Some limited and waning memory of Herbert Ashe, an engineer with the southern railways, persists in the hotel at Adrogue, among the effusive honeysuckles and in the illusory depths of the mirrors. In his lifetime he suffered from unreality, as do so many Englishmen; once dead, he is not even the ghost he was then. He was tall and listless, and his tired rectangular beard had once been red.
Maybe you can have too much of a good thing. That’s what I’m going to put this down to. I loved The Aleph, my first foray into Borges which I immersed myself in and thoroughly enjoyed. I found Labyrinths though much harder to enjoy, even though it has been translated, so lost was I that I felt that I may as well have been reading it in Borges native Argentinian.
The fictions, for the most part I enjoyed, particularly The Garden of Forking Paths, the Lottery in Babylon, The Shape of the Sword, Death and the Compass and the Secret Miracle. What I hadn’t realised as I reached The Immortal is that the second half of the fictions in Labyrinths are all in The Aleph. After skipping them I moved onto the Essays, and here I fell down completely.
I said in my review of the Aleph that I thought maybe I wasn’t a good enough reader for Borges, and his essays here confirmed that, or it could be that I just don’t have any interest in the points and theories that Borges wanted to expound, even if I did, I would have struggled to follow the thrust of his arguments and discussions.
After the Essays, again the parables were all in the Aleph, so all that was left was the Elegy, which was a poignant finish to the collection.
To have grown old in so many mirrors,
to have sought in vain the marble gaze of the statues,
to have questioned lithographs, encyclopedias, atlases,
to have seen the things that men see,
death, the sluggish dawn, the plains,
and the delicate stars,
and to have seen nothing, or almost nothing
except the face of a girl from Buenos Aires
a face that does not want you to remember it.
Oh destiny of Borges,
perhaps no stranger than your own.