‘August 25, 1983’ by Jorge Luis Borges

Borges, Jorge Luis 1983

August 25, 1983 by Jorge Luis Borges, 1983

The magic trick:

Presenting an array of his most famous literary styles and devices in a story that looks back on his life and career

Happy August 25th. I’ve got just the story for you!

Here we have Borges encapsulating all the hallmarks of his career (he even namechecks them at one point) as he imagines his own death. Just as “The Bishop” found Chekhov seemingly narrate his own death in a story that could only be termed Chekhovian, “August 25, 1983” addresses Borges’s decline into death through distinctly Borgesian means.

In many ways it’s a retread of his themes – a kind of Borges Cliff’s Notes. He even dismisses it all, in the text, as a pale imitation of himself. But there is a certain brilliance in that too. His self reference (and self reverence) is never exhausting but always artful. And that’s quite a trick on Borges’s part.

The selection:

“Who is dreaming of whom? I know I am dreaming of you but I don’t know whether you are dreaming me. The hotel in Adrogué was pulled down many years ago – twenty, maybe thirty. Who knows!”

“I am the dreamer,” I answered with a certain defiance.

“But don’t you see that the important thing is to discover whether there is only one dreamer or two?”

“I am Borges who has seen your name in the register and has climbed up to this room.”

“Borges am I, dying in Calle Maipú.”

There was moment of silence. Then the other said, “Let’s put ourselves to the test. Which was the most terrible moment of our life?”

I leant over towards him and we both spoke at the same time. I know we both lied. A faint smile lit the old face. I felt that the smile somehow reflected my own.

“We have lied to each other,” he said, “because we feel two and not one. The truth is that we are two and we are one.”

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