“Aleph”

This week’s published piece is by Jorge Luis Borges.  Borges was an Argentine writer who became one of the most prominent Spanish language writers of the 20th century.  He was also a poet, a political activist, a prolific translator, and an occasional hoax artist.  It is considered a grave oversight that he never won the Nobel Prize for literature.

“The Aleph” is a story about a man who insinuates himself into the family of a woman he was infatuated with, only to find that her cousin is both a prolific poet of questionable ability, and hiding an amazing secret in the basement.

Questions to think about when reading this story:

  1. Aleph is the first character of the Hebrew alphabet (and part of the very word alphabet).  What is its significance in this story?
  2. Borges’ main character is a fictionalized version of himself.  What do you think of this character?  How does Borges communicate the facets of this character’s personality?
  3. Borges has a variety of subtle and not-so-subtle references to various other literature.  Did you notice any of them?
  4. How does the composition of Borges’ prose inform the story?

Feel free to comment here, and I’ll see you at our next meeting.

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