Gabriel Garcia Márquez and Jorge Luis Borges are both known as writers of magical realism, yet they manipulate the narrative substance conversely. On one side, there is the opulence of a family saga, so voluminous that, as reported in a beautiful conversation between Martin Amis and Salman Rushdie, Borges is supposed to have said about García Márquez’s great novel “It’s too long. It should be just Fifty Years of Solitude.”
This sentence might be apocryphal (or not) – anyhow, it is true that the accurate ratio of Jorge Luis Borges’s works of fiction is established under ten pages. In Fictions he has gathered in not much more than one hundred and seventeen pages, some sleek short stories whose topics are synthesized by the title itself.
Hidden in mirrors and mazes, fictions are what build our common and everyday interpretation of reality: they are the tricks and the layers of literature, made to be manipulated, played, and over-interpreted. In “Babel Library”, to which Umberto Eco pays homage in The Name of the Rose, naming the librarian of the monastery Jorge da Burgos, words and symbols are combined in infinite sequences, meaningless or significant, making the search for truth an infinite circle destined to repeat itself: Nietzsche’s Eternal Return. The reader is deranged by the proliferation of possibilities.
Borges mocks the concept of authorship and the idea of the original version of the literary work or reality itself, like in “Pierre Menard, author of Chisciotte”. Carlo Emilio Gadda said, “Reality is an artichoke”. For Borges, reality is a “Garden of Forking Paths”, built of ramifications. Infinite variations move parallel to each other, each with a different outcome.
Fictions is a game of chance, the concrete possibility of putting into action all the innumerable choices in all the numerous existing universes: it influenced writers such as Italo Calvino (Il Castello dei Destini Incrociati), Roberto Bolaño, George Perec (along with the French OuLiPO movement), but not only them. Borges’s heritage shines on Christopher Nolan’s circular idea of time, or in the mazes of the mind filmed by Charlie Kaufman. The finite nature of the novel’s shape struggling with the endlessness of its content, the encyclopedic summary of knowledge. Fictions is the allegory that better expresses the sense of contemporaneity: a blob made up of the accumulation of the past, the continuous co-presence of irony, and anguish.