A Glimpse at Paul Auster and Jorge L. Borges through the Tinted Glass of Quantum Theory.

Blue Gum, No.2, 2015, ISSN 2014-21-53, Observatori: Centre d’Estudis Australians, Australian Studies Centre, Universitat de Barcelona

A Glimpse at Paul Auster and Jorge L. Borges through the Tinted Glass of Quantum Theory

Myriam M. Mercader Varela

Copyright©2015 Myriam M. Mercader Varela. This text may be archived and redistributed both in electronic form and in hard copy, provided that the author and journal are properly cited and no fee is charged.

Abstract. The works of Jorge Luis Borges and Paul Auster seem to follow the rules of Quantum Theory. The present article studies a number of perspectives and coincidences in their oeuvre, especially a quality we have named “inherent ubiquity” which highlights the importance and of authorship and identity and the appearance of blue stones to mark the doors leading to new dimensions on the works of both authors.

Keywords: Jorge L. Borges, Paul Auster, Authorship and Identity, Quantum Theory, Inherent Ubiquity, Blue Stones.

Quantum Theory has ruled the scientific milieu for decades now, but it is not only for science that Quantum Theory makes sense. Literary critics have surrendered to its logic as a unique way to interpret literature because the world we live and write in is one and the same; it forms part of a whole. Although this article does not aim to analyze Quantum Theory, we would like to make a short summary of its basis in order to shape the arena we are stepping into.

In 1982 a famous experiment undertaken by Alain Aspect proved that a very large percentage of the polarization angles of photons emitted by a laser beam was identical, which meant that particles necessarily communicate their position so that each photon’s orientation can parallel that of the one that serves as its pair. John S. Bell’s theorem supported this idea of instantaneous communication among particles negating the idea that the world is local, thereby allowing simultaneous actions across space. Among Quantum principles we would like to highlight the ones which best illustrate our thesis. Firstly, the Principle of Complementarity, which says that depending on how we measure it, a corpuscle can behave as a wave or a particle or what is the same that a corpuscle is both a wave and a particle, although both cannot be observed at any single measurement. Secondly, the Principle of Uncertainty which states that it is impossible to determine the position and momentum of a particle through a single measurement. It is evident that both occur at the same time, but in order to measure one, we have to retain an element of uncertainty with regard to the other. Thirdly, the Anthropic Principle, which states that the observer modifies the experiment with his/her observations. Erwin Schrödinger’s theory of parallel universes is consistent with this idea: there are hundreds of universes that surround us, but it is the observer who gives any particular one its observable form. Acausality is another important characteristic of our world. We typically assume that any phenomenon is always and necessarily caused by some other event. However, in subatomic media this is not necessarily true. Sometimes atoms may appear and disappear without a cause but as part of a spontaneous process. Finally, we shall note Ubiquity, or the quality that shows that particles may be found in many places at once.

These principles –we believe– apply to authors, characters, readers and the writers as people who live in the dimension we see. The characteristic of ubiquity, specially applied to literature, is what led us to give birth to what we call inherent ubiquity or how the writer’s authorship and identity (and everything revolving around them) are always and everywhere present in their texts.

In 2006, my article ‘The Music of the Aleph’ advanced a series of coincidences and connections between the works of Paul Auster and Jorge Luis Borges which seemed to follow the rules of Quantum Theory. The present article goes back to the matter and studies a number of new perspectives concerning the way the work of both authors could be analyzed through the glass of Quantum Theory.6

Both Jorge Luis Borges and Paul Auster have been very interested in science, and their works abound in references to Leibniz, Heidegger, Cantor, Gödel, Pascal and many other eminent scientists and philosophers. Although throughout Borges’ life Quantum Theory was still incipient, we have found several hints as to his preoccupation on the matter. In Paul Auster the concern with the philosophical and literary implications of Quantum Theory is quite evident. In Auster’s words,

These connections are commonplace in literary works, but one tends not to see them in the world – for the world is too big and one’s life is too small. It is only at those rare moments when one happens to glimpse a rhyme in the world the mind can leap out of itself and serve as a bridge for things across time and space. (The Invention of Solitude, 161)

or in Borges’:

Gradualmente se vió (como nosotros) aprisionado en esta red sonora de Antes, Después, Ayer, Mientras, Ahora Derecha, Izquierda, Yo, Tú, Aquellos, Otros

6 As this thematic is object of a wider dissertation still in progress and yet to be presented, we are going to approach just a glimpse of it hereB

(“El Golem”, OCII, 264)

In the last twenty-five years quite a few writers, critics and linguists have been using the ideas underlying Quantum Theory to write novels or approach literary texts. We would like to mention only a few: Nicholas Mosley (Catastrophe Practice, 1989 and Hopeful Monsters, 1990) Katherine Hayles (The Cosmic Web, 1984), Susan Strehle (Fiction in the Quantum Universe, 1992), Dennis Bohnenkamp (“Post-Einsteinian Physics and Literature,`1989), Alfonso Zamorano Aguilar (“Teorías del Caos y Lingüistica: Aproximación Caológica a la Comunicación Humana”, 2011), or Francisco Gonzalez Fernández (Esperando a Gödel. Literatura y Matemática, 2012) among others. All this interest in analyzing Literature under Quantum Theory comes to strengthen our thesis that Borges’ and Auster’s literature may also be seen as governed by Quantum laws.

