‘The Man On The Threshold’ by Jorge Luis Borges


The Man On The Threshold by Jorge Luis Borges, 1952

The magic trick:

Making a maze of the story

“The Man On The Threshold” is a story within a story. You know the inner story is coming and that it’s important because the narrator, in classic Borges comic form, tells the reader, “At my feet, motionless as an object, an old, old man squatted on the threshold. I’ll tell what he was like, for he is an essential part of the story.”

The story the man on the threshold tells is half-confused ramblings and half-key to the mystery. The parallels between both layers of the story are many. Everything makes sense; everything is confused. The story itself is a sort of labyrinth – in keeping with a dominant symbol in The Aleph – for the read to get lost in. And that’s quite a trick on Borges’s part.

The selection:

“To a madman,” he repeated, “so that God’s wisdom might speak through his mouth and shame human pride. His name has been forgotten, or was never known, but he went naked through the streets, or was clothed in rags, counting his fingers with a thumb and mocking at the trees.”

My common sense rebelled. I said that to hand over the verdict to a madman was to nullify the trial.


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