Thursday, 19 Dec 2013


Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”

On the surface, this short story is a spy thriller, in which a subversive protagonist relies on intellect to match wits with a worthy, authority-wielding foe.

Originally published in Spanish in 1941, this story takes the form of a conventional narrative, but its plot features what we would today call a hypertext novel.

Borges (BOR-haze) invites us to reconsider basic scholastic questions of what “really” happened in a text that is by design complex and ambiguous, whether any of the conflicting details within a collection of linked texts forms a single “correct” story, and what it means to “read” a work that apparently has no coherent existence apart from the reader’s attempt to give it meaning.

Presented within a veneer of Asian philosophy, challenging Western notions of completion and utility and definability, “The Garden of Forking Paths” raises questions that expand beyond the narrow confines of the spy setting.

The concept Borges presents (of a user-constructed narrative, and in fact a user-constructed reality, which each of us creates for ourselves by stitching together different experiences that result from the innumerable choices we make, and the psychological effect of the presumed proximity of other versions of ourselves who have made slightly different choices) occurs over and over in the early years of “humanities computing” and “literary hypertext studies” (early 1990s — a time when very few literary experts had any real experience with hypertext, and there was very little digital literature that might show the computing theorists how communicators and storytellers might put to use the new ability to connect texts via links).


  1. […] via Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. […]

  2. […]  via Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. […]

  3. […] via Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. […]

  4. jon3292 says:

    Response: The Garden of Forking Paths

    This story is very jumbled. There are a lot of words that are, I feel, unnecessary and fillers. I understand the author wants to get his point across in an a dramatic emotional way, but all the words are overwhelming. I cannot get the ideas across with the words he has used other than the man wants to kill himself and his life isn’t what he dreams it to be. The only words that I liked to look into, one a word that was used multiple times: felicity. The first word that comes up in a synonyms list is happiness. The character is not happy. This is a strong word that shows drama and the emotion he wants to get across.

  5. Sara Tantlinger says:

    My blog me link backs don’t seem to be appearing so I’m just leaving a comment for this one.

  6. kimberlyhayes says:

    Time is what it is, yet anytime, in an infinite span of time is only what is right now.

  7. […] via Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. […]

  8. […] via Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. […]

  9. […] via Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. […]

  10. […] via Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. […]

  11. jenniferclark says:

    A Maddening Philosophical Journey to the Other Side…

  12. […] via Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. […]

  13. […] via Borges, “The Garden of Forking Paths”. […]

Post a Comment

Your email is never shared. Required fields are marked *