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In “The Garden of forking Paths” Jorge Luis Borges has an interesting narrative technique. An unknown narrator opens the story by summarizing Captain Liddell Hart’s report and introducing Dr. Yu Tsun’s deposition. The story begins abruptly in Dr. Yu Tsun’s voice speaking in first person, mid sentence, as it is missing the first few pages. Borges confuses the reader by introducing a new narrator and starting mid sentence as the reader tries to piece together the missing parts of the text. Borges also writes in a detective like structure, where he adds hints and clues that the reader pieces together as they read without revealing too much of the ending. For example when You Tsun visits Albert he mentions that Albert was ‘the only person capable of transmitting the message” and it is later revealed in the end that Yu Tsun needed to send a message to Berlin: to bomb a city with the name Albert, and his only way to transmit the message secretly was by killing someone named Albert. Another plot twist appears, when Yu Tsun arrives at Alberts house he discovered that Albert has been analyzing and studying Yu Tsun’s ancestors book and labyrinth. Albert then explains that the book and the labyrinth are the same thing, the unusual non-linear structure in the way the book was written led Albert to realize that the book itself was the labyrinth. Ts’ui Pen’s book has multiple narratives transforming the book into a labyrinth, he proposes that we should not limit ourselves, his book proposes all the paths that its narratives could take. Ts’ui Pen also interprets time in a different way, he does not perceive it as a straightforward process, rather as a maze with different possibilities.
Borges also plays with paths of narratives, Liddell at the start states that the british attack was delayed because of rain, while Yu Tsun explains a different story, Here borges is not concerned with finding out what actually happens as he is playing with the possibilities of alternate timelines. Borges plays with the role of the author, agreeing with some arguments presented by Michel Foucault’s essay “What is an Author”, Michel De Certeau’s book “The Practice of Everyday Life” and with Roland Barthes’s “The Death of the Author”.
In Foucault’s essay “What is an Author?” he describes the role and function of the author as being Post-structuralist, where he has no interest in the author as being a real person driving the story line and is in complete control, (pre-critical humanism). First, he claims that the author is important when it comes to legal construction, connected to copyright and plagiarism. Second, Foucault also claims that literary merit plays a role in the attention that a piece of writing gets. Third, he explains that authors need to be internally consistent, meaning they write about the same themes over and over, which shows their progress with this same concept, where new texts can be evaluated against old texts. The Garden of Forking Paths plays with the idea of an author by presenting different narratives and different timelines, where we are forced to follow one path although we are left wondering what could’ve happened with the other.
De Certeau’s use of the term “story” signifies a narrative that is personal and cultural. He sets out to clarify a distinction between space and place. He defines a place as the order in which elements are distributed in relation to each other. When we enter a space it evokes certain thoughts and emotions, which connect certain spaces to others, this is how the mind works by mixing memories and stories, through space, stories and narratives are our guides. He explains that a place is “the order in accord with which elements are distributed in relationships of coexistence… an instantaneous configuration of positions (that implies) an indication of stability.” For example “a street geometrically defined by urban planning is transformed into a space by walkers.” Borges uses a similar approach, where the story splits into detours of the protagonists wandering thoughts and memories, and later finds its way back to the main plot. These wandering thoughts come back to be significant memories that help piece the story together. For example “The advice about turning always to the left reminded me that such was the common formula for finding the central courtyard of certain labyrinths. I know something about labyrinths” the directions reminded him of Labyrinths that his great-grandfather used to create.
When we encounter a text our job is to ask ourselves what the words themselves are trying to say not what the author intended to say. The author and the process of writing is irrelevant to readers, claiming that the main function of the reader is to dissect the symbolism presented in the text and interpret it in the readers way. Meaning is not something that the reader can discover, rather something generated in the process of reading a text.
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