Borges’ Labyrinth and Word Experiments 

By Zoé Bocquillon

Literature, with its ability to capture the human experience in all its complexity, stands as a powerful force transcending the boundaries of time and space. In the realm of politics where ideologies clash, societies transform, and power structures evolve, literature emerges as a vital path for shaping narratives, questioning authority, and fostering societal introspection. The intersection between literature and politics has profound implications for the way we perceive political landscapes.

Argentina, a country rich in cultural diversity, has always been a venue for the subtle dance between politics and literature. A distinct narrative that reflects the nation’s social movements, political upheavals, and historical battles is created at this junction. While Spanish serves as the predominant language, there are works within the Argentinean literary corpus that incorporate other languages such as French, Polish, English, and Yiddish. In the two centuries since the formation of the Argentinean Republic in 1810, this literature has forged a strong tradition. 

Intellectual generations in Argentina have actively debated and critiqued their predecessors and traditions, with the portrayal of national identity playing a pivotal role in the country’s history. Notably, authors revisit the past to rewrite and reinterpret the overarching narratives of the time. An example is Domingo F. Sarmiento’s 1845 establishment of the motto “Civilisation and barbarism,” which has persisted as a lens through which Argentinian reality is read. The literary practice of rewriting, far from being confined to an elite with a sophisticated Eurocentric tradition, encompasses a native and non-canonical body of knowledge and forms from its inception.

In Argentina, literature is not merely a mirror reflecting societal dynamics; it is a powerful tool wielded by writers to engage with and challenge the political status quo. Figures like Jorge Luis Borges and Julio Cortázar used their literary prowess to question authoritarian regimes. 

Borges’ “Ficciones” stands as a literary marvel that meticulously emphasises its fictional essence. Delving into the intricate nature of storytelling, Borges rejects the idea of making a narrative appear natural, viewing it as a limitation that undermines the artistic potential of fiction. The labyrinth, a recurring motif throughout the stories, serves as a metaphor for the complexity of worlds, human endeavours, and abstract concepts such as time. Borges weaves his tales into labyrinths, mirroring the intricate and convoluted paths of his narratives. 

The author explores themes such as Freudian interpretations, red enclosures symbolising psychological confinement, and a deep reverence for books, where librarians, in his view, attain a status holier than saints. “Ficciones” delves into philosophical quandaries, decay, strategic games, conspiracies, and explorations of ethnic identities, particularly those within Borges’s ancestry. In essence, his literary masterpiece becomes a multifaceted exploration of fiction’s potential. 

To understand the interplay between literature and politics in Argentina, one must delve into the historical context that has shaped the nation. From the authoritarian regimes to the waves of social movements, writers found themselves navigating a landscape fraught with political tension. The Perón era, the Dirty War, and subsequent political unrest left an indelible mark on the collective Argentine psyche, influencing the themes that emerged from the pens of its literary figures.

Zoé explores the complex overlap between literature and politics through the context of writers' work in Argentina.


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