Borges' Short Stories
The effects of the times on a writer, can be seen in his works. Be it politics, customs, or economics, the writer may choose to illustrate his country's condition in his writings. Writers often have a reason for writing a book or story. In the book " Dr. Brodie's Report", written by Jorge Luis Borges, one can see both the effects of his times on his writings, and the reason why he wrote the book. This essay will first summarize six of the short stories in his book, then discuss why he wrote the book and finally show the effects of time in his stories. The first short story ii the book is "The Gospel According to Mark". The story takes place on a ranch. Baltasar Espinosa, a kindly, young man is spending his summer vacation there. While the owner of the ranch is away, a severe rainstorm floods the area trapping Baltasar, and the forman Gutre and his family. The Gutres are uneducated and are illiterate. Espinosa finds a Bible in the house, and begins reading to them the Gospel according to Mark every night after dinner. One night Espinosa dreams of the great flood and imagines hearing the hammering of carpenters building the Ark. When he wakes up, the Gutres tell him that that the rains had damaged the roof of the tool shed. One night the Gutre's daughter comes to Espinosa's door and then sleeps with him. The following day Gutre asked Espinosa if Jesus allowed himself to be crucified for the sake of man's sins. Espinosa, a non-believer, answered in the affirmative. After a long nap that day, the Gutres wake up Espinosa. He is then asked for a blessing, spat on, and pushed to the back part of the house. Through the door to the tool shed Espinosa sees that the Gutres had taken down the beams and made a cross. In "The Duel", another story in the book, two Argentine society ladies, Clara Glencairn de Figueroa and Marta Pizzaro, paint out of boredom. Although they are fond of each other's paintings, they become secret rivals. This relationship comes to dominate their lives. When Clara dies, Marta realizes that her life has no meaning. She then hangs a somber painting of Clara in the National Gallery, and never paints again. The narrator concludes that in this "delicate duel, only suspected by a few friends, there were neither defeats nor victories nor even an open encounter" (Borges 41). In "The End of the Duel" there is a feud between two nineteenth century Uruguayans. Manuel Cardosa and Carmen Silveira have always hated each other for unknown reasons. After the country drafts them to the army, they fight side by side, but still despise each other. Soon, the enemy captures them, and they are condemned to death. When the captain of the enemy, Juan Patricio Nolan, hears of their feud and proposes a final duel between the two. They will have their throats cut simultaneously and then run as far as they can. They both agree to this proposition. Large sums of money are placed on the duel. The race ends as follows: "Spurts of blood gushed from the men's throats. They dashed forward a number of steps before tumbling face down. Cardoso, as he fell, stretched out his arms. Perhaps never aware of it, he had won." (Borges 50). "The Intruder" is a story about a triangle love, with two brothers in love with one woman. The two brothers are Cristian and Eduardo Nilsen. They are teamsters, and among other things like to spend times in brothels. The Nilsens' have close ties and are feared by all. One day Cristian brings home a pretty and sweet girl named Juliana Burgos, and with his consent Eduardo shares her favors. This situation does not last because they both fall in love with her and become jealous of one another. Fearing the break up of their friendship, they return her to a whorehouse. Both brothers begin to secretly visit her, until one day when they accidentally meet each other. They decide to take her back, but after a short time their jealousies are revived. One day Eduardo joins Cristian on a ride to a lonely spot in a forest. At this spot Cristian informs Eduardo that he killed Juliana so she could no longer separate the two brothers. They quickly bury her together. We see that their friendship was strengthened by the whole situation when it says "One more link bound them now-the woman that they cruelly sacrificed and their common need to forget her." (Borges 68). "The Meeting" recalls an incident that occurred in 1910 in Buenos Aires. The narrator of the story was taken by his cousin to a country estate for a fiesta. The rest of the guests were a sophisticated and well versed. After the meal, in the game room, where Duncan and Uriarte are involved in a poker game, angry voices are overheard. Uriarte accuses Duncan of cheating and challenges him to a duel. They both go to a display case and choose their weapons. Uriarte takes a long dagger with a U-shaped crosspiece in the hilt. Duncan takes a shorter wooden handled dagger stamped with a tree on the blade. At first they fight clumsily, but before long they fence like experts. Suddenly Uriarte wounds Duncan fatally in the chest. Many years later the narrator tells this story to a retired police captain. The captain reveals that the daggers could have belonged to Juan Almanza and Juan Almada. Because people were always confusing them, the two searched for each other to have a duel. However, they never found each other. The narrator concludes that perhaps the duel, in 1910, was the end of the quarrel between Almada and Almanza, whose weapons used unsuspecting tools: Duncan and Uriarte. "Guayaquil" takes place some time after World War II, between two professors of Latin American history. A historian in Sulaco has discovered some of Simon Bolivar's unpublished letters. The Argentine government has appointed the narrator