Quantum Theory and its basic characteristics, as stated above, help us to describe the inherent ubiquity of authors and their characters. We believe that the author –many times the narrator– embodies the almost totality of the characters and therefore appears as ubiquitous. Changes affecting the author instantaneously affect the text, and characters that acquire entangled proprieties appear and disappear from one text to the other, as we will later analyze. It is this literary universe, in which –as in Bell’s conception of universe as not local (J.S. Bell, 1964)– characters inhabiting different texts may even judge their creator and demand explanations –as is in Travels in the Scriptorium (2006) by Paul Auster (from here on referred to as Travels)–, which we shall briefly look into so as to illustrate the ideas we are forwarding.

Auster’s postmodern games have often involved re-using the same limited cast of characters, as well as the one called ‘Paul Auster’. In Travels, characters from The New York Trilogy, Oracle Night, Moon Palace, Leviathan, In the Country of Last Things, among other novels, come back to judge a disoriented elder author. Travels is one of his novels, but the curious reader soon discovers that it is also the second novel of a fictional character from a fictional movie in Auster’s The Book of Illusions (2002). It was also the title of an Auster movie due for release at that time in his career, as well as the name of a movie (in fiction) also appearing in The Book of Illusions. Metaphorically we could even say it is a “travel” into the scriptorium of Auster’s own writings. Its ubiquity throughout Auster’s work appears to us very surprising until we begin to acknowledge it is a quite natural characteristic in his work as, in fact, it is in Borges’ as well.

Mr. Blank, the old writer and protagonist in Travels, occasionally has visitors. Anna (from In the Country of Last Things, 1987), who seems good to him, helps him dress, supervises embarrassing toilet procedures, and indulges him in a little sexual fondling. A great number of the Auster’ characters from other novels visit Blank, but, the most puzzling is James P. Flood, a secondary character in The Locked Room (1986), an ex-policeman who has a more aggressive behavior, and asks Blank a question he cannot answer: Flood wants to know who he is. Flood is a shadow of a character appearing in The Locked Room because in fact he is only a side comment in the novel by Fanshawe Neverland (inside The Locked Room). Fanshawe, we know, is a character in The Locked Room and also the author of Travels in the Scriptorium (the novel with the same name inside Travels). We can read in The Locked Room: ”I believe that certain incidents in Neverland can be traced back to his [Fanshawe’s] last experience (Montag’s house in chapter seven; Flood’s dream in chapter thirty)” (275). This is the only comment on Flood. He is just the owner of this dream who we do not know anything about. Nevertheless, he appears in Travels asking Blank for more details about that dream: “I walk around the world like a ghost, and sometimes I question whether I exist. Whether I ever existed at all” (Travels, 54).

Apart from this mysterious episode, Mr. Blank is asked to wear white clothes at the request of Peter Stillman, Jr. (City of Glass) who always wore white clothes. Mr. Blank receives a phone call from his doctor, Samuel Farr (from In the Country of Last Things). Dr. Farr tells Mr. Blank that the manuscript he has been reading was written by John Trause (appearing in Oracle Night and an anagram for Auster). Later Mr. Blank, who we begin to have clear is Trause, Fanshawe and Auster himself, is told to complete the story that was incomplete in Oracle Night. But the most outstanding behavior towards Mr. Blank and what leaves him more desolated is the accusing way in which all the people (or characters in previous novels) that visit him treat him. The behavior of all these characters and their jump from one “universe” to another reminds us, by all means, of Quantum Theory. Time in Auster’s novels also follows the quantum dictates as to its non-existence. For example Farr has lived with Anna in In the Country of Last Things, but Anna has grown old and Farr has not.

If we turn to Borges, the examples are numerous, but probably “El Jardín de los Senderos que se Bifurcan” (OCI, 472-80) is the most paradigmatic of all his stories when we consider the parallelism quantum reality/literature. In this story time is not linear but forking or branching:

A diferencia de Newton o Schopenhauer, su antepasado no creía en un tiempo uniforme, absoluto. Creía en infinitas series de tiempos, en una red creciente y vertiginosa de tiempos divergentes, convergentes y paralelos. Esa trama de tiempos que se aproximan, se bifurcan se cortan o que secularmente se ignoran, abarca todas las posibilidades. (479)

If fact, the protagonist explains at a point: “el porvenir ya existe” (479). The future already exists because there is no linear time. The same idea appears again in the last page of “The Book of Memory”, when Auster acknowledges: “All this was tomorrow. All this was a hundred years from now” (172).

In Cosmological Me (2010), Luis Correa-Diaz comments on Borges’ story: “en ‘El Jardín de los Senderos que se Bifurcan’ Borges concibe un laberinto temporal llamativamente similar al de los ‘muchos mundos’ cuánticos, propuestos años después por Henry Everet III” (8-9). Indeed Borges has written many stories which point to scientific data. This is the case with “La Biblioteca de Babel,” which depicts infinite sets and fractal geometry, or “El idioma analítico de John Wilkins”, with references to the fantastic taxonomies of Dr. Franz Kuhn.

However, one of the most amazing connections between Borges and Auster and which makes the reader think the parallelism might not just be coincidental is the appearance of what we have called “blue stones” throughout their works. These “blue stones” always mark the passage to a beautiful parallel world. Jorge Luis Borges’ story “Tigres Azules” tells about blue tigers, which of course were not at all tigers, but turned out to be real blue stones. The most intriguing with these stones is that they subvert logic appearing and disappearing in and from an unknown realm and multiplying or dividing in number under no logic. This fact will make the logic professor think he was insane: “Al principio yo había sufrido el temor de estar loco” (384). But this would have been better, because the conclusion he arrived to was that he –in the whole universe– was the one to come to the proof that in universe there could be no order: “en el universo cabe el desorden. Si uno y tres pueden ser dos o pueden ser catorce, la razón es una locura” (384).

