Borges the Blogger

Recently, Daniel Little over at Understanding Society posted some comments about Malthus as a blogger, e.g.:

I think that Thomas Malthus would have been very much at home in the blogosphere. He weighed in on the issues of the day, bringing careful logical analysis of economic theory to bear on the policy issues that were up for debate. And he was very interested in making the connection between economic principles and real empirical evidence.

Leaving aside for the moment whether or not that is an accurate description of the econoblogosphere*, Little’s discussion got me thinking about what other historical figures would have thrived in the crazy world of blogs.

And then an answer came to me: Jorge Luis Borges. Borges was an Argentine author of short stories and poetry whose work made constant reference to intertextuality (the idea that the meaning of a text is always in dialogue with the meaning of other texts, and only interpretable as such) and other post-modern ideas (like the arbitrariness of categorization, the relationship between descriptions of the world and the world itself, or the non-linearity of time and space). The connection between Borges’ ideas and the World Wide Web was noted early (for example, implementations of his heavily-footnoted “story-essays” in HTML felt very natural, like this one). But I think blogging is a medium even more suited to Borges than just the web. If we think of the world of blogs as a constant, tumultuous conversation between distant others, taking the form of short, pointed posts wavering between screed and academic inquiry, I think Borges fits in neatly.

For example, can’t you just imagine a Borgesian short story blog where each post was an independent story but which held together via self-reference and repeated themes to form a (constantly shifting) whole? An example, my favorite one paragraph Borges story:

On Exactitude in Science
… In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless, and not without some Pitilessness was it, that they delivered it up to the Inclemencies of Sun and Winters. In the Deserts of the West, still today, there are Tattered Ruins of that Map, inhabited by Animals and Beggars; in all the Land there is no other Relic of the Disciplines of Geography.

Suarez Miranda,Viajes de varones prudentes, Libro IV,Cap. XLV, Lerida, 1658

To summarize: I wonder what a modern Borgesian blog would look like, and I wager it would feel quite like the original**.

* A word I would describe as “clumsy and random” but which seems unlikely to go away soon.
** Not that Borges would have wanted anything to “feel like the original”, for what is an original but the first imperfect copy of an impossible form? See, for example, Chibka’s essay Borges’ Library of the Forking Paths, about how the various publications of the Garden of the Forking Paths contain slightly different citations. A gift, and a challenge, from Borges, to his inquisitive and excessively desirous of consistency public.

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