The Book of All Names
(Link to Spanish version)
At night the darkness abandons him. There is neither blindness nor mercy in the nightmares of Jorge Luis Borges.
Its elements are identical to those of his reality. As the Kabbalists discovered or desired, the Torah of the fallen world and that of the saved world - which is the same as saying the fallen world and the saved world - are written in the same characters. Only their order changes, a merely linear difference that may be difficult for divine vision to perceive. But men are poor readers and we blame the anecdotal location of its words for the meaning of a text.
So in Borges's nightmares there are books, mirrors, labyrinths, and tigers. (Although the mirror is a book, and the tiger a symbol to modestly cover certain inadequacies of language.) But if the permutations he pens under his name are many, his nightmare is one. Philosophers have observed as a characteristic of reality the poverty of its multiplicities in comparison with the planes of poetry and historiography, but this is no more than a pedantic observation.
In any case, there are few men whose private dreams are more public than those of Borges. Perhaps then it's not futile to describe his nightmare.
In his nightmare he is appointed Director of the National Library, a position strangely subordinate in the formal sense to that of President of the Republic. He is not a good Director, nor did he expect to be, nor was he expected to. This is not the nature of the nightmare. He was expected to be Borges in a library, and this is perhaps inevitable for him. Inevitable that he walked the corridors of his domain, inevitable that he thought of himself as an old Minotaur, inevitable that he attempted and managed to get lost.
In his nightmare he finds a book among all the books, and in his nightmare he reads it.
It doesn't tell of Borges, nor of Buenos Aires, nor of tigers. It explains with the authority of somebody that does not try or want to convince a world whose time and space would drive the most heretical of mathematicians mad. One, even worse, not empty of intent but whose only effective will is ancient beyond the concept of time and evil beyond childish human cruelty. An Earth of vast transitory necropolises and spaces beyond space whose horror and chaos must have led Plato to hallucinate with insane lucidity a metaphysics erroneous and narrow enough to be inhabitable.
Borges, in his nightmare, observes that he is praying for the existence of a God he could beg to for insanity or at least forgetfulness.
He wakes up blind, which is the opposite of both. More essayist than academic, accustomed to imperfect memory as the natural form of quotation, he has, without surprise, an indelible memory of every word in the book and a clear understanding of a language already forgotten when some moons were still new.
In the dark he continues his life. He writes, teaches, continues to permute the symbols of his hours. He tells only one story, which is the exact opposite of the one in the book and therefore the same. The world changes around him; Borges changes his words by enunciating them identically in a different language.
He has forgotten the details of the human face and does not try to recover them with his hands. Carefully, he does not touch anyone. He talks about someone named Borges. He does not doubt that around him is a Buenos Aires of informal layout and succinct history and not the indescribable geometry of a metropolis of geological antiquity, but he is terrified of the ephemerality of its streets and its legends. He writes about immortal men as if he believed in the existence of men. He knows himself insufficiently courageous for suicide, which he suspects in any case ineffective.
When he sleeps he opens his eyes to the familiar maze of books. He seeks the center, for no other reason than to have already sought it, to read the book that he cannot not read because he has already read.