jorge luis borges Quotes

Jorge Luis Borges Quotes

Birth Date: 1899-08-24 (Thursday, August 24th, 1899)
Date of Death: 1986-06-14 (Saturday, June 14th, 1986)

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    • If the pages of this book contain some successful verse, the reader must excuse me the discourtesy of having usurped it first. Our nothingness differs little; it is a trivial and chance circumstance that you should be the reader of these exercises and I their author.
    • Gibbon observes that in the Arabian book par excellence, in the Koran, there are no camels; I believe if there were any doubt as to the authenticity of the Koran, this absence of camels would be sufficient to prove it is an Arabian work.
    • Wilde was not a great poet nor a consummate prose writer. He was a very astute Irishman who encompassed in epigrams an esthetic credo which others before him scattered in the space of long pages. He was an enfant terrible.
    • That one individual should awaken in another memories that belong to still a third is an obvious paradox.
    • It is worth remembering that every writer begins with a naively physical notion of what art is. A book for him or her is not an expression or a series of expressions, but literally a volume, a prism with six rectangular sides made of thin sheets of papers which should include a cover, an inside cover, an epigraph in italics, a preface, nine or ten parts with some verses at the beginning, a table of contents, an ex libris with an hourglass and a Latin phrase, a brief list of errata, some blank pages, a colophon and a publication notice: objects that are known to constitute the art of writing.
    • Reading ... is an activity subsequent to writing: more resigned, more civil, more intellectual.
    • Mir Bahadur Ali is, as we have seen, incapable of evading the most vulgar of art's temptations: that of being a genius.
    • Your unforgivable sins do not allow you to see my splendor.
    • The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings.
    • Que el cielo exista, aunque mi lugar sea el infierno.
    • May Heaven exist, even if our place is Hell.
    • El original es infiel a la traduccion.
    • I saw the delicate bone structure of a hand; I saw the survivors of a battle sending out post cards. . . I saw the oblique shadow of some ferns on the floor of a hot-house; I saw tigers, emboli, bison, ground swells and armies; I saw all the ants in the world.
    • Dictatorships foster oppression, dictatorships foster servitude, dictatorships foster cruelty; more abominable is the fact that they foster idiocy.
    • There are no moral or intellectual merits. Homer composed the Odyssey; if we postulate an infinite period of time, with infinite circumstances and changes, the impossible thing is not to compose the Odyssey, at least once.
    • No one is anyone, one single immortal man is all men. Like Cornelius Agrippa, I am god, I am hero, I am philosopher, I am demon and I am world, which is a tedious way of saying that I do not exist.
    • Besides, time, which despoils castles, enriches verses . . . Time broadens the scope of verses and I know of some which, like music, are everything for all men.
    • To die for a religion is easier than to live it absolutely.
    • Villari took no notice of them because the idea of a coincidence between art and reality was alien to him. Unlike people who read novels, he never saw himself as a character in a work of art.
    • Years of solitude had taught him that, in one's memory, all days tend to be the same, but that there is not a day, not even in jail or in the hospital, which does not bring surprises, which is not a translucent network of minimal surprises.
    • Every novel is an ideal plane inserted into the realm of reality.
    • The heresies we should fear are those which can be confused with orthodoxy.
    • Like all those possessing a library, Aurelian was aware that he was guilty of not knowing his in its entirety.
    • Do you want to see what human eyes have never seen? Look at the moon. Do you want to hear what ears have never heard? Listen to the bird's cry. Do you want to touch what hands have never touched? Touch the earth. Verily I say that God is about to create the world.
    • Arrasado el jardin, profanados los calices y las aras, entraron a caballo los hunos en la biblioteca monastica y rompieron los libros incomprensibles y los vituperaron y los quemaron, acaso temerosos de que las letras encubrieran blasfemias contra su dios, que era una cimitarra de hierro.
    • Writing is nothing more than a guided dream.
    • My advanced age has taught me the resignation of being Borges.
