The Garden of Forking Paths

The Art of the Short Story

The Garden of Forking Paths, by Jorge Luis Borges

 This story is one of the best we had to read this week. I feel an understanding of the story as a reader and as a writer as well.

As a reader, it is a cautivating story. The elements of Quantum Physics gives the story a touch that triggers to think of some Metaphysical questions present in ‘What the Bleep? Down the Rabbit Hole’. 

“Almost instantly, I understood: ‘the garden of forking paths’ was the chaotic novel; the phrase ‘the various futures (not to all)’ suggested to me the forking in time, not in space. A broad rereading of the work confirmed the theory. “

Although here, Borges talks about ‘fictional works’ when it is a daily fact happening  in every situation that we are confronted with several alternatives and depending on the choice we make the way we are going to be building up our future will be. In our personal and individual reality, we can chose only one alternative, and that alternative chosen will lead in a consequence.

In the fiction of Borges, Ts’ui Pên chooses all the alternatives simultaneously creating several alternate futures –parallel lives– in Time that will also fork.

“In all fictional works, each time a man is confronted with several alternatives, he chooses one and eliminates the others; in the fiction of Ts’ui Pên, he chooses– simultaneously–all of them. He creates, in this way, diverse futures, diverse times which they also proliferate and fork.”

Time is present in Borges writing. Time and the eternal problem of understanding the way it works. In a discussion the two characters have almost at the end of the story, the reader cannot do anything else but to stop and think about the meaning of time. In my particular case, I had to stop the reading, go and lie down on the floor, close my eyes and think and meditate for a short while. That, because I am an eternal obsessed with time, its meaning and the way it works. Even though so much has been said since the discovery of time, many questions are still unanswered.

“The Garden of Forking Paths is an incomplete, but not false, image of the universe as Ts’ui Pên conceived it. In contrast to Newton and Schopenhauer, your ancestor did not believe in a uniform, absolute time. He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times. This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time.”

With the elements of Meta-fiction, The Garden of Forking Paths is an excellent and thought-provoking story that shows much about the kind of mind Borges was.


About Susan Fourtané

As a citizen of the world, Susan began her search for her place in the world back at the beginning of the year 2000. After many travels looking for her place in the world, her soul found that place in Finland in September 2006. She has been living in Helsinki ever since, where she combines fiction and non-fiction writing with Philosophy studies and teaching.
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One Response to The Garden of Forking Paths

  1. German Bernal Caicedo says:

    I remember this short story. It make me think about the universal choises we have each moment and how to decide for one. This together with the Book of Sand are some of my favourit stories from Borges. There is a song from Willie Colon that also abords the subject. Talvez mas vanal pero igual me hace pensar en el tema.

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