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Tag: god as a character

Short story: “The Sun and I”

“The Sun and I,” by K. J. Parker

Found here in the summer 2013 issue of Subterranean Press Magazine

16,052, including the epigraph

A fine, fine piece of philosophical fiction.

Witty, too:

“We had many long conversations, the dead man and me. He told me he was a pilgrim, on his way to the celebrated desert oracle at Cocona. He’d gone there to get the answer to a very important question which had subsequently slipped his mind; the answer, though, was, Yes, but it will not end well. Looks like they were right, I told him. Well, of course, he said, it’s a very reliable oracle.”

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Short story: “Inferno, I, 32”

Inferno, I, 32,” by Jorge Luis Borges

Translated by James E. Irby (online here and here; read aloud on YouTube)

293 words in English

Intensely satisfying.

Short story: “The Secret Miracle”

“The Secret Miracle” (“El Milagro Secreto”), by Jorge Luis Borges; the version I read was translated by Harriet de Onís

Collected in Labyrinths, probably anthologized all over; a version without translation credits in PDF

My current estimate is 2,500 words in English

I like this so much. On a reread, I notice that Hladík is not described as a remarkably good or hardworking writer. Up until that final miracle, he seems both mediocre and undisciplined. One of Borges’ witty throwaways demands to be quoted:

Like all writers, he measured the achievements of others by what they had accomplished, asking of them that they measure him by what he envisaged or planned.

Which makes his redemption (or whatever it is) all the better. Hladík is apparently nobody special, and neither he nor we can understand God’s motives for choosing him. Maybe it’s like humoring a child who wants you to check for monsters under the bed just one last time before going to sleep—God’s way of comforting someone who is beyond rational comfort.

Miscellanea:

  • Hladík’s torment as he waits for the appointed day is entirely believable. I wonder if Borges was thinking of Dostoyevsky.
  • Borges very logically makes his writer a formal-verse poet. A prose writer, or a writer of free verse, would have a lot of trouble trying to take advantage of this miracle, unless he happened to have Funes’s memory.
  • I like the epigraph here better than the one on “The Circular Ruins,” but that may be because I’ve never read the Koran. If it were as familiar to me as Through the Looking-Glass, I probably wouldn’t find this excerpt so strange and lovely.

Short story: “Everything and Nothing”

“Everything and Nothing,” by Jorge Luis Borges

Translated here (by Mildred Boyer) and here and here (by J. E. Irby)

627 words in Boyer’s translation

A remarkable piece. It’s a sort of joke about the scholarly obsession with knowing the “real” identity of Shakespeare, also an anti-character study, also a meditation on what identity and character even mean and what it means to be a creator, all crammed into three longish paragraphs.