Monday, October 27, 2008


I've read Borges stories from here and there on and off since high school. But I'd never read Dreamtigers before -- it is very different than reading his short stories. It is a mix of very short (single page) stories and poems. There is something so direct and personal about it, it made me feel like I knew Borges personally. It can be hard to say something deep and powerful on a single page -- but Borges manages it by having some of the same themes (libraries, mirrors, mortality, the illusion of reality) show up again and again throughout the book. I almost feel like it is the key to understanding his other works -- I plan to return to it again and again.

In case you are curious, here is the title story in full.
In my childhood, I was a fervent worshiper of the tiger: not the jaguar, the spotted "tiger" of the Amazonian tangles and the isles of vegetation that float down the Parana, but that striped, Asiatic, royal tiger, that can be faced only by a man of war, on a castle atop an elephant. I used to linger endlessly before one of the cages at the zoo; I judged vast encyclopedias and books of natural history by the splendor of their tigers. (I still remember those illustrations: I who cannot rightly recall the brow or the smile of a woman.) Childhood passed away, and the tigers and my passion for them grew old, but still they are in my dreams. At that submerged or chaotic level they keep prevailing. And so, as I sleep, some dream beguiles me, and suddenly I know I am dreaming. Then I think: This is a dream, a pure diversion of my will; and now that I have unlimited power, I am going to cause a tiger.
Oh, incompetence! Never can my dreams engender the wild beast I long for. The tiger indeed appears, but stuffed or flimsy, or with impure variations of shape, or of an implausible size, or all too fleeting, or with a touch of the dog or the bird.

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