It is interesting to bring into focus here two articles on Borges’ story: “Los azules tigres del caos. Un vistazo al pensamiento de la complejidad en la obra de Jorge Luis Borges”, by Esteban Mata, and “El ello inextricable: lo no-todo arte de interpretación”, by Cristobal Farriol. In the latter Farriol comments:

Las piedrecillas le significaron un impresionante acceso a lo real, que lo llevó a pensar que la razón perfectamente podía ser una locura. Pero más que locura, es experimentar que la ratio no ha de remitir a la verdad en términos ontológicos. La locura de la que habla es el vértigo ante el vacío de experimentar que nuestra conciencia es un instrumento para conseguir ciertos resultados, como si fuese una regla nemotécnica. (5)

Paul Auster draws on the same matter in Report from the Interior (2014), when he recalls having written thirteen philosophical propositions, the first of which reads: “The world is in my head. My body is in the world” (192). Auster concludes he was influenced by many philosophers but mostly by Merleau-Ponty’s phenomenology and his vision of the embodied self, expressed in Auster’s choice of this first philosophical proposition.

The human being has to interpret the real world with the use of consciousness, which in turn is just an instrument that could most probably be distorting reality. Esteban Mata has a point when he reflects:

¿Cómo podemos asegurar que las piedras azules aumentan y disminuyen sin puntualidad alguna? Podría ser que la secuencia se repita tras un millón o dos millones de tiradas, cifra que escapa a las facultades de la memoria, cifra imposible tan solo para nuestro entendimiento pero no forzosamente imposible para estas piedras tan inusuales. Esta situación me lleva a considerar que establecer regularidades es una forma muy reducida de comprender el propósito de la ciencia. (42)

We are always bounced back to the similarity with Quantum Physics. Paul Auster’s universe abounds in “blue stones”. In 1995 he wrote the screenplays for Smoke and Blue in the Face. Both films are very significant, but at this point we just want to highlight the title. “Blue in the Face” is also the title of a famous song but again hovering around color blue and Face, and therefore reminds us immediately of Auster’s poem “Facing the Music”, which starts –no wonder– with the word Blue.

In 1998 Paul Auster wrote another screenplay and directed it: Lulu on the Bridge. It is a beautiful story about a musician who is shot by a mad fan while performing and is taken to hospital. One of the shots impacts on the ceiling and a stone comes wavering down onto the stage. While recovering he meets a young girl and together they come into contact with a magical blue stone, the glow of which engulfs them into a beautiful love story. Celia (who will also play the part of Lulu in a film inside de film) calls Harvey a coward because he does not want to touch the blue stone. The same happens in “Tigres Azules” to Bhagwan Dass – the old wise man who denies touching the blue stones: “Más vale una bala en el pecho que una piedra azul en la mano. Eres un cobarde –le dije” (OCIII, 383). So, also in Paul Auster’s scripts blue stones are motive of evasion from the imprisonment of our senses to experience a new way of connectedness with the surrounding world. By the end of the film we become aware that the story we have been told happens while the protagonist is inside the ambulance that is taking him to hospital after the initial scene of the shooting and the falling stone. He is about to die, we also sense –as we feel the same connectedness to him as he does to Celia–, while a real girl, probably a real Celia who managed to jump from Harvey’s fevered strained imagination– is standing in the street while the ambulance goes past her.

The fact that the protagonist of the story is dying, while the reader is made to believe he is living a normal life, is another striking similarity with Borges’ story “El Sur”. In this story Jorge Luis Borges tells us about Juan Dahlmann, who seems to decide to die a romantic death like one of his ancestors. Having been injured and suffering septicemia he is very delicate in hospital. He is after a few days told he is better and could leave hospital. He decides to travel by train to his family’s farm in the south: “Mañana me despertaré en la estancia, pensaba, y era como si a un tiempo fuera dos hombres: el que avanzaba por el día otoñal y por la geografía de la patria, y el otro, encarcelado en un sanatorio y sujeto a metódicas servidumbre” (OCI, 526). We are pushed to believe that he is really on his way to the south, but then the moment comes in the story when he is forced to fight a gaucho in a bar (a blink to Martin Fierro) to save his honor, and he goes out to an inevitable death. It is just then that we realize the moment had come when he is finally able to die in his hospital bed honorably, because he had managed not to be a coward. Dahlman’s is a romantic death –like Harvey’s death in Lulu on the Bridge. It is another parallelism in Auster and Borges, this time proving life may be worth living after all if we are willing to behave courageously.

A few years after the film Lulu in the Bridge was released, Paul Auster wrote The Book of Illusions, published in 2002. Again we are faced with some of these revealing “blue stones”. In the novel, Hector Mann –a silent movie star– who vanishes from his own life and lives under a false name in Tierra del Sueño, New Mexico, names his ranch the Blue Stone Ranch because he had once mistaken for a beautiful blue stone jewel what was really a gob of phlegm. But this is not the only amazing “blue stone” we encounter in The Book of Illusions. Mann, before having to disappear, had worked for Blaustein (German for Bluestone) making movies. What is more, it is because of a flat tire of his blue DeSoto (my emphasis) that the course of his life is altered, being unable to stop an ex-lover (Brigit O’Fallon, “the owner of the palest Siberian blue [my emphasis] eyes”, 131) accidentally killing his current lover. Later in the novel and by the false surname of Spelling, he is about to marry Brigit’s sister, but cannot make up his mind to do it and rejects the proposition of the girl’s father to marry her and become his heir. He disappears again. It comes without saying that it all happens in the course of a meal at the Bluebell Inn (my emphasis).