    • Being with you and not being with you is the only way I have to measure time.
    • El hecho ocurrio en el mes de febrero de 1969, al norte de Boston, en Cambridge. No lo escribi inmediatamente porque mi primer proposito fue olvidarlo, para no perder la razon.
    • Truly fine poetry must be read aloud. A good poem does not allow itself to be read in a low voice or silently. If we can read it silently, it is not a valid poem: a poem demands pronunciation. Poetry always remembers that it was an oral art before it was a written art. It remembers that it was first song.
    • Films are even stranger, for what we are seeing are not disguised people but photographs of disguised people, and yet we believe them while the film is being shown.
    • The fact is that poetry is not the books in the library . . . Poetry is the encounter of the reader with the book, the discovery of the book.
    • The aesthetic event is something as evident, as immediate, as indefinable as love, the taste of fruit, of water. We feel poetry as we feel the closeness of a woman, or as we feel a mountain or a bay. If we feel it immediately, why dilute it with other words, which no doubt will be weaker than our feelings?
    • There are people who barely feel poetry, and they are generally dedicated to teaching it.
    • As I think of the many myths, there is one that is very harmful, and that is the myth of countries. I mean, why should I think of myself as being an Argentine, and not a Chilean, and not an Uruguayan. I don't know really. All of those myths that we impose on ourselves - and they make for hatred, for war, for enmity - are very harmful. Well, I suppose in the long run, governments and countries will die out and we'll be just, well, cosmopolitans.
    • The Falklands thing was a fight between two bald men over a comb.
    • A writer - and, I believe, generally all persons - must think that whatever happens to him or her is a resource. All things have been given to us for a purpose, and an artist must feel this more intensely. All that happens to us, including our humiliations, our misfortunes, our embarrassments, all is given to us as raw material, as clay, so that we may shape our art.
    • Life itself is a quotation.
    • Reality is not always probable, or likely. But if you're writing a story, you have to make it as plausible as you can, because if not, the reader's imagination will reject it.
    • Life and death have been lacking in my life.
    • Imprecision is tolerable and verisimilar in literature, because we always tend towards it in life.
    • The exercise of letters is sometimes linked to the ambition to contruct an absolute book, a book of books that includes the others like a Platonic archetype, an object whose virtues are not diminished by the passage of time.
    • Art always opts for the individual, the concrete; art is not Platonic.
    • It is known that Whistler when asked how long it took him to paint one of his 'nocturnes' answered: 'All of my life.' With the same rigor he could have said that all of the centuries that preceded the moment when he painted were necessary. From that correct application of the law of causality it follows that the slightest event presupposes the inconceivable universe and, conversely, that the universe needs even the slightest of events.
    • We (the indivisible divinity that works in us) have dreamed the world. We have dreamed it resistant, mysterious, visible, ubiquitous in space and firm in time, but we have allowed slight, and eternal, bits of the irrational to form part of its architecture so as to know that it is false.
    • Hay un concepto que es el corruptor y el desatinador de los otros. No hablo del mal cuyo limitado imperio es la etica; hablo del infinito.
    • He transforms all concepts into incommunicable, solidified objects. To refute him is to become contaminated with unreality.
    • It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordinations, one of them - at least in an infinitesimal way - does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others.
    • The central problem of novel-writing is causality.
    • The possibilities of the art of combination are not infinite, but they tend to be frightful. The Greeks engendered the chimera, a monster with heads of the lion, the dragon and the goat; the theologians of the second century, the Trinity, in which the Father, the Son and the Holy Ghost are inextricably tied; the Chinese zoologists, the ti-yiang, a vermilion supernatural bird, endowed with six feet and four wings, but without a face or eyes; the geometers of the nineteenth century, the hypercube, a figure with four dimensions, which encloses an infinite number of cubes and has as its faces eight cubes and twenty-four squares. Hollywood has just enriched this vain museum of horrors: by means of an artistic malignity called dubbing, it proposes monsters that combine the illustrious features of Greta Garbo with the voice of Aldonza Lorenzo.
