Magical Realism, Writing, Fiction, Politics, Haiku, Books

domingo, marzo 01, 2009

The Disk

Jorge Luis Borges (photo by Diane Arbus)

Some of Jorge Luis Borges's stories seem to be mined from that deep dream filled gap between being awake and being asleep. It's a magical space: vivid events occur that are at once as real as they are impossible. If the sleeper wakes, sometimes the impossibilities are revealed. And then there's wondering: how could anything that defies physical reality appear to be so real.

In "The Disk," a story from The Book of Sand (El Libro de Arena)(1975), the impossible object is the "disk of Odin":
"It is the disk of Odin," the old man said in a patient voice, as though he were speaking to a child. "It has but one side. There is not another thing on earh that has but one side. So long as I hold it in my hand I shall be king."

Ordinarily, objects are in three dimensions. Here one appears that has only a single side. Of course, it would be more or less invisible. And physically impossible on earth.

This, of course, is not entirely correct. The Moebius strip, discovered in 1858, has only one side and one boundary component. But that's not important to the story.

The person with the disk eventually "opened his hand, and [the narrator] saw the gleam of the disk in the air." But when he returned to where the disk was released, he couldn't find it. And he's been looking for it for years. In other words, the disk of Odin vanishes like a dream.

It's so reminiscent of the Lankavatara Sutra, "Things are not as they appear, nor are they otherwise."

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