The Garden Of Forking Paths Essays

The Garden Of Forking Paths Essays-35
Further, the legitimate attribution at the end of the story to D. Consider this long passage, which first set the story in motion: . The name of the exact location of the new British artillery park on the River Ancre. Vaguely I thought that a pistol report can be heard at a great distance. The telephone book listed the name of the only person capable of transmitting the message; he lived in a suburb of Fenton, less than a half hour’s train ride away (20-21). Certain words and phrases betray Yu Tsun’s lack of clear or focused purpose in making his plan of action (“it occurred to me, . For example, it is not by volition but “blindly” that he “translates” the he needs to facilitate. Here “the damp path [zigzags] like those of [his] childhood.” The unmotivated mover, seducer, has lured us toward the secret core of lost “truth” at the bottom of the garden.A bird streaked across the gray sky and blindly I translated it into an airplane and that airplane into many (against the French sky) annihilating the artillery station with vertical bombs. What “occurs to” him occurs spontaneously on its, rather than his, own. But if we have found Yu Tsun’s intentions to be “blind” or secondary, vulnerable to overriding determining forces and relations in play, these only serve to emphasize the exceptional case: the heightened motivation in outright , which the story addresses directly.

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Yu Tsun “descends” some steps and follows a “solitary road” of “elemental earth,” meditating on his great-grandfather’s labyrinth which he recalls from his own history (“I imagined it inviolate and perfect . Resolution, which determines and fixes an action “ahead of time,” cancels out one’s resistance to the action when the time comes.

Resolution escapes or eludes time, but time exerts (he commits the murder in spite of the revelations his descent into his own labyrinthine subconscious history has brought to light and which might intercede on Albert’s behalf), but his having already rejected these considerations, choices, does not prevent their recurrence, their “occurring” to him.

For Yu Tsun’s story is the prototype of Ts’ui Pen’s novel/labyrinth in which “the book and the maze [are] one and the same thing” (25).

We have reached at last the center of the garden of forking paths. to expect to find, at the center of the eponymous “garden of forking paths”: the recovered and reconstructed manuscript of the illustrious Ts’ui Pen’s “incomplete, but not false, image of the universe” —once again upon the very path we have been traversing, our sights set determinedly this time upon the ultimate revelation to be disclosed in the ultimate labyrinth.

Yu Tsun is writing from his prison cell where he awaits his imminent execution.