    • I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia.
    • One of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had stated that mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man.
    • Para uno de esos gnosticos, el visible universo era una ilusion o (mas precisamente) un sofisma. Los espejos y la paternidad son abominables porque lo multiplican y lo divulgan.
    • In life, he suffered from a sense of unreality, as do many Englishmen.
    • Who are the inventors of Tlon? The plural is inevitable, because the hypothesis of a lone inventor - an infinite Leibniz laboring away darkly and modestly - has been unanimously discounted. It is conjectured that this brave new world is the work of a secret society of astronomers, biologists, engineers, metaphysicians, poets, chemists, algebraists, moralists, painters, geometers... directed by an obscure man of genius. Individuals mastering these diverse disciplines are abundant, but not so those capable of inventiveness and less so those capable of subordinating that inventiveness to a rigorous and systematic plan. This plan is so vast that each writer's contribution is infinitesimal. At first it was believed that Tlon was a mere chaos, and irresponsible license of the imagination; now it is known that it is a cosmos and that the intimate laws which govern it have been formulated, at least provisionally. Let it suffice for me to recall that the apparent contradictions of the Eleventh Volume are the fundamental basis for the proof that the other volumes exist, so lucid and exact is the order observed in it.
    • Hume noted for all time that Berkeley's arguments did not admit the slightest refutation nor did they cause the slightest conviction. This dictum is entirely correct in its application to the earth, but entirely false in Tlon. The nations of this planet are congenitally idealist. Their language and the derivations of their language - religion, letters, metaphysics - all presuppose idealism. The world for them is not a concourse of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts. It is successive and temporal, not spatial.
    • This felicitous supposition declared that there is only one Individual, and that this indivisible Individual is every one of the separate beings in the universe, and that these beings are the instruments and masks of divinity itself.
    • The geometry of Tlon comprises two somewhat different disciplines: the visual and the tactile. The latter corresponds to our own geometry and is subordinated to the first.
    • It is no exaggeration to state that the classic culture of Tlon comprises only one discipline: psychology. All others are subordinated to it. I have said that the men of this planet conceive the universe as a series of mental processes which do not develop in space but successively in time.
    • The metaphysicians of Tlon do not seek for the truth or even for verisimilitude, but rather for the astounding. They judge that metaphysics is a branch of fantastic literature. They know that a system is nothing more than the subordination of all aspects of the universe to any one such aspect. Even the phrase 'all aspects' is rejectable, for it supposes the impossible addition of the present and of all past moments.
    • One of the schools of Tlon goes so far as to negate time; it reasons that the present is indefinite, that the future has no reality other than as a present hope, that the past has no reality other than as a present memory. Another school declares that all time has already transpired and that our life is only the crepuscular and no doubt falsified an mutilated memory or reflection of an irrecoverable process. Another, that the history of the universe - and in it our lives and the most tenuous detail of our lives - is the scripture produced by a subordinate god in order to communicate with a demon. Another, that the universe is comparable to those cryptographs in which not all the symbols are valid and that only what happens every three hundred nights is true. Another, that while we sleep here, we are awake elsewhere and that in this way every man is two men.
    • Nowadays, one of the churches of Tlon maintains platonically that such and such a pain, such and such a greenish-yellow colour, such and such a temperature, such and such a sound, etc., make up the only reality there is. All men, in the climactic instant of coitus, are the same man. All men who repeat one line of Shakespeare are William Shakespeare.
    • Writing long books is a laborious and impoverishing act of foolishness: expanding in five hundred pages an idea that could be perfectly explained in a few minutes. A better procedure is to pretend that those books already exist and to offer a summary, a commentary.
    • My undertaking is not difficult, essentially... I should only have to be immortal to carry it out.
    • There is no exercise of the intellect which is not, in the final analysis, useless. A philosophical doctrine begins as a plausible description of the universe; with the passage of the years it becomes a mere chapter - if not a paragraph or a name - in the history of philosophy.
