‘The South’ by Jorge Luis Borges

Borges, Jorge Luis 1953

The South by Jorge Luis Borges, 1953

The magic trick:

Working a character logically throughout the story toward a surprising, interesting and completely believable state of mind

This story features a very interesting consideration of a man facing death. He has, we are told, neither hope nor fear. A strange combination, but one that makes sense given the way the story builds to this conclusion.

During the story we see him go from healthy to near death to recovery. The forces guiding this journey seem to occupy a description somewhere between random, evil and magical. The protagonist’s final hopeless/fearless mentality as death closes around him then is not only believable, it feels inevitable. And that’s quite a trick on Borges’s part.

The selection:

Blind to all fault, destiny can be ruthless at one’s slightest distraction. Dahlmann had succeeded in acquiring, on that very afternoon, an imperfect copy of Weil’s edition of The Thousand and One Nights. Avid to examine this find, he did not wait for the elevator but hurried up the stairs. In the obscurity, something brushed by his forehead: a bat, a bird? On the face of the woman who opened the door to him he saw horror engraved, and the hand he wiped across his face came away red with blood. The edge of a recently painted door which someone had forgotten to close had caused this wound. Dahlmann was able to fall asleep, but from the moment he awoke at dawn the savor of all things was atrociously poignant.

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