Download Borges and Plato: A Game with Shifting Mirrors. by Shlomy Mualem PDF

By Shlomy Mualem

This comparative method exhibits how the Platonic perspective sheds new gentle on Borges' essayistic and fictional paintings. Analyses to which volume his notion is deeply rooted in classical philosophical doctrines.

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Sample text

A good example of the Borgesian intellectual poetry can be seen in the poem “Beppo”, taken from The Cipher (1981). Note how the verbal music is delicately interwoven with the highly abstract Platonic discussion of the ontological essence of reflectivity: The celibate white cat surveys himself In the mirror’s clear-eyed glass, Not suspecting that the whiteness facing him And those gold eyes that he’s not seen before In ramblings through the house are his own likeness. Who is to tell him the cat observing him Is only the mirror’s way of dreaming?

41 “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim” thus manifests the literary pattern of Borges’ fictional essay, and, in general, of his short stories. Its title is alleged to belong to a novel written by the fictitious Bombay attorney, Mir Bahadur Ali. Following a few introductory remarks on the publication and the acceptance of the novel, Borges offers a synopsis of the nonexistent plot in line with his aforementioned view that instead of writing vast books, it is better to pretend that they already exist and offer a commentary on them: The plot itself is this: a man (the unbelieving, fleeing law student we have met) falls among people of the lowest, vile sort and accommodates himself to them, in a kind of contest of iniquity.

We know it so well that we cannot define it in other words… (Craft 17-18) In accordance with Saint Augustine’s paradoxical remark about the nature of time, Borges assumes that it is possible to know what poetry is as long as we do not attempt to define it abstractly. According to this viewpoint, abstract reasoning that aims at theoretical definitions obstructs genuine knowledge. Elsewhere, in a similar discussion with Roberto Alifano regarding the inability to abstractly define poetry, Borges mentions Plato as a thinker who provides an alternative path to the quest for abstract definition (it is possible that he distinguishes here between Plato the narrator and the claims expressed in his dialogues by Socrates): It seems to me that the only possible definition [of poetry] would be Plato’s, precisely because it is not a definition, but a poetic act.

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