    • Every man should be capable of all ideas and I understand that in the future this will be the case.
    • It seemed incredible to me that day without premonitions or symbols should be the one of my inexorable death.
    • I reflected that everything happens to a man precisely, precisely now. Centuries of centuries and only in the present do things happen; countless men in the air, on the face of the earth and the sea, and all that really is happening is happening to me . . .
    • I foresee that man will resign himself each day to more atrocious undertakings; soon there will be no one but warriors and brigands; I give them this counsel: The author of an atrocious undertaking ought to imagine that he has already accomplished it, ought to impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past.
    • I thought of a labyrinth of labyrinths, of one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars.
    • I thought that a man can be an enemy of other men, of the moments of other men, but not of a country: not of fireflies, words, gardens, streams of water, sunsets.
    • A labyrinth of symbols... An invisible labyrinth of time.
    • Ts'ui Pe must have said once: I am withdrawing to write a book. And another time: I am withdrawing to construct a labyrinth. Every one imagined two works; to no one did it occur that the book and the maze were one and the same thing.
    • I leave to the various futures (not to all) my garden of forking paths.
    • In the work of Ts'ui Pen, all possible outcomes occur; each one is the point of departure for other forkings. Sometimes, the paths of this labyrinth converge: for example, you arrive at this house, but in one of the possible pasts you are my enemy, in another, my friend.
    • Thus fought the heroes, tranquil their admirable hearts, violent their swords, resigned to kill and to die.
    • In a riddle whose answer is chess, what is the only prohibited word?
    • The Garden of Forking Paths is an incomplete, but not false, image of the universe as Ts'ui Pen conceived it. In contrast to Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not believe in a uniform, absolute time. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times. This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time. We do not exist in the majority of these times; in some you exist, and not I; in others I, and not you; in others, both of us.
    • Time forks perpetually toward innumerable futures. In one of them I am your enemy.
    • The truth is that we live out our lives putting off all that can be put off; perhaps we all know deep down that we are immortal and that sooner or later all men will do and know all things.
    • That history should have imitated history was already sufficiently marvellous; that history should imitate literature is inconceivable....
    • What one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men. For that reason a disobedience committed in a garden contaminates the human race; for that reason it is not unjust that the crucifixion of a single Jew suffices to save it.
    • 'It's possible, but not interesting,' Lonnrot answered. 'You will reply that reality hasn't the slightest need to be of interest. And I'll answer you that reality may avoid the obligation to be interesting, but that hypotheses may not. In the hypothesis you have postulated, chance intervenes largely. Here lies a dead rabbi; I should prefer a purely rabbinical explanation; not the imaginary mischances of an imaginary robber.'
    • 'Maybe this crime belongs to the history of Jewish superstitions,' murmmured Lonnrot. 'Like Christianity,' the editor put in.
    • The execution was set for the 29th of March, at nine in the morning. This delay was due to a desire on the part of the authorities to act slowly and impersonally, in the manner of planets or vegetables.
    • Like every writer, he measured the virtues of other writers by their performance, and asked that they measure him by what he conjectured or planned.
    • The time for your labor has been granted.
    • Toward dawn, he dreamed that he was in hiding, in one of the naves of the Clementine Library. What are you looking for? a librarian wearing dark glasses asked him. I'm looking for God, Hladik replied. God, the librarian said, is in one of the letters on one of the pages of one of the four hundred thousand volumes in the Clementine. My parents and my parents' parents searched for that letter; I myself have gone blind searching for it.
    • In adultery, there is usually tenderness and self-sacrifice; in murder, courage; in profanation and blasphemy, a certain satanic splendour. Judas elected those offences unvisited by any virtues: abuse of confidence and informing.
    • On the floor, and hanging on to the bar, squatted an old man, immobile as an object. His years had reduced and polished him as water does a stone or the generations of men do a sentence. He was dark, dried up , diminutive, and seemed outside time, situated in eternity.
