“The Aleph”

This week’s piece of weird fiction being discussed by the Deep Ones over at LibraryThing.

Review: “The Aleph”, Jorge Luis Borges, trans. Andrew Hurley, 1945.

As you would expect from Borges, this story is chockfull of literary allusions. 

The narrator, in fact, is called Borges, and the story starts out by noting the death of one Beatriz Viterbo on April 30, 1929.

She was a romantic obsession of Borges. To get closer to her memory and the places imbued with that memory, Borges develops the ritual of visiting her first cousin Carlos Argentino every year on the anniversary of her death.

The visits get longer until, during one, Carlos confides that he’s been working on a massive work of poetry. It’s pretty awful – we get quotes, but it’s certainly ambitious in attempting to accurately describe, in correct poetic form, the geography of Earth. 

Argentino expounds on why each line is so clever in its literary allusions, poetic form, and violations of reader expectation. He seems to be the sort of writer who imagines the literary praise critics will heap on each line of his work. Borges considers it about the dullest thing he’s read, and it’s not improved by Argentino elaborating his style with ever more varied adjectives (like different words for “blue”).

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Walking the Night Land: City at the End of Time

The walk through the Night Land continues.

Essay: City at the End of Time, Greg Bear, 2008.514XS9dObkL

It isn’t just Greg Bear saying in interviews that this novel was both a homage to William Hope Hodgson’s The Night Land and Arthur C. Clarke’s The City and the Stars or critics guessing that. Hodgson shows up right on page 398, and Bear subsumes the man and his novel into his own creation:

’Like a battlefield,’ said Glaucous. ‘I walked the trenches around Ypres, almost a hundred years ago, looking for a particular gent – a fine strapping fellow and a poet. He dreamed, so I was led to believe, of a place he called the Last Redoubt. He’d written a book before shipping out, detailing his dreams . . . But the war had already blown him to bits. Lean years for hunters, during wartime.’

Glaucous is one such hunter, or, to be exact, he’s a “chancer”, sort of a man who can unconsciously manipulate probabilities to help hunters like Whitlow find “shifters” and “dreamers”. Continue reading