All of the characters from The Book of Illusions disappear as the plot of the novel advances, another similitude with Borges’ blue tigers or stones.

“Blue stones” in Paul Auster as well as in Borges seem to live in the threshold of other unseen spaces or dimensions, where one happens to disappear without knowing if the way back will ever be possible.

In Oracle Night, the protagonist Sid Orr tells his wife that he has discovered he has the same passion for blue Portuguese notebooks as John Trause (a letter combination for Auster as mentioned above). In fact the book itself, with a blue textured cover, fascinates the reader and serves as the first blue token previous to the actual reading of the novel. The protagonist couple starts to wonder on the proprieties of color blue: “’Well, blue is a good color. Very calm. Very serene. It sits well in the mind. […] But what does blue stand for?’ says his wife” (49). Then Sidney replies it may stand for hope and even loyalty as in true blue. From this point on, Sid starts to recall when he was a young boy and had gone camping, and joined the Blue Team because if you belonged to that club you did not have to explain your principles: “They’re immediately understood by how you act” (53).

It is in this blue notebook to which Trause and Sid Orr are irremediably attracted that the protagonist will write his novel, and where he will find himself lost the same way his main character will find himself imprisoned underneath the ground in a hidden room surrounded by library bookcases full of old telephone books: “I opened the notebook, and when I glanced down at the page in front of me, I realized that I was lost” (108). The blue notebook is “a place of trouble for me, and whatever I tried to write in it would end in failure. Every story would stop in the middle; every project would carry me along just so far, and then I’d look up and discover that I was lost” (210-211).

If “blue stones” disappear in Borges’ stories, people disappear in Auster’s stories when they are writing or written about in a blue notebook. Sid Orr not only feels lost, he actually disappears while he is concentrated writing the story. Grace, his wife, looks into the room where he was working and does not see him: “When you didn’t answer I opened the door and peeked inside. But you weren’t there. Of course I was. I was sitting at my desk” (27). Moreover, buildings disappear, the Brooklyn stationary store where the blue notebooks were bought by both Sid and Trause called the Paper Palace, vanishes along with its Chinese owner from day to night: “When I got here this morning, the place was cleaned out. You want weird, my friend, that’s weird. Just like some magician dude waves his magic wand, and poof the Chinaman is gone” (111), says the man behind the counter of a bodega next to it. Some days later the Paper Palace appears in Lexington Avenue with its Chinese owner and Portuguese notebooks: “Chang seemed to live in a blur of accelerated motion as if the clocks of the world ticked more slowly for him as for everyone else […] why couldn’t he have pulled off the move to Lexington Avenue” (203). Many a time do strange situations of disappearances (the name of Auster’s early poetry book) keep on happening to Sid, as he misses hearing the phone when it rings although it “had a particular loud bell” (116).

In the same Oracle Night, when Orr is stuck up in his story and has his character locked up in a room at a basement full of shelves, his wife has a dream which is almost identical to Orr’s story and it takes place in a house in Bluebird Avenue (my emphasis). She tells Orr: “Where do you suppose I dug that one? Bluebird Avenue?” (133). He replies he does not know but that it was a nice name. “That’s just what you said in the dream. You said it was a nice name” (133). When she describes the house and how in the dream they end up locked in a room in the basement full of shelves with books and do not know how to get out, Orr says: “If you happen to open the blue notebook I bought on Saturday, you’d see that the story I’ve been writing is similar to your dream” (133).

So here we are again encountering blue “stones” or uncanny places where people disappear, get lost, get locked up forever, or even stories written which are dreamt by someone who did not write them or knew anything about them.

Sidney Orr will not be able to unlock his character from the basement room and gives up on that issue. “Bowen would be trapped in the room forever, and I decided that the moment had finally come to abandon my efforts to rescue him” (210). Although Orr knows that the blue notebook was “a place of trouble” (210) for him and that every story he wrote in it would stop in the middle and when he looked up from the notebook he would “discover that [he] was lost” (211), he decides to fill up the last pages of the notebook with his fiction about his wife’s pregnancy, a story which will never be able to be proved.

In Ghosts from The New York Trilogy we read about Blue, who has to watch Black and to do so is paid by White. But Black just writes into a book, so Blue has to do the same to report what Black does. Finally, Blue thinks that it is possible that Black is watching him and not otherwise. Maybe White and Black are the same man. They have tricked him. Blue’s life “has been reduced to no life at all […] He feels like a man who has been condemned to sit in a room and go on reading a book for the rest of his life” (169). Blue has been trapped into doing nothing and therefore feels as nothing at all, as a void or a ghost. If the book was a good one, Blue “could get caught up in the story, so to speak, and little by little begin to forget himself. But this book offers him nothing. No story, no plot, no action” (169). Blue –like another of the “blue stones”– disappears into nothingness and is trapped somewhere unseen, maybe in another dimension: the one of the book?