    • If Dahlmann was without hope, he was also without fear. As he crossed the threshold, he felt that to die in a knife fight, under the open sky, and going forward to the attack, would have been a liberation, a joy, and a festive occasion, on the first night in the sanitarium, when they stuck him with the needle. He felt that if he had been able to choose, then, or to dream his death, this would have been the death he would have chosen or dreamt. Firmly clutching his knife, which he perhaps would not know how to wield, Dahlmann went out into the plain.
    • And yet, and yet : Negar la sucesion temporal, negar el yo, negar el universo astronomico, son desesperaciones aparentes y consuelos secretos. Nuestro destino no es espantoso por irreal: es espantoso porque es irreversible y de hierro. El tiempo es la sustancia de que estoy hecho. El tiempo es un rio que me arrebata, pero yo soy el rio; es un tigre que me destroza, pero yo soy el tigre; es un fuego que me consume, pero yo soy el fuego. El mundo desgraciadamente es real; yo, desgraciadamente, soy Borges.
    • I cannot walk through the suburbs in the solitude of the night without thinking that the night pleases us because it suppresses idle details, just as our memory does.
    • Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon.
    • Universal history is the history of a few metaphors.
    • In the course of a life devoted less to living than to reading, I have verified many times that literary intentions and theories are nothing more than stimuli and that the final work usually ignores or even contradicts them.
    • 'Wakefield' prefigures Franz Kafka, but the latter modifies, and sharpens, the reading of 'Wakefield.' The debt is mutual; a great writer creates his or her precursors. He or she creates them and in some fashion justifies them.
    • In the critic's vocabulary, the word 'precursor' is indispensable, but it should be cleansed of all connotations of polemic or rivalry. The fact is that every writer creates his own precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.
    • A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory. A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships.
    • Literature is not exhaustible, for the sufficient and simple reason that a single book is not. A book is not an isolated entity: it is a narration, an axis of innumerable narrations. One literature differs from another, either before or after it, not so much because of the text as for the manner in which it is read.
    • The future is inevitable and precise, but it may not occur. God lurks in the gaps.
    • To fall in love is to create a religion that has a fallible god.
    • In the order of literature, as in others, there is no act that is not the coronation of an infinite series of causes and the source of an infinite series of effects.
    • Coleridge observes that all men are born Aristotelians or Platonists. The latter feel that classes, orders, and genres are realities; the former, that they are generalizations. For the latter, language is nothing but an approximative set of symbols; for the former, it is the map of the universe. The Platonist knows that the universe is somehow a cosmos, an order; that order, for the Aristotelian, can be an error or a fiction of our partial knowledge. Across the latitudes and the epochs, the two immortal antagonists change their name and language: one is Parmenides, Plato, Spinoza, Kant, Francis Bradley; the other, Heraclitus, Aristotle, Locke, Hume, William James.
    • These ambiguities, redundances, and deficiences recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. On those remote pages it is written that animals are divided into (a) those that belong to the Emperor, (b) embalmed ones, (c) those that are trained, (d) suckling pigs, (e) mermaids, (f) fabulous ones, (g) stray dogs, (h) those that are included in this classification, (i) those that tremble as if they were mad, (j) innumerable ones, (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's hair brush, (l) others, (m) those that have just broken a flower vase, (n) those that resemble flies from a distance.
    • It is clear that there is no classification of the Universe that is not arbitrary and full of conjectures. The reason for this is very simple: we do not know what kind of thing the universe is.
    • Cabe ir mas lejos; cabe sospechar que no hay universo en el sentido organico, unificador, que tiene esa ambiciosa palabra. Si lo hay, falta conjeturar su proposito; falta conjeturar las palabras, las definiciones, las etimologias, las sinonimias, del secreto diccionario de Dios.
    • The impossibility of penetrating the divine pattern of the universe cannot stop us from planning human patterns, even though we are concious they are not definitive. The analytic language of Wilkins is not the least admirable of such patterns.