to travel to Sulaco to transcribe and publish the letters upon his return to Buenos Aires. Meanwhile, the University of Cordoba has proposed to send its Professor Zimmerman to carry out the same mission. The narrator receives Zimmerman into his home to inform him of the country's decision. Zimmerman, a Jew, and a devotee of Schophenhauer, whose belief in will as the essence of life, is controlled by his thinking. When the narrator says he is on a mission to Saluco to obtain the truth, Zimmerman exclaims that the letter only shows Bolivar's point of view and may be self-serving. He goes on to say that the narrator's well-established reputation could be tarnished if his name were linked with an unpopular interpretation of the letters. Zimmerman alludes to Schopenhauer and says that the words between the generals were far less meaningful, to the course of history, than the stronger will of one of them. By the end of the story the narrator resigns himself to defeat as Zimmerman extracts from his briefcase a letter to the Minister stating the narrators' motives for not making the trip to Saluco. Upon signing the letter with Zimmerman's pen, the narrator sees tickets to Saluco in Zimmerman's briefcase. Borges's reason for writing the book can be found in his prologue along with some of his life's story. Borges was a writer for many years. He wrote poems essays and stories. His works were very confusing and provoked much thought (Borges, Jorge Luis 384). A proof of this is that he introduced Ultraism to South America. Ultraism is a form of poetry that is free versed, and untraditional. It uses much imagery and symbolism, and is very hard to understand (Ultraismo 118). Because in his entire career he had written in mazes and labyrinths, here he wanted to write something straightforward (Stabb 85). In Borges's prologue to the book he says that late in Kipling's career his stories were no less maze-like than that of Khafka or Henry James. But, at the beginning of his career he wrote straightforward stories that became "laconic masterpieces" (Borges 9). He goes on to say "I have done my best-I don't know with what success-to write straightforward stories. I do not dare state they are simple; there isn't anywhere on earth a single page or a single word that is, since each thing implies the universe, whose most obvious trait is complexity." (Borges 9). Borges late in his career grew blind and had to dictate his stories to friends and family to be written. Because of this he could only write short stories (Borges, Jorge Luis 384). Thus Dr. Brodie's Report forms a collection of short straightforward stories. The setting of "The Apostles According to Mark" perfectly illustrates the pampa. The pampa are the northeast plains of Argentina. It has a humid sub-tropical climate and is used for farming (Argentina 542). The story takes place in a ranch that is surrounded by floods from severe rain. In the early nineteen hundreds Argentina was modernizing. New science and technology were being brought into the country. But some neighborhoods remained old-fashioned. Borges loved these neighborhoods and remembered them from his childhood. This comes up in many of his stories (Stabb 4). A good example of this comes up in "The Intruder". The two brothers in the story terrorize everyone with "horses, silver-trimmed riding gear, the short bladed dagger..." They also "blew money freely and got themselves into boozy brawls." (Borges 64). Try to picture these two riding side by side through adventure after adventure. These are the types of people who lived in the times Borges loved. "The Duel" satirizes upper middle-class Argentine. In this story he ridicules the artistic circles. At a conference that both Clara and Marta would like to be named delegate the themes are "of burning interest: Can the artist disregard the indigenous? Can he omit or slight the flora and fauna? Can he be insensitive to problems of a social nature? Should he not join his voice of those suffering under the yoke of Saxon imperialism? Et cetra, et cetra." (McMurray 190). In every story except "The gospel According to Mark" there is a quarrel in one form or another. The arguments end in different ways depending on the social status of those involved. This reflects how the different social classes react in Argentina. In "The Duel", two upper middle-class women are involved. They have a secret and more passive argument, and no violence is needed. Women often have prolonged arguments, and this one is not settled until after one of them dies. In direct contrast to this is "The end of the duel". The confrontation here is between two lower-class men. It is believed that they are arguing about trivial matters. They end their disagreement in a macho, dumb-headed manner. They do not care that they will both die because of the race they will have, they just want to prove to everyone else that one of them is the better man. In "The Intruder" two dirty, no good, scoundrels are involved in a dispute. They resort to violence to end their disagreement. They do not kill one another, but instead kill the innocent person who is causing the dispute. "The meeting" occurs between two upper-class gentlemen. However, they were drunk so the episode cannot truly describe how upper-class men would react. In "Guayaquil" the argument takes place between two professors. They fight with the mind and not the body. Their dispute is settled by talking it out and not by resorting to violence. Doctor Brodie's Report is a fascinating collection of straight forward short stories. Borges felt he had to write stories like this, at this point in his career. His settings reflect the time and location he grew up and lived in. His stories reflect the minds of his countrymen.