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  • On the World: "My Desperation as a Writer"
  • Sol Peláez (bio)

The Aleph Today

It has been said that for Jorge Luis Borges the world becomes unreal, a dream, and an illusion. 1According to Maurice Blanchot, Borges experiences "infinity through literature," and "if the world is a book [and] each book is the world . . . there is nothing on which to rely. The world and the book eternally and infinitely mirror their own reflected images" (1982, 223). Thus, the world loses its role as truthful ground and provides only a false bottom. This is not only, as Beatriz Sarlo has explained, an "endless circularity," a "structure en abîme" (2001, ch. 4/2007a 100, 99). Also, as Alberto Moreiras notes, Borges asks "the question of the ground of ground, and reveals thus the ground in its abysmal foundation . . . [And this] constitutes a destabilization of the onto-theology without precedents in the Latin American cultural tradition" (1999, 175, my translation hereafter). Indeed, for Moreiras, the "virtual reality" of Borges "can only actualize [ realizar] the world as lost object" (1999, 184).

Taking in account these readings, I propose to analyze "The Aleph" as a [End Page 165]story that represents how desire calls into question the world as totality, as whole. The world as desire seems to emerge in two ways in the story (one by Daneri, the other by Borges—note italics—the narrator and character), so desire as such shows us a structure that impedes totalization. I argue that the world is desire, and thus temporalization and spacing. That is, the world can never remain outside time, identical to itself, complete, and Daneri and Borgesenact two different ways of experiencing that temporalization, that impossibility of the identity of the world with itself. 2If the world implies a sharing, Borges's story presents us with the limits of that sharing: the world in its impossibility to be shared demands to be shared. "The Aleph" raises the question of how can we share (and thus how is the world possible) when it is impossible to do it, when there is no shared past, no shared experience, that is, when desire is involved? In a way, sharing the impossible (and not what is common) is the only sharing that matters, the only sharing that opens up a possibility for a world dislocated in it self by this limit.

Literary and cultural critics have longed for an Aleph, for "a magnificent observatory" to see "everything clearly, [and] in color" ( Borges 1998, 284/ 2007, 194) as Daneri says. 3We have desired to have access to "one of the points in space that contains all points" (280/187); to "the place on earth where, without confusion, all places of the orb, seen from every angle, exist" (281/188); perhaps, as Borgesdescribes it, to "an iridescent sphere of almost unbearable brightness," of "two or three centimeters in diameter" (282/192), containing the "cosmic space" (283/192). We have desired a gaze on the world as a whole. 4Criticism, thus, has looked for the perfect "location" and for the perfect Aleph. In other words, the critic has aimed to be a cosmotheoros, observing The World from a privileged location. Despite the claims that "time has passed since one was able to represent the figure of a cosmotheoros,an observer of a world" ( Nancy 2007, 43), in the current critical debate, we still encounter perspectives that look for a "Danerian" spot to see TheAleph and to synthesize the whole of the world.

This rereading of "The Aleph" will oscillate between the globe and the world. The problem of the world as totality is relevant insofar as these days the globe and the world ( el mundo) seem to dominate the terms of the debates. 5Globalization seems to refer to a homogenization of the planet through a [End Page 166]redrawing of fluxes of capital, of people, of cultural products, and of political movements without necessarily erasing traditional configurations such as the nation, but by displacing them into new configurations. New social movements, cultural products, spaces, and worldwide (political, cultural) links have created the scenario to think, in the opinion of some critics...


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