Magical Realism in the Collection of Short Stories Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

June 7, 2022 by Essay Writer

Ficciones, by Jorge Luis Borges, is a collection of short stories that portrays different plots and themes. Borges is an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet and translator born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. He brings the reader into his world of magical realism. In several of his short stories, he uses literary devices such as; metaphors, imagery and hyperboles to further develop the themes of each individual short story. Borges utilizes the fantasies of our imagination to help illustrate the topics of the stories. In The Secret Miracle, Borges begins the short story with a character named Jaromir Hadlík, who is in a dream, dreaming. Jaromir’s dream is almost over and he is running out of time to make his next move. Right when Jaromir is about to make his next move in the game, he unexpectedly forgets the rules of chess. He then suddenly wakes up.

Jaromir realizes he is in reality, “The hour for the next move, which could not be postponed, struck on the clocks. The dreamer ran across the sands of a rainy desert – and he could not remember the chessman or the rules of chess. At this point he awoke. The din of the rain and the clangor of the terrible clocks ceased” (114). Borges uses this to have the readers struggle with identifying actual reality from fiction. The reader begins reading about Jaromir, he is running through a rainy desert and suddenly forgets the rules of chess. Borges does nothing more to further the story. This leaves the readers with a cliffhanger. The Circular Ruins talks of a man who longs to dream of a young boy in his mind in hopes of bringing him into his own reality. Borges begins to list things off that he will need in order to dream of this young boy, he then begins describing what environment he would prefer to do this in. He says, “The rice and fruit they brought him were nourishment enough for his body, which was consecrated to the sole task of sleeping and dreaming.” (40).

This use of a minor hyperbole helps illustrate the amount of dedication the man has for this task and how willingly he is to complete it. For example, it describes the dedication of his whole body to perform this dreaming for such a long periodically time. The process he must go through also shows his dedication. He says he will only need to live off of rice and bread for it to work sufficiently, which also shows that his task does not take any extremes in order to be followed through with. With Borges’ use of this event in the story, it demonstrates how materials are viewed as unimportant and are not necessary to fulfill goals and accomplishments. The Babylon Lottery is one of the few short stories that has a focus on the political ideas of a society. In this short story, Borges creates a society that succeeds off of luck and relies on hope. Many of the citizens put their faith in a mythical lottery, everyone bases their decisions on it and hopes that it actually does exist. When discussing the idea of the mythical lottery, the Babylonian character discusses the system’s complexity. He says, “The Babylonians have gave themselves up to the game.” (46). His simple statement shows how powerful the system truly was.

Eventually, it had gained power over the entire society. Borges uses a hyperbole to show how dramatic the Babylonians are being. Ultimately, you can not give yourself to an object. He just says this to show how much power the system had over the people. There was no specific evidence of the society actually existing, but according to the author the Babylonians did exist at one point in history. This undecided fantasy gives the readers an opportunity to decide whether or not the society existed. Borges leaves this short story with an open ending. In a way, he is allowing the reader to decide the ending. This also reveals Borges’ interest in the open ending of the interpretation of a human mind. Borges purposely ended the story like that to challenge the reader on the way they perceive situations. This interest can also support the reasoning of why he chooses to associate dreams and fantasies into his short stories. In Tlon, Uqbar; Orbis Tertius, the narrator is friends with a man named Herbert Ashe. He has received an encyclopedia from Brazil that has written in English with a thousand and one pages.

Shortly after, Ashe dies and leaves the book behind in a bar. The narrator is the one who found the encyclopedia in a bar, after Ashe leaves it there. Soon enough, the narrator discovers that the book is about Tlon, “This bold estimates brings us back to the basic problems: who were the people who had invented Tlon. The plural is unavoidable because we have unanimously rejected the idea of a single creator, some transcendental Leibnitz working in modest obscurity. We conjecture that this ‘brave new world’ was the work of a secret society of astronomers, biologists, engineers, metaphysicians, poets, chemists, mathematicians, moralists, painters, and geometricians, all under the supervision of an unknown genius” (10). The reason Borges creates a secret society is to reveal a nonexistent world. The creation of mysterious people and unknown genius forces the reader to answer a question. Borges typically does this to challenge the reader to actually think. By doing this, Borges gives the readers a story that is suspenseful and keeps them on their feet.

In The Library of Babel, the first sentence begins to describe the settings. It gives the reader a visual for the set-up and structure of the Library that is being talked about within the short story. It states, “The Universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite, perhaps an infinite, number of hexagonal galleries, with enormous ventilation shafts in the middle, encircled by very low railings.” (59). This description uses imagery to all the readers to envision the Library with their own imaginations. Borges also uses imagery to give readers a clear and more detailed picture of what the main topic looks like. It is important for the readers to know what the Library looks like since it is the main focus of the short story.

The Library represents clarity and hope for any citizen that walks through its doors. Also in the Library of Babel, the narrator begins to explain the inner workings of the Library, and what it’s entire purpose is. It says, “I know of a wild region whose librarians repudiate the vain superstitious custom of seeking any sense in books and compare it to looking for meaning in dreams or in the chaotic lines of one’s hands. … “ (60). From this quote, the readers are able to see the head position of the Library perspective. This individual views it to be useless for someone to enter the Library to seek for mythical ideas when the Library’s potential is more than that. Borges uses this statement to reveal his own viewpoint on the topic of illusions. The various ficciones of Borges each individually represent the way he expresses fantasy and imagination into his works. He uses a copious amount of literary devices to keep readers challenged and involved in the plotline. The Secret Miracle shows readers the importance of time. It also reveals the purpose of making use of time when lacking it.

The Circular Ruins allows dreams to be in a safe place. It gives them the ability to create anything with your imagination. The Babylon Lottery gives the readers a look into a society that relies on pure luck. It includes the dangers and benefits of chancing your luck. In Tlon, Uqbar; Orbis Tertius, the author allows the reader to be challenged by leaving them with an unanswered question. The Library of Babel gives readers the opportunity to recreate their thoughts and figure out the use of the Library within the story. Borges uses magical realism and incorporates it within his works to create different plots for each fiction. This creates an opportunity for each reader to interpret his works differently. It also gives the audience a glimpse into the way Borges, himself, thinks.


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