    • On September 20, 1792, Johann Wolfgang von Goethe (who had accompanied the Duke of Weimar on a military expedition to Paris) saw the finest army of Europe inexplicably repulsed at Valmy by some French militiamen, and said to his disconcerted friends: 'In this place and on this day, a new epoch in the history of the world is beginning, and we shall be able to say that we have been present at its origin.' Since that time historic days have been numerous, and one of the tasks of governments (especially in Italy, Germany, and Russia) has been to fabricate them or to simulate them with an abundance of preconditioning propaganda followed by relentless publicity.
    • I have suspected that history, real history, is more modest and that its essential dates may be, for a long time, secret. A Chinese prose writer has observed that the unicorn, because of its own anomaly, will pass unnoticed. Our eyes see what they are accustomed to seeing. Tacitus did not perceive the Crucifixion, although his book recorded it.
    • There is a flavor that our time (perhaps surfeited by the clumsy imitations of professional patriots) does not usually perceive without some suspicion: the fundamental flavor of the heroic.
    • Only one thing is more admirable than the admirable reply of the Saxon king: that an Icelander, a man of the lineage of the vanquished, has perpetuated the reply. It is as if a Carthaginian had bequeathed to us the memory of the exploit of Regulus. Saxo Grammaticus wrote with justification in his Gesta Danorum: 'The men of Thule [Iceland] are very fond of learning and of recording the history of all peoples and they are equally pleased to reveal the excellences of others or of themselves.' Not the day when the Saxon said the words, but the day when an enemy perpetuated them, was the historic date. A date that is a prophecy of something still in the future: the day when races and nations will be cast into oblivion, and the solidarity of all mankind will be established.
    • Myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.
    • I have always imagined that Paradise will be a kind of library.
    • The flattery of posterity is not worth much more than contemporary flattery, which is worth nothing.
    • A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.
    • This was the first time Remington rifles were used in the Argentine, and it tickles my fancy to think that the firm that shaves me every morning bears the same name as the one that killed my grandfather.
    • Of course, like all young men, I tried to be as unhappy as I could - a kind of Hamlet and Raskolnikov rolled into one.
    • I found America the friendliest, most forgiving, and most generous nation I had ever visited. We South Americans tend to think of things in terms of convenience, whereas people in the United States approach things ethically. This - amateur Protestant that I am - I admired above all. It even helped me overlook skyscrapers, paper bags, television, plastics, and the unholy jungle of gadgets.
    • Any time something is written against me, I not only share the sentiment but feel I could do the job far better myself. Perhaps I should advise would-be enemies to send me their grievances beforehand, with full assurance that they will receive my every aid and support. I have even secretly longed to write, under a pen name, a merciless tirade against myself.
    • ?De que otra forma se puede amenazar que no sea de muerte? Lo interesante, lo original, seria que alguien lo amenace a uno con la inmortalidad.
    • El futbol es popular porque la estupidez es popular.
    • En mi juventud probe la mescalina y la cocaina pero enseguida me pase a los pastillas de menta que me parecieron mas estimulantes. Si las drogas producen el mismo efecto que el alcohol, no me interesan. Un borracho es evidentemente ridiculo. He estado borracho algunas veces y lo recuerdo como una experiencia muy desagradable para los demas y para mi.
    • El infierno y el paraiso me parecen desproporcionados. Los actos de los hombres no merecen tanto.
    • Hay que tener cuidado al elegir a los enemigos porque uno termina pareciendose a ellos.
    • He cometido el peor pecado que uno puede cometer. No he sido feliz.
    • He sospechado alguna vez que la unica cosa sin misterio es la felicidad, porque se justifica por si sola.
    • La duda es uno de los nombres de la inteligencia.
    • Que cada hombre construya su propia catedral. ?Para que vivir de obras de arte ajenas y antiguas?
    • Que otros se jacten de las paginas que han escrito; a mi me enorgullecen las que he leido.
    • Solo aquello que se ha ido es lo que nos pertenece.
