language. I hope to convey it to some extent.

Below the step, towards the right, I saw a tiny iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brilliance. At first it appeared  to rotate; then I realized that the movement was an illusion created by the vertiginous sights it encompassed. The Aleph’s diameter must have been no more than two or three centimeters, but the cosmic space was there, undiminished. Each thing (the mirror’s glass, for instance) was infinite things, as I could see it clearly from all points of the universe. I saw the populous sea; I saw the twilight and the evening; I saw the crowds of the Americas; I saw a silver spiderweb at the center of a black pyramid; I saw a broken labyrinth (it was in London); I saw innumerable, immediate eyes looking at me as into a mirror; I saw all the mirrors on the planet, none of them bearing my reflection; I saw a backyard on Soler Street with the same tiles I had seen thirty years before on the hallway of a house in Fray Bentos; I saw clusters of grapes, tobacco, mineral veins, and water vapor; I saw convex equatorial deserts and each one of its sand grains; a saw in Inverness a woman I will never forget; I saw her wild, wavy hair and haughty countenance; I saw cancer growing inside a breast; I saw on a sidewalk a circle of dry soil where once stood a tree; I saw a country house in Adrogué and a copy of the first English version of Pliny by Philemon Holland; I saw at the same time each letter on each one of its pages (as a boy I marveled that the letters in a closed volume would not get scrambled or lost during the night); I saw night and day contemporaneously; I saw a sunset in Querétaro that seemed to reflect the color of a rose in Bengal; I saw my empty bedroom; I saw in a cabinet in Alkmaar a globe multiplied endlessly between two mirrors; I saw horses with twirling manes on a beach by the Caspian Sea at dawn; I saw the delicate bones in a hand; I saw the survivors of a battle sending postcards; I saw a Spanish deck of cards on a shop window in Mirzapur; I saw the oblique shadows cast by ferns on the floor of a greenhouse; I saw tigers, pistons, bison, heavy seas, and armies; I saw all the ants on the surface of the earth; I saw a Persian astrolabe; I saw in a desk drawer (the handwriting made me shudder) obscene, incredible, explicit letters from Beatriz to Carlos Argentino; I saw a beloved monument in Chacarita; I saw the ghastly relic of what, deliciously, had once been Beatriz Viterbo; I saw the circulation of my dark bloodstream; I saw the workings of love and the decay from death; I saw the Aleph from all points; I saw the earth on the Aleph and the Aleph on the earth and yet again the earth on the Aleph; I saw my face and my insides; I saw your face and I felt light-headed and I cried, because my eyes had seen the secret and conjectural object whose name men usurp, but no one has ever seen: the inconceivable universe.

I felt infinite veneration, infinite compassion.

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4 Responses to “The Aleph”


  1. Aw, this was a very nice post. In idea I want to put in writing

    like this moreover – taking time and actual effort to make an excellent
    article…

    but what can I say… I procrastinate alot and under no circumstances appear to
    get something done.

    • Traducciones Especiales Says:

      Thank you very much for your kind words. I translate mostly technical texts (especially on economics); but translating literature is both challenging and delightful. I’ll post more of these shortly… perhaps some García Márquez? Now THAT is challenging…


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  3. Traducciones Especiales Says:

    Thanks! There are some many texts I wish to translate… stay tuned!


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