“Reality is not always probable, or likely” (Borges), this quote from Jorge Luis Borges, a perfect example of what makes Collected Fictions mysterious and entertaining to read. His readings are not superficial, and must be taken by critical thought and completely different modes of thinking. Borges’ stories use many techniques to express his messages. In select fictions, the idea of geometry, which is simple and exact, is used to convey themes of infinity and perceiving reality, which are hardly exact at all.
Whether Borges uses hexagons to explain a concept of infinity and God, or rhombi and labyrinths to prove an order to chaos, these fictions let the reader explore his perplexing and ambiguous philosophy through ideas of spatial imagery. The story Death and the Compass deals with spatial imagery in two ways, one being with geometric rhombi, and the other is the reader’s idea of labyrinths. A rhombus is used in this story to specifically draw the main character strait to the criminal.
Borges mentions the rhombus for the purpose of simplifying the story into something that makes sense; the crimes of the story fit into a perfect, known shape. “I knew you would add the missing point, the point that makes a perfect rhombus, the point that fixes the place where a precise death awaits you” (p. 156). The end of the story proves that the simple idea is not that simple at all, it all represents how this logical order of crimes brings the protagonist to a chaotic sense of himself because of the elaborate scheme that brings him to his own demise, which becomes part of the order.
The other way Death and the Compass deals with spatial imagery is the way Borges lets the reader picture what a labyrinth should look like. Labyrinths are a recurring theme in a lot of Borges’ works, but in this particular story the villain sets up a labyrinth inside the main character’s head to set him up. “”The next time I kill you,” Scharlach replied, “I promise you the labyrinth that consists of a single straight line that is invisible and endless”” (p. 56). This I see as spatial imagery because the reader has to decide what kind of labyrinth the protagonist is caught in, the picture is unclear. This quote suggests that there are many realities, and Borges may mean that every individual is caught in a labyrinth of perception that they cannot escape from. What one may seem as a truth may not be even close to what is real. Borges does not just use this concept in Death and the Compass, but in many of his works.
The Library of Babel is another piece of well-constructed art using visual metaphors bound with ideas of infinity, God, and unachievable realities. To describe the universe, Borges sets a picture of hexagons attached to more hexagons that make up a library and that continue forever. “I declare that the Library is endless. Idealists argue that the hexagonal rooms are the necessary shape of absolute space, or at least of our perception of space” (p. 112-113). This quote suggests that Borges believes the universe is infinite, but in a very concrete way.
He uses a very unique technique in allowing an unimaginable theme of infinity is described in the very real idea or a hexagon, a finite thing. A hexagon is only a hexagon if it follows certain rules, but infinity has no rules. The hexagons are the order of the universe; it is not just open space, which means there must be a builder of the hexagons. So does this mean Borges believes in a creator, or God in his own philosophy? “Mystics claim that their ecstasies reveal to them a circular chamber containing an enormous circular book with a continuous spine that goes completely around the walls.
But their testimony is suspect, their words obscure. That cyclical book is God. ” (p. 113) In this quote, Borges reinforces the idea of a creator as God. It seems that this creator is the master book in the giant library of books that holds everything in. The books that are held in the hexagons of life also point to an interesting idea, “the Library is “total”-perfect, complete, and whole- and that its bookshelves contain all possible combinations of twenty-two orthographic symbols” (p. 15), Borges mentions these books because although every combination possible is presented, even if unconceivable to human thought, is still only a finite number. This is an absolute contradiction of the idea of infinite hexagons with books in them. Still another problem arisen by this quotation is that there seems to be no evidence of a creator if every single book in the library is of all possibilities, but these messages expressed in these books have to be endless.
Man searching for his purpose in the universe, then is meaningless, and this argument is all because of spatial imagery Borges uses with hexagons. Borges is a mastermind at manipulating the reader’s thoughts into traveling in many directions on the roller coaster of imagination. In Death and the Compass the story leads the reader in a logical direction with spatial imagery and explains alternate reality through labyrinths, and hexagons represent the idea of an infinite universe with the ambiguous existence of a creator in Library of Babel.
The technique of spatial imagery can be endless and the messages that are found can be argued and lead to more questions than answers, but the next time I write this essay, all the answers will be revealed to you.