    • Uno esta enamorado cuando se da cuenta de que otra persona es unica.
    • Yo no hablo de venganzas ni perdones, el olvido es la unica venganza y el unico perdon.
    • Any life, no matter how long and complex it may be, is made up of a single moment - the moment in which a man finds out, once and for all, who he is.
    • I think I understood love better when I had no love.
    • Death (or its allusion) makes men precious and pathetic. They are moving because of their phantom condition; every act they execute may be their last; there is not a face that is not on the verge of dissolving like a face in a dream.
    • Democracy is an abuse of statistics.
    • I am not sure that I exist, actually. I am all the writers that I have read, all the people that I have met, all the women that I have loved; all the cities that I have visited, all my ancestors . . . Perhaps I would have liked to be my father, who wrote and had the decency of not publishing. Nothing, nothing, my friend; what I have told you: I am not sure of anything, I know nothing. . . Can you imagine that I not even know the date of my death?
    • I have known uncertainty: a state unknown to the Greeks.
    • Not granting me the Nobel Prize has become a scandinavian tradition; since I was born - August 24, 1899 - they have not been granting it to me.
    • Nothing is built on stone; all is built on sand, but we must build as if the sand were stone.
    • The image of the Lord had been replaced by a mirror.
    • Through the years, a man peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, tools, stars, horses and people. Shortly before his death, he discovers that the patient labyrinth of lines traces the image of his own face.
    • To be immortal is commonplace; except for man, all creatures are immortal, for they are ignorant of death; what is divine, terrible, incomprehensible, is to know that one is immortal. (1962)
    • 'The earth we inhabit is an error, an incompetent parody. Mirrors and paternity are abominable because they multiply and affirm it.' - (dogma of a fictional religion in 'Hakim, the masked dyer of Merv'. Part of this quote is also attributed to a heresiarch of Uqbar in 'Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius'.)
    • 'The central fact of my life has been the existence of words and the possibility of weaving those words into poetry.'
    • 'I do not write for a select minority, which means nothing to me, nor for that adulated platonic entity known as 'The Masses'. Both abstractions, so dear to the demagogue, I disbelieve in. I write for myself and for my friends, and I write to ease the passing of time.' - Introduction to The Book of Sand
    • 'I have always imagined that paradise will be a kind of library.'
    • Extremes of fantastic hope and skepticism paradoxically coexist in Borges' thought. In 'Pascal's Sphere' he examines an image which is not only paradoxical in itself - the universe as an infinite sphere, in other words, a boundless form perfectly circumscribed - but which has also served to express diametrically opposite emotions: Bruno's elation and Pascal's anguish. But the other basic symmetry to note here is Borges' history of the metaphor. Not only paradoxes are found throughout this collection, but also various listings of ideas or themes or images which though diverse in origin and detail are essentially the same. In 'The Flower of Coleridge' the coincidence of Valery's, Emerson's, and Shelley's conceptions of all literature as the product of one Author seems itself to bear out that conception. At the beginning of the essay on Hawthorne, Borges again briefly traces the history of a metaphor - the likening of our dreams to a theatrical performance - and adds that true metaphors cannot be invented, since they have always existed. Such 'avatars' point beyond the flux and diversity of history to a realm of eternal archetypes, which, though limited in number, 'can be all things for all people, like the Apostle.' While the paradox upsets our common notions of reality and suggests that irreducible elements are actually one, recurrence negates history and the separateness of individuals. Of course, this too is a paradox, as 'New Refutation of Time' shows: time must exist in order to provide the successive identities with which it is to be 'refuted.' The two symmetries noted above, if we pursue their implications far enough, finally coalesce, with something of the same dizzying sense, so frequent in Borges' stories, of infinite permutations lurking at every turn. Both are uses of what he calls a pantheist extension of the principle of identity - God is all things: a suitably heterogeneous selection of these may allude to Totality - which has, as he notes in the essay on Whitman, unlimited rhetorical possibilities.
    • jorge luis borges

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