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Monday, 28 March 2011

Jorge Luis Borges: El hilo de la fábula / The thread of the story


Theseus' cycle of deeds: centre: dragging the Minotaur from the Labyrinth: Kodros painter, Attic red-figured kylix, c. 440-430 BC, found at Vulci (British Museum; image by Twospoonfuls, 2008)

The thread was placed by the hand of Ariadne in the hand of Theseus (in the other was his sword) so that this might permit him to penetrate the labyrinth and discover at its centre the man with the head of a bull, or, as Dante would have it, the bull with the head of a man, bring death to this creature, and if the labour was performed correctly, thus unravel the secrets of the networks of stone, and return again to her, his love.

But things happen as they happen. Theseus could not have known that on the other side of the labyrinth was another labyrinth, that of time, and that beyond there, in some prefigured place, waited Medea.

The thread has been lost; the labyrinth has been lost also. Now, we no longer even know whether these corridors that encircle us are those of a labyrinth, a secret cosmos, or a chaos of pure chance. Our beautiful duty is to imagine that there exists a labyrinth and a thread. We might never come across the thread; or we might stumble upon it unexpectedly and then lose it again in an act of faith, in the rhythm of a line, in a dream, in the sort of words that are called philosophy or in a moment of mere and simple happiness.


Theseus and the Minotaur: Attic black-figure pot, 6th c. BC.: image by Darsie, 2005

El hilo de la fábula (Borges): image by Emenegritos, 31 January 2011

Theseus dragging the Minotaur from the Labyrinth: Kodros painter, Attic red-figured kylix, c. 440-430 BC, found at Vulci (British Museum; image by Marie-Lan Nguyen, 2007)

Jose Luis Borges: El hilo de la fábula /The thread of the story, from Los conjurados, 1985, translated by TC


Julia said...

Oh, Tom a borgesian day for your blog!
So many things to say and to think, so little time...
Those texts you have chosen are certainly my favourites. But which aren't...?

TC said...

I was (naturally) hoping you would approve, Julia.

While it has been noted from your recent distressing reports that the cats of Buenos Aires can be a lot to handle for the poor palomitas of Buenos Aires, still top honours in this little Borges set have been reserved for un gato.

(The birds will yet have their day, however, if the heavens be willing.)

phaneronoemikon said...

It is odd that Taurine, the sulphonic bile salt unites labyrinth as intestine with labyrinth as mind:

Taurine is conjugated via its amino terminal group with chenodeoxycholic acid and cholic acid to form the bile salts sodium taurochenodeoxycholate and sodium taurocholate. The low pKa[12] of taurine's sulfonic acid group ensures this moiety is negatively charged in the pH ranges normally found in the intestinal tract and, thus, improves the surfactant properties of the cholic acid conjugate. Taurine crosses the blood-brain barrier[13][14][15] and has been implicated in a wide array of physiological phenomena including inhibitory neurotransmission,[16] long-term potentiation in the striatum/hippocampus,[17] membrane stabilization,[18] feedback inhibition of neutrophil/macrophage respiratory burst, adipose tissue regulation and possible prevention of obesity,[19][20] calcium homeostasis,[21] recovery from osmotic shock,[22] protection against glutamate excitotoxicity[23] and prevention of epileptic seizures.

The same thingk occurs with

Humbaba (Humwawa)

whose face is like a labyrinth
a labyrinth of intestines.

do our actions
exact our own digestion
and those of others?

is there