As the late-afternoon sun sinks below the “familiar roofs” beyond his window, he muses on the prime significance he has always assigned to his own life (especially in view of certain metaphysical associations and his family’s historied expectations).We know that surfaces will repel approach, that we will have to circle again and again, plot an entry, hack our way through with our own equipment, haul ourselves out when and where we can, and claim gains and losses for ourselves without acknowledgement from the story that we have arrived at a conclusion, the “end.” Thus Borges’ “The Garden of Forking Paths” sets up a literary labyrinth, each path of which forks into another forking path until we are lost in a labyrinth of labyrinths, at the center of which lies perhaps an ultimate, all-but-accessible truth: Yu Tsun’s ancestor’s novel’s representation of the labyrinth of time—or, call it, the universe. How can he send word in wartime, outside “regular” channels of communication, to the “sick and hateful” old man poring over newspapers all day, when he is out of resources and all but out of time?accessible,” because the revelation is snatched or chopped off before it can be totally disclosed or grasped—and it is chopped or snatched away, as you shall see, not by jealous fate or fickle fortune, but by a narrative trick of amazing triviality: the hinging of the revelation upon the coincidence of two names (Dr. The answer flares up among his wandering reflections, and in ten minutes he has perfected a plan.There is the familiar Borges tone: arch, pseudo-formal (ironic). The final paragraph does indeed synopsize the plot of the story: the tale of Yu Tsun’s improbable feat, his perilous attempt and astonishing achievement to communicate to the Chief in Berlin the name of the city where the new British artillery park is located—and to do so by means of an oblique, encrypted medium of his own devising, i.e., via newspaper accounts of his own murder of a man with the same name. I have won out abominably,” and ends with his plaintive “innumerable contrition and weariness” (29). Later we find the same uncertain, indefinite causality operating in the project of Stephen Albert to resurrect, reconstruct, and translate Ts’ui Pen’s representation of time.Arrested now, we reread the story, resisting the suspense of the surface plot to submerge in the “swarming” world beneath. But the somber denouement encapsulated in the ultimate paragraph does not cast this amazing accomplishment as an heroic wartime . Here, at the “center” of the (story-) labyrinth, where we had anticipated the answer to our riddle, we have found instead: Yu Tsun’s success and his failure bound fast together in stark contradiction and disparaged in a dirge. Albert describes his work in terms such as, “[It] is not hard to the correct solution of the problem” (25, emphases mine).“The Garden of Forking Paths” presents itself in brazen masquerade: as a spy story. Yu Tsun is in flight from the British intelligence agent Captain Richard Madden, who trails him by an hour, . (Note: The secret of time and the universe lies buried in our protagonist’s own ancestry.) The abstruse discussion that ensues between the spy and the scholar on the subject of the novel—the “forking paths” of time—is interrupted by sounds of the approaching Madden. They bombed it yesterday; I read it in the same papers that offered to England the mystery of the learned Sinologist Stephen Albert who was murdered by a stranger, one Yu Tsun. He knew my problem was to indicate (through the uproar of the war) the city called Albert, and that I had found no other means to do so than to kill a man of that name (29). We note in passing that these labyrinths of Yu Tsun’s musings and his ancestor’s prodigious work are, as he puts it, “illusory images” (23)—as is, of course, the labyrinthine fiction into which we ourselves have wandered.At the last possible moment before Madden breaks in, Yu Tsun takes out his revolver and fires, Albert falls dead—and the newspapers do the rest. But the spy story that has proceeded according to the predictable timing/pacing of the chase—the competition of protagonist and antagonist playing out against the inviolable purity of the clock—is a cloud of dust thrust into the eyes of the reader that temporarily obscures the maze of forking paths the story is inscribing. one sinuous spreading labyrinth that would encompass the past and the future and in some way involve the stars. If the advice of the auspicious “lads” is good, then it should direct us to the central point of the story.Our problem, and perhaps the solution to it, is figured in the story when Yu Tsun, approaching the strange/familiar environs of Ashgrove (the address of Dr. Instead, the paragraph begins with Yu Tsun’s summarily dismissive judgment, “The rest is unreal, insignificant, . If the central point of the story-labyrinth is here, at the “end,” then it is obliquely encrypted, and we cannot recognize, identify, and articulate it. The testimony of his contemporaries proclaims—and his life fully confirms—his metaphysical and mystical interests. These words point to the unsubstantial support structures—the bases, sources—upon which this “incomplete, but not false, image of the universe” depends, compromising our expectation of reliable or sufficient motivation (cause) to lead to logical or actual result (effect).Stephen Albert—note its contradictory-comprehensive name, figuring an end and a beginning), is proffered the fortuitous instructions by the strange/familiar “lads” at the station: “‘The house is a long way from here, but you won’t get lost if you take this road to the left and at every crossroads turn again to your left’” (22)—“the common procedure,” as Yu Tsun recalls, “for discovering the central point of certain labyrinths.” “The central point,” the point to or from which “certain labyrinths” lead, is just the point we readers are seeking in the story—and just what eludes us. And what if this one is not, after all, a “certain” labyrinth? If our first lead has led us astray, let us assay another. Philosophic controversy usurps a good part of the novel. We recall that the story opens with a formal citation from a particular “history” book, a legitimate and legitimizing way to “say” (to express in language, to render visible or knowable) something that has happened, to “say” certain actual wartime events. made me”) and his lack of clarity, attention to detail (“Vaguely . Returning to the quoted passage, we find this disjunction between intention (cause) and act (effect) illustrated in Yu Tsun’s resolution and failure to destroy the letter in his pocket, and suggested in the uses of the term “useless” in the passage itself: Yu Tsun sits up abruptly (instinctively) in a “,” are still in his pocket.“It seemed incredible to me that that day without premonitions or symbols should be the one of my inexorable death.” Then he experiences a little epiphany. And “happening”—which gives the reality (“really is happening”) to time and being—withholds it from the “now” we are examining in the story. [is] Captain Richard Madden.” “The future already exists,” I replied." (28) The rest of the story we know: Yu Tsun’s “swarming sensation” is the site of innumerable possibilities of time—indeed, of, as he calls it, “dimensions” of time.For what is happening to “me” (Yu Tsun)“now” is “happening” of time and being presents “precisely” the kind of “happening” that his death will annihilate. unquestionably that of an old man, but with something unalterable about it, even immortal”(26). This disturbing, “dizzying” sense of innumerable potentialities (“forking paths”), though it belongs to Yu Tsun’s experience as the “now” in Section 3 above did, is not conscious, coherent, articulable, as the “now” was.


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