One of the most outstanding “blue stones” in Paul Auster’s oeuvre and one we could consider a “blue stone” in its whole, is his novel In the Country of Last Things. To start with the name of the protagonist Blume, although meaning flower in German and sounding like bloom in English, is also very similar to blue phonetically. Anna Blume, not surprisingly, disappears like all “blue stones” in the country of last things where, of course, things do not last: “These are the last things, she wrote. One by one, they disappear and never come back” (1). The quote and first words of the novel are quite revealing. Anna Blume is writing –we later find out– in a blue notebook, and her words are in fact an extensive letter to an unnamed addressee who she even gathers may never receive the letter, or if s/he does may not be willing to read it.

In this country of last things “people are so thin, they are sometimes blown away” (3) and “things fall apart and vanish […] People die and babies refuse to be born […] And yet, there are always new people to replace the ones who have vanished” (7). It is very eerie for its similarity with Borges’ “blue stones”; they keep appearing without any logic.

Time is very questionable in the novel too. Although it is her letter that we are reading (somehow it has managed to end up in our power) it is not until page seventy-nine that she actually buys the blue notebook for her friend Isabel, where she is writing. Isabel was so weak she could hardly speak and only managed to write some words in the notebook: “I went to a Resurrection Agent one afternoon and bought a large notebook with a blue cover” (79). Nevertheless, we have to wait until almost the end of the letter to read: “that was when I rediscovered the blue notebook I had bought for Isabel […] I propped up the notebook against my knees and started writing this letter” (182).

The blue notebook exists together with Anna Blume in an exceptional original sequence of time. Appearing, disappearing and popping in and out of the dimension of the reader and –actually– as the reader, is from the very beginning following the words written in the blue notebook s/he is also popping in and out of those hellish dimensions of last things and becoming, therefore, part of a “blue stone”. The last words of the letter Anna is writing are: “This is Anna Blume, your old friend from another world. Once we get to where we are going, I will try to write to you again. I promise” (188). We are left to suppose she might be travelling to some other world. And, in fact as already mentioned, we will find her again in Travels, as well as her friend Boris will also re- appear in Oracle Night in a small episode as a taxi driver. We must not forget that these “travels” into other dimensions or books might be really extravagant and may even include transfictional romances. We are referring, for example, to the protagonist of Leviathan, Peter Aaron, who is married to Iris, who is the protagonist in Paul Auster’s wife’s – Siri Husvedt – novel, The Blindfold.

In Borges’ “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” all the characteristics of entanglement and inherent ubiquity are very normal:

Las cosas se duplican en Tlön; propenden asimismo a borrarse y a perder los detalles cuando los olvida la gente. Es clásico el ejemplo de un umbral que perduró mientras lo visitaba un mendigo y que se perdió de vista a su muerte. (440)

These things also tended to happen in In the Country of Last Things, as the reader may recall. This fictional world starts to change dimension into say our real world little by little, and the first time Borges (protagonist) detects one of these irruptions into our dimension it was also marked by a “blue stone”:

Entre ellas -con un perceptible y tenue temblor de pájaro dormido- latía misteriosamente una brújula. La princesa no la reconoció. La aguja azul (my emphasis) anhelaba el norte magnético; la caja de metal era cóncava; las letras de la esfera correspondían a uno de los alfabetos de Tlön. (441)

The second object from Tlön which turns up in Borges’ real world, appears in the belt of an unknown dead man It is a stone –in fact, a cone: “Esos conos pequeños y muy pesados (hechos de un metal que no es de este mundo) son imagen de la divinidad, en ciertas religiones de Tlön” (442). Finally, in the first page of the encyclopedia of Tlön there is a blue oval stamp (my emphasis) which reads “Orbis Tertius” or third world.

We could go on quoting passages that remind us of Borges’ Tigres Azules because, like them, people and things appear and disappear without any logic as if transiting to and from another dimension and from one book to the other, from the skull of one author to the skull of another: an example of it might be the “blue stones” appearing in Siri Hudtvedt’s The Sorrows of an American, 2008. In Auster’s wife’s novel we find a girl who disappears in a ranch called Blue Wing, a famous writer and playwright whose name is Max Blaustein (Bluestone in English and also appearing in Auster’s The Book of Illusions) who has a daughter Sonia Blaustein who writes a poem about a girl called Tanya Bluestone:

Tanya Bluestone wanders here Nobody’s muse, she howls Mute dreams awake in fear. Locked throat and streaming bowels A twin ablaze inside of me The burn recast in memory Sonia Blaustein (189)

The quantum realm of things probably underlies the work of all writers, as we now know that everything is connected in a holistic way. Inherent ubiquity –we believe– is the ubiquitous quality explaining this eerie behavior of characters and motives, ideas and words in texts, because the world of literature and the world of facts are but part of an entangled whole.

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complejidad en la obra de Jorge Luis Borges”. Revista Filosofía, Universidad de Costa Rica, XLVII, 120-121. 37-44.

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Myriam M. Mercader Varela () holds a BA in English from the University of Barcelona and finished Doctorate Studies obtaining her DEA from the UNED in Madrid. This study was written as part of her investigation for her PhD thesis on Paul Auster and Jorge L. Borges. She is interested in North and South American Literature as well as in Visual Poetry, about which she has written articles for several institutions.

El Espíritu de J.L. Borges en la ruta picassiana.

Portada del libro


Desde Borges a Picasso: un trabajo telúrico de Myriam Mercader

Desde hace unos años  sigo la trayectoria de las  investigaciones borgianas de Myriam  Mercader, y lo que más me fascina de este proceso es ver cómo esta labor ha ido progresando hasta llegar  a tener tal calibre y profundidad que uno tiene la sensación de que en cualquier momento el escritor bonaerense puede  sentarse con nosotros y participar en el debate.

