Infinity according to Jorge Luis Borges – Ilan Stavans

When Ireneo Funes looked at a glass of
wine on a table, he saw “all the shoots, clusters, and
grapes of the vine. He remembered the shapes of the clouds
in the south at the dawn of the 30th of April of 1882, and he could compare them in his
recollection with the marbled grain in the design of a leather-bound book
which he had seen only once, and with the lines in the spray
which an oar raised in the Rio Negro on the eve of the
battle of the Quebrancho.” In the short story “Funes, the Memorious,” Jorge Luis Borges explores what it would
be like to have a perfect memory. His character not only remembers
everything he has ever seen, but every time he has seen
it in perfect detail. These details are so overwhelming Funes has to spend his days
in a dark room, and can only sleep by imagining a part
of town he has never visited. According to Borges, Funes’s memories even rendered him
incapable of real thought, because “To think is to forget a
difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes
there were nothing but details.” Funes’ limitless memory was just one
of Borges’s many explorations of infinity. Born in Argentina in 1899, he admired the revolutionaries
of his mother’s family but took after his father’s bookish clan. His body of essays, poems, and stories,
or, as he called them, ficciones pioneered the literary style of
“lo real maravilloso,” known in English as Magical Realism— and each was just a few pages long. Though Borges was not interested in
writing long books, he was an avid reader, recruiting friends to read to him
after he went blind in middle age. He said his image of paradise was an
infinite library, an idea he brought to life in
“The library of Babel.” Built out of countless identical rooms, each containing the same number of
books of the same length, the library of babel is its own universe. It contains every possible
variation of text, so there are some profound books, but also countless tomes
of complete gibberish. The narrator has spent his entire life wandering this vast labyrinth
of information in a possibly futile search for meaning. Labyrinths appeared over and over
in Borges’ work. In “The Garden of Forking Paths,” as Yu Tsun winds his way through
country roads, he remembers a lost labyrinth
built by one of his ancestors. Over the course of the story, he finds out the labyrinth is not a
physical maze but a novel. And this novel reveals that the real
Garden of Forking Paths is time: in every instant, there are infinite
possible courses of action. And as one moment follows another, each possibility begets another
set of divergent futures. Borges laid out infinite expanses of time
in his labyrinths, but he also explored the idea of
condensing all of time into a single moment. In “The God’s Script,” at the very beginning of the world the god writes exactly one message into the spots of the jaguars, who then “love and reproduce without end, in caverns, in cane fields, on islands, in order that the last men
might receive it.” The last man turns out to be a tenacious
old priest who spends years memorizing and
deciphering the jaguar’s spots, culminating in an epiphany where he
finally understands the god’s message. Imprisoned deep underground, he has no one to share this meaning with, and it changes nothing
about his circumstances, but he doesn’t mind: in that one moment, he has experienced all the experience of
everyone who has ever existed. Reading Borges, you might catch
a glimpse of infinity too.

Comments 100

  • Beautiful

  • I feel like this is where HBO's Westworld pulled a lot of influence from

  • El fragmento del inicio no pertenece a Borges.

  • What would be a good book by him to start? (Maybe a good idea to do this in your future videos)

  • House of leaves anyone

  • Can u make video especially for 'π' ??? I wanna know every single thing about it….

  • Juan Rulfo, maybe?

  • Best burgers in all of Madrid 🚀👮‍♂️✔ +97250-579-8337
    Say Steven sent you

  • Make a video about Julio Cortázar please

  • its videos like these that make me forget how to talk to people normally

  • The The Circular Ruins is my favorite Borges book, what I felt after reading the ending was probably like what experiencing conscience feels like.

  • You should really check upon the quote at the beginning, NOT Borges guys….

  • It’s called hypothymesia, perfect memory.

  • hey, does anyone have any advice for a girl who just opened a scientific YouTube channel and wants to become slightly famous?

  • whats the music in the backround

  • TED-Ed, please check your sources… the quote at the beginning is NOT Borges!

    The rest of the video is wonderful. Thanks

  • I remember read Funes the memorious .short story but fascinating by jorge louis.

  • The ideas of Borges in this video kind of… scared me? Infinity can be scary. I should probably take a look at Borges

  • When I was in college, taking a Latin American Literature class,I had a love hate relationship with his work, "The Circular Ruins," because it is really difficult to analyze, hahaha. But like Gabriel Garcia Marquez, I love how they put "magic" into our consciousness of "reality," and merged both of them as something normal.

  • Could you do one about Julio Cortázar please???

  • That first quote: "so plant your own garden and.." is not from Jorge Luis Borges. Maybe is from Verónica Shoffstall. That poem does not compare to borges work.

    By the way, not counting the first quote, a really great video.

  • Can someone tell me the song that was playing in the background please?

