The Wait by Jorge Luis Borges, 1950
The magic trick:
Leaving the ‘why’ behind the ‘what’ vague, so that the reader has a mystery to consider
So much of Borges’s work revolves around solving mysteries, figuring riddles, making sense of chaos, and so much of that process revolves around exploration done by Borges’s narrators. “The Wait” is an exception. This story is more generous.
Recalling Hemingway’s “The Killers,” the protagonist is waiting at home in fear that someone from his past will arrive to murder him. The mystery is why? We never get much backstory, so we can only piece together theories and guesses from the scattered clues. There never is a definitive answer, but the process of analysis is the point. And that’s quite a trick on Borges’s part.
In other confinements, he had given in to the temptation of counting the days and the hours, but this confinement was different, for it had no end – unless one morning the newspaper brought news of Alejandro Villari’s death. It was also possible that Villari had already died and in that case this life was a dream. This possibility disturbed him, because he could never quite understand whether it seemed a relief or a misfortune; he told himself it was absurd and discounted it.
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