Aleph (Short story by Borges) – A review

Aleph sidharth vardhan borges
Aleph sidharth vardhan borges
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(A review by SIdharth Vardhan
of the short story
‘Aleph'(1949) by Jorge Luis Borges
(5 / 5))


“All language is a set of symbols whose use among its speakers assumes a shared past.”

…. and so there must be things beyond describing powers of language. What if some day you were to come across a thing or an experience who is nothing like shared past? The human impulse to communicate must find a let out, and where mere words are not enough we need poetry:

Daneri’s real work lay not in the poetry but in his invention of reasons why the poetry should be admired.

Daneri, like most good poets, didn’t invent reasons, he found them – found them in the inexplicable Aleph.

Borges sidharth vardhan alephBorges is not only talking about nature of language or importance of poetry, he also seems to be speculating why the descriptions of supernatural are so vague or strange:

“How, then, can I translate into words the limitless Aleph, which my floundering mind can scarcely encompass? Mystics, faced with the same problem, fall back on symbols: to signify the godhead, one Persian speaks of a bird that somehow is all birds; Alanus de Insulis, of a sphere whose center is everywhere and circumference is nowhere; Ezekiel, of a four-faced angel who at one and the same time moves east and west, north and south.”

And…

“Aleph is the first letter of the Hebrew alphabet. Its use for the strange sphere in my story may not be accidental. For the Kabbalah, that letter stands for the En Soph , the pure and boundless godhead; it is also said that it takes the shape of a man pointing to both heaven and earth, in order to show that the lower world is the map and mirror of the higher; for Cantor’s Mengenlehre , it is the symbol of trans- finite numbers, of which any part is as great as the whole.”

Again, if Borges and Daneri who have seen Aleph find themselves doubting the reality of same (perhaps an intellectual fear (fear of being ourselves insande makes us doubt anything we experience beyond that shared past), how can a reader who has but their words is supposed to believe in its existence?

Anyways, Daneri’s is taken from DANte aleghERI and like the great poet – he suffers a hell in being exposed to the inexplicable Aleph; puratory (which comes from author’s little lie) and paradise (latter success).

But why should Daneri find that sudden success? Borges stories are like little riddles in which everything strange has a beautiful explanation and that explanation is probably hinted at somewhere else in the story itself. Daneri’s obsession finds a mirror in narrator’s obsession for Beatriz Viterbo – and there lies the answer. The doubt created by narrator has same effect on Daneri that death of Beatriz had on narrator; it made him feel easy – when object of one’s obsession is set beyond possibility of possession, it doesn’t kill the obsession itself (or it couldn’t really be a strong obsession in first place) but it does ease one’s mind about thinking of possibilities to possess. Daneri probably just stopping try too hard too hard to interpret Aleph.

“…now that she was dead, I could devote myself to her memory, without hope but also without humiliation.

*


“So foolish did his ideas seem to me, so pompous and so drawn out his exposition, that I linked them at once to literature and asked him why he didn’t write them down.”

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