  • Delicious content on this chanel.

  • Can someone please explain the difference between lo real maravilloso and el realismo magico? I read an article in spanish about it that I sort of understood, but I haven’t used spanish in a few years so im rusty. <3

  • the quote in 00:02 is clearly not from Borges… ridiculous

  • I always watch of all your videos, because they are very informative. Hope you can create a video about our national hero Dr. Jose Rizal. Thanks! All the way from the Philippines.

  • the phrase in the beginning does not belong to Borges, is not even his style.

  • Real maravilloso y realismo mágico no son lo mismo, y Borges no trabajó ninguno, sino lo fantástico.

  • "Journalist: -Do you think young people should be interested in politics?

    Jorge Luis Borges: -I don't know. I was never interested in politics. I'm more interested in ethics. I think that if everyone acts ethically that can have a very big political effect.

    Jorge Luis Borges

  • Im crying

  • Argentinian here, I'm so proud 🇦🇷❤️

  • An infaint library? Sounds like paradise to me

  • 'wandering through country roads'


  • I discovered Borges earlier this year and fell in love with his words as soon as I started reading. His story telling is a divinely intricate web that leads the reader to new vistas of discoveries about time, eternity, and ultimately, themselves. A pure delight.

  • what is the title of the song in the background?

  • This man changed my life. I discovered him while studying abroad in Buenos Aires when I read The Aleph. I then wrote my Spanish Thesis in college on El Tango: Cuatro Conferencias. His short stories give everyone a mind workout, and gives you that childlike ability again of asking questions to things that seem "obvious" to the average person. I will be internally grateful for reading his works.

  • This was so well written and animated I cried. Fantastic work.

  • The Book of Sand would be another great one to mention if we're talking about Borges' infinity. The Aleph would be another one. The Lottery in Babel is not as much about infinity, but still amazingly fascinating.

  • This is so profound, and oddly reminiscent of Dolores' quest for truth, meaning, and identity in "Westworld". All the way down to the maze. Thanks for teaching me something new about a phenomenal literary mind today TED-Ed 🙂

  • El Inmortal

  • Cortazar please

  • Proud to be Argentinian.

  • Borges jamas escribió la frase del comienzo. Borges doesn't wrote the quote of the beginning

  • Amo profundamente a Borges, el Maestro Borges, que triste sería la vida, al menos la mía, sin tener a Borges, gracias por toda la eternidad Maestro !!

  • Borges is one of the best! The aleph is a book I can't recommend enough! Do one about Juan Rulfo and Onetti please!!

  • Do Roberto Bolano next please.

  • Hate the pronunciation. Great video though.

  • Some teachers at my university would make a distinction between 'lo real maravilloso' y 'el realismo mágico'.

  • I think you should add subtitles in Spanish. However, nice video combined with a nice voice and great pronunciation

  • Wow… The writing of the GOD… La escritura del dios… inspired in the Aztec Culture, the priest was Tzinacán… one of my favorites tales of Borges. "Por eso no pronuncio la fórmula, por eso dejo que me olviden los días acostado en la oscuridad"

  • Subtitulos en Español

  • Im from Argentina and borges is one of my favorites. I recommend "The South". In the prologue he sais that you cant read it in two ways.. Enjoy!

  • Borges is not for those looking for easy reads, or another version of popular magical realists, no disrespect to any of them.
    To read Borges is to immerse yourself in philosophy, mysticism, spirituality (religious and non-religious) and what Thoreaux called "higher consciousness". His writings will leave you reeling, as if you are lost in infinity.
    I would highly recommend his non-fiction and poems as well- each piece truly remarkable.

  • That cheesy quote at the beginning is not from Borges.

  • Infinity is nothing and Infinity is everthing.

  • most overrated writer of his generation, take acid it'll stick with you longer and won't belabor you with rhetorical flourish

  • It takes exactly 24 hours for Funes to remember what happened the previous day.

  • Better call Saul and Borges

  • Genial video. Solo que si hay un poco de diferencia entre Lo Real Maravilloso en Borges y otros autores con el Realismo Mágico de Gabriel García Márquez

  • Borges is not magical realism wtf. His most characteristic works throw realism out of the window. He wrote speculative fiction. I can guarantee you that in Argentina Borges is NEVER taught as magical realism, I imagine that's some sort of typically American idiocy of bundling "Latin America" into one single entity.

    On that note, magical realism and real maravilloso are not thr same either.

  • The Witness is one best stories ever put to print. Absolutely beautiful.

  • Why does Irineo look like a gaucho?

  • Are you presenting Borges as the founder of magical realism? WHAT? What`s LO REAL MARAVILLOSO?

  • God damm

  • what the heck is that quote in the beginning. That can't bet from borges at all.