Este don que tiene Myriam para transmitir emociones y sensaciones solo es posible cuando se tiene una gran capacidad de comunicación y una pasión vital que comparte de manera empática y fluida.

Filóloga, Investigadora, escritora, creativa y apasionada por la vida, tiene todo aquello que se necesita para ejercer una labor de alquimista; y por ello,  en el preciso instante en que se presentó la ocasión de establecer, dentro de un recorrido picassiano, la esencia y la presencia de Jorge Luis Borges, no lo dudó y lo hizo de manera tan natural que pudiera parecer que ambos artistas fueran cubistas dentro de un laberinto habitado por incisivos minotauros.

Hay autores que sintonizan como nadie en las coordenadas vitales de lo que es y deja de ser real, sin por ello perder el norte de una labor existencial etérea, volátil y lo suficientemente efímera como para sólo ser captada en ráfagas que se materializan en un instante extraordinario de genialidad suprema por aquellos que saben moverse entre ambas realidades. Artífices de estos instantes mágicos Borges y Picasso ocupan un lugar privilegiado en estas encrucijadas dimensionales. Es por ello que cuando Myriam aceptó el reto de sintonizar en el espacio y el tiempo a estos dos genios excepcionales, a través de  la “Revista Caminada Visual Picasso”, uniendo la poesía visual con la poética de la acción, lo hizo con plena conciencia de que el destino había movido sus hilos para que en la ciudad malagueña que vio nacer a Picasso y con la que Borges mantuvo una estrecha relación afectiva, tuviera lugar el encuentro entre ambos, oficiado por el gran maestro de ceremonias Francisco Peralto, y relatado por ella.

Las páginas que vienen a continuación son aquellas que se leyeron a lo largo del recorrido y que dieron pie a una serie de acciones donde la palabra y la imagen fueron de la mano hasta concluir  en una especie de simbiosis vibrante del fenómeno de la creación.

César Reglero Campos

El espíritu de Borges en la Ruta Picassiana

Borges escribió que no es exagerado afirmar que las historias de la pintura se pueden dividir en tres clases abominables: a) las cometidas por personas que entienden de escribir y no de pintar; b) las cometidas por personas que entienden de pintar y no de escribir; c) las cometidas por ‘ambizurdos’ que ignoran esas dos actividades con igual perfección.

Huelga decir que la lección del maestro argentino no ha caído en tierra baldía.

No obstante, nos permitiremos considerar oportuno concluir estos maravillosos nueve meses de Poesía Visual con un recorrido Picasso-borgeano por esta Málaga que tanto significó para ambos artistas.

La Poesía Visual inmediatamente se nos aparece como la síntesis de trazos: unos que forman palabras, otros que forman imágenes. Y mientras las palabras irremediablemente nos llevan a Jorge Luis Borges, las imágenes no pueden ser más significativas que las surgidas del genio de Picasso.

El metafísico alemán Georg Simmel imaginó dos “estilos de existencia”: el estilo sistemático, que satisface nuestra necesidad de regularidad  y simetría y que podría estar representado por el círculo; y el estilo progresivo que sigue una línea recta que nos lleva al infinito, nunca satisfechos con nuestros logros. El estilo de Picasso así como el de Borges son ejemplos maravillosos de línea recta, ya que ambos fueron creando por impulsos y si miraron atrás fue para subvertir; eligieron sus referencias entre un inmenso repertorio de estilos existentes y a partir de ellos comenzaron a crear.

Se dice que Picasso dijo de sí mismo “Yo no busco, yo encuentro”. Así encontró el cubismo del cual comentó: “Cuando ‘inventamos’ el cubismo, no teníamos la menor intención de inventarlo. Sólo queríamos expresar lo que había en nosotros.”

El Picasso explorador de su propio arte lleva al artista a una concepción nueva de la comunión entre el alma y el arte. “El cubismo no trata sobre la realidad,” dijo una vez  “es más como un perfume que está frente a ti, detrás de ti, a los lados. El aroma se siente en todas partes, pero no sabes de donde viene.” Nuestro otro viejo enamorado del arte y de Andalucía – Jorge Luis Borges – supo sentir algo muy similar por lo que se  esconde en la palabra y en su poema La Brújula escribió:

Detrás del nombre hay lo que no se nombra / hoy he sentido gravitar su sombra/ en esta aguja azul, lúcida y leve.

Ambos artistas comparten similar sensación de que la creación es una búsqueda interminable que lleva a plasmar lo predestinado tan solo a sentirse. Así el poeta y el pintor comparten más que un sentimiento, curiosamente se revuelven dentro de los mismos laberintos, y crean los mismos minotauros.

Picasso comentó: “Si todos los caminos que he andado se marcaran en un mapa y se unieran con una línea, podrían representar un minotauro.” No en balde el minotauro es su alter ego y tozudamente aparece, una y otra vez, en sus cuadros. El laberinto de Borges no es menos obsesivo dentro de una obra que bien podría complementarse con la del pintor, ya que  Picasso es el más grandioso creador de minotauros de nuestro tiempo y Borges el mejor creador de laberintos de la historia de la literatura y así, el minotauro de uno es el laberinto del otro.

Siguiendo el hilo de nuestra particular Ariadna, vemos que nos lleva por mundos azules y rosas; mundos imaginarios donde se mezclan el azul del Viejo Guitarrista de Picasso con La rosa profunda de Borges y la inmensa tristeza del Viejo Ciego con niño con la del viejo maestro Paracelso al comprobar que su aprendiz no confiará si no le demuestra que primero puede quemar la rosa y luego devolverle la frescura. Se nos aparecen los Tigres azules, que para el argentino no son animales sino piedras mágicas capaces de saltar de una dimensión a otra, enlazados con saltimbanquis y payasos rosas que en la obra picassiana también representaran a su ejecutor.

Si el suicidio de su amigo Carlos Casagemas dejó a Picasso lleno de dolor y tristeza y lo zambulló en su época azul,  la muerte del padre de Borges y el posterior accidente que sufriera el escritor le descubren una extraordinaria capacidad para narraciones fantásticas que reflejará en El Sur o en Funes el Memorioso.

Los laberintos tienen algo de misteriosos y de inexplicables y el que hoy nos atañe no escapa al enigma. Este rasgo no es otro que la relación de nuestros autores con las mujeres: modelos o musas. A Borges se le ha tachado de misógino y a Picasso de voyeur. Llaman pues la atención estos adjetivos tan encontrados que nos exigen una mirada más cercana.

En el Museo Picasso de Barcelona tienen un dibujo cuya ficha técnica es la siguiente: Desnudo tendido con Picasso sentado a sus pies. Barcelona, 1901. Tinta y acuarela sobre papel, 17.6 x 32.2 cm. De ella deducimos que es pequeña y que Picasso la pintó con solo 20 años. Sin embargo lo relevante en la obra es que Picasso se incluye como modelo y no solo eso, el modelo Picasso siente la necesidad de tocar a la mujer modelo.

Esta comunión erótica de artista, modelo y espectador no le es ajena a Borges desmintiendo a aquellos que vieron en él a un misántropo, a la vez que lo acerca aún más al malagueño.

Por citar un solo ejemplo recordemos el comienzo del Aleph, en el que Borges – una vez más protagonista en sus relatos – recuerda el día en que murió Beatriz Viterbo y la llora: “muerta yo podía consagrarme a su memoria, sin esperanza, pero también sin humillación.”  Asimismo se convierte en espectador del objeto de deseo:

De nuevo aguardaría en el crepúsculo de la abarrotada salita, de nuevo estudiaría las circunstancias de sus muchos retratos. Beatriz Viterbo, de perfil, en colores; Beatriz, con antifaz, en los carnavales de 1921; la primera comunión de Beatriz; Beatriz, el día de su boda con Roberto Alessandri; Beatriz, poco después del divorcio, en un almuerzo del Club Hípico; Beatriz, en Quilmes, con Delia San Marco Porcel y Carlos Argentino; Beatriz, con el pekinés que le regaló Villegas Haedo; Beatriz, de frente y de tres cuartos, sonriendo, la mano en el mentón…

¿Porqué hablar entonces de Borges cuando celebramos a Picasso? Si aún no hemos encontrado suficientes razones, podríamos agregar que Borges trató a la escritura como Picasso a la pintura.

En Borges la ficción y el poema se confunden y se fusionan, ya que sus ensayos se aderezan con ficción y sus poemas con filosofía. El cubismo picassiano sintetiza y adelgaza las formas pero contiene asimismo un bagaje inconmesurable. Los libros de Borges forman una biblioteca creada por una imaginación estimulada  por otra biblioteca. Picasso dijo: “yo soy grande porque voy a lomos de un gran animal”. Se refería a todo un legado de artistas que le ayudaron a crear su propio mundo artístico.

Picasso fue un rebelde que nunca quiso romper con sus raíces. Eugeni d’Ors dijo de él acertadamente que era un hombre de oficio que buscaba la eternidad según una tradición.

Borges hizo lo propio con la literatura. Para el maestro escritor ya todo estaba escrito. No valía la pena leer nada nuevo – tan solo cabía releer. Si acaso todo lo que el artista podía  hacer era crear a sus precursores y de esa manera mágica saltar de una dimensión a otra como el Pierre Menard que re-escribió el Quijote o el Picasso que reencarnó al artista de Altamira, engrandeciéndolo si cabe.

Cuando a Borges le preguntaron cuál era su mayor ambición literaria contestó:

Escribir un libro, un capítulo, una página, un párrafo que sea todo para los hombres, que prescinda de mis aversiones, de mis preferencias, de mis costumbres, que no se alimente de mi odio, de mi tiempo, de mi ternura; que guarde (para mí como para todos) un ángulo cambiante de sombra; que corresponda de algún modo al pasado y aún al secreto porvenir; que el análisis no pueda agotar; que sea la rosa sin por qué, la platónica rosa intemporal del Viajero querubínico de Silesius.

Probablemente si a Picasso le hubieran preguntado por su cuadro ideal habría expresado un sentir muy similar. Lo que sí sabemos es que un día explicó “Yo no digo todo, más pinto todo.”  Con este mismo afán de inclusión total,

Borges pergeñó el Aleph, su punto sincrónico que todo lo contiene: el espacio y el tiempo y por supuesto también a Borges y a Picasso y a nosotros. En esta dimensión puntual y totalizadora que Borges supo contemplar en un sótano olvidado de una casona a punto de ser derribada, el arte y Borges y Picasso y nosotros estaremos siendo uno y todos  – o tal vez ninguno – en este preciso instante. Borges y Picasso fueron capaces de sintetizar en sus obras todo lo que ya existía y sin embargo sus genialidades innovadoras harán que su impronta permanezca indeleble para disfrute de todos aquellos que los frecuentamos.

Myriam M. Mercader


“Análisis de Metáforas” sobre Jorge Luis Borges.

Jorge Luis Borges

Este estudio – en inglés y parte de una tesis – es sobre el azaroso y rocambolesco devenir de un otrora inédito artículo de Jorge Luis Borges   “Exámenes de Metáforas”

y su entrelazamiento con la mecánica cuántica, como tanto en la obra 

del escritor argentino. 

Myriam M. Mercader

We could cite many examples of similarities between Borges’ work and Science or specifically Quantum Mechanics and Parallel Worlds Theory, though reality once more has overruled literature in the case I will immediately discuss below.

I have recently come across an old newspaper article in ABC Madrid Cultural, 25-09-92, where Eduardo García de Enterría in ‘Peregrinación de un Manuscrito’ explains why he decided to publish a then unedited article by Borges, ’Examen de metáforas.’  As I did not recall any data on the fact, I immediately decided to research on the matter. It is then and there that the many parallel universes of Borges’ started to appear or be created in the course of my research.

First, in the mentioned article in ‘Peregrinación de un Manuscrito,’ García de Enterría justifies the novelty of Borges’ essay on the metaphor studying two previous articles by Borges. The first (with the same name) had been pubished in Alfar, (1924) and then in Inquisiciones (1925, 65-73)); the second in Cosmópolis (1921) with the name ‘La Metáfora.’ After comparing them, Enterría comes to the conclusion they are substantially different from the manuscript he is publishing in ABC because the text in Cosmópolis was cited in Rodriguez Monegal’s Borges. Una biografía literaria (1987) as “predicando lo que sus nuevos poemas predicaban,” and: “en el texto que ahora se publica hay todo un párrafo explícitamente condenatorio a esa “secta contemporánea de versificadores” a que él pertenecía en 1921” (ABC, 15). Furthermore, Enterría explains that, when authorizing the recompilation of his completed works, Borges decided to keep his three first books of essays off print (Inquisiciones (1925), El Tamaño de mi Esperanza (1926) and El Idioma de los Argentinos, 1928) because he rejected most of what he had there written. Moreover, we read in ABC that: “cotejados uno y otro texto, carecen de cualquier relación directa y apenas un mismo número de los ejemplos de metáforas estudiados son los mismos” (15). Therefore, García de Enterría decides this lost manuscript was an enirely new essay with:” la fluidez, la gracia y la eficacia sorprendente de su prosa, la agudeza de sus análisis, todo lo que ha hecho su gloria literaria están aquí plenamente presente” (15).   

Second, in ‘Borges: “Examen de metáforas,” edición crítica y anotada’ (2005), Carlos García analyzes the same article in ABC and concludes that Enterría was wrong when he argued that it was a different version which nothing had to do with Inquisiciones. Contrarily, Carlos García states that its precursor (so to say) was a previous article which appeared in Cosmópolis (1921) with the title: ‘La Metáfora:’

A pesar de la identidad de títulos, que suscita o favorece la confusión, no es ese trabajo de Alfar / Inquisiciones, como quiere Enterría, la fuente del que se reproduce y comenta a continuación. El artículo en cuestión se remonta, como se verá, a «Apuntaciones críticas: La me-táfora» (Cosmópolis 35, Madrid, noviembre de 1921, 395-402; TR 114-120), al cual, sin embargo, corrige de manera decisiva. (200)

I find this last quotation very clarifying concerning García’s confusion, as we have quoted Enterría when he states than none of the articles had direct relation with the one he was then publishing in ABC.

Third, I found the article in Cosmópolis,‘ La Metáfora’ (which García connects with the one in ABC) published in Jorge Luis Borges Textos Recobrados 1919-1929, but with an annotation that Borges had written another two similar articles on the matter: the one in Inquisiciones, which both Enterría and García had mentioned and which was first published in Alfar in 1924 and another one, paradoxically entitled: ‘Otra vez la metáfora’ (a new one this time) which appeared in the third excluded book by Borges: El Idioma de los Argentinos, in 1928.

Finally, I should add here that Carlos García, though confused on Enterría’s belief, has very thoroughly come to the conclusion the manuscript had been written by Borges at the end of 1923:

El manuscrito representa, pues, un estadio intermedio, surgido entre octubre de 1923 y marzo de 1924 (me inclino por fines de 1923); es decir, fue redactado entre Ginebra y Madrid, seguramente con intención de publicarlo en la Península (200)

After some confusing couple of hours going back and forth in all the above mentioned books (as well as in various other related articles), I realized I was confronting the creation of parallel worlds in Borges, where different versions of the article about the metaphor were instantly appearing. Up to the moment, not three versions (as all of the critics mentioned above had come to sum up, though each of them considering different series) but four, namely, the first in Cosmópolis (1921), the second written in the late 1923, as concluded García and published in ABC in 2005, the third in Allfar, in 1924 and published in Inquisiciones in 1925, and the fourth in El Idioma de los Argentinos in 1928. I was tempted to find a copy of the latter, which I did not have at hand, and continue the research, but I decided not to. I left the research, confident that if I continued more articles of the sort would appear or would be created on my way. Instead, it was more interesting to include all the output of the previous hours of research in this dissertation as an example of what it is being argued about the parallelism of Borges’ work and Quantum Mechanics.