  • Makes a video of a writer of argentina with complex vocabulary. Doesnt put spanish subtitles…..

  • It's not called: "Lo real maravilloso" It's called: Realismo Mágico

  • papi pone los subtitulos en español !!

  • That poem from the begging is NOT from Borges…..

  • Dear TED-Ed. Thank you for your efforts in educating about Latin American literature. However, I am afraid Borges' fictional body of work is rather speculative fiction (or "fantástico") and not magical realism (cf. Asturias, García Márquez). The distinction is important as both literary currents feed different traditions in Latin American literature. One of Borges' biggest creative/conceptual contributions is stating that metaphysics is a branch of fantastic literature, for example. The quote at the beginning of the video may be misattributed to Borges as well—"Fictions" have so many good quotes! But if it's me who is wrong, could you please point out the bibliographic reference to that quote?

  • you should do a video about the best argentinian writer: Roberto Arlt

  • I wouldn't lump Borges in with Marquez as 'magic realism'. He is more of a metaphysical poet, he works on logical absurdities and apparent impossibilities. He is also not particularly interested in human relationships, eg love, which is the disturbing factor in the strangely unreal world of Marquez.

  • Nada de Realismo mágico en Borges. Él no necesita de esa etiqueta marketinera para ser leído.

  • Is Borges really "Magical Realism" though? I've heard from countless literature professors that he is "Literatura fantastica." Which is similar but not the same. Personally (in my humble opinion) I don't agree with the former because the Realism aspect doesn't seem to be in his stories. Specially when comparing to authors like García Marquez.

  • I shall fast and refrain from watching anymore TED-Ed until a video on Juan Rulfo is published.

  • I live in argentina

  • Is there a name to the song of the video?

  • omg im crying this is amazing! as an argentinian i love borges so much! it's very difficult to read his books tho, he uses complex words and his tramas are so deep too. thank u, u explained to me tons of stuff i didn't know about his work. Xx

  • For those who might be interested, an actual Library of Babel was built following the principles of the story. Of course that type of library can only be built digitally:
    There you can find random arrangements of letters that sometimes make sense but most of the times don't. You can explore the rooms and books one by one or you can use the "search" option, that gives you access to any book that contains the text you just type in. Think of it, any text that you could think exists in this library, for example this YouTube comment:
    You could think all this undermines the magic of Borges' original tale, but I prefer to think that Borges would be proud, because in this digital version you can find any text you know but are equally lost if you want a text that you don't know. I mean, somewhere there are the instructions to make cold fusion or the burned books of Alexandria but since I don't know those things I can't type in to search them, they're lost, lost in digital infinity…

  • That's not his nose.

  • The video begins with an appointment that is falsely attributed to Borges. Shame on you

  • I don't agree that Borges belongs to the "magical realism" movement. Like Piglia said, he gave form the concept of "speculative fiction" or "conceptual lieterature". But above all, like Kafka, he's his own genere.

  • Borges was a genius ❤

  • It would be good to see one of Roberto Bolaño

  • Can you do a video about Borges’ ride or die homie, Adolfo Bioy-Casares?

  • This writer is magical, but also he is lucky for getting such vid about him, great illustrations as well LUV! ♡

  • EDIT : maybe in an alternate universe Bob, but the voice is actually from professor Ilan Stavans. Here's a video of him :
    Voice sounds a lot like Bob odenkirk ( better call Saul, breaking bad)…
    Curious how there is actually a Borges refference in BCS so maybe it's possible it's him…

  • So hard to do Borges justice. Nice try, but it´s best to let the man do his own talking. Look up the Harvard Borges lectures.

  • Actually, there were not magic realism stories but conceptual literature stories or, as Piglia called it, 'speculative fiction'. Not as Harlan Ellison uses the term, and not as Bloom quotes the Labyrinths of Borges. As a way of mixing Macedonio Fernández's conceptual art into short stories, poems and essays. But as conceptual fictions.

  • Fun side note, my son's high school is named Jorge Luis Borges. We live in the centre of the province of Buenos Aires.

  • Started with Lem, now ready to move onto Borges. Very nice.

  • How can you not talk about the minotaur? ;-; RIP asterion

  • Using Borges' own words, he wrote "literatura fantástica". Also, "lo real maravilloso" isn't the same as "realismo mágico".

  • those hands are replicated by Wreck it Ralph

  • So proud this guy is from my country 😀

  • Awante borges vieja no me importa nada

  • Please do a Lygia Fagundes Telles video next!

  • Almost exactly, without an end.

  • There is a difference between "literatura fantástica"
    and "realismo mágico". Some of Borges’ writing are representatives of
    the fantastic. There is a video where Cortázar explains this subtle but
    important difference.

    I enjoyed the video, thank you.

  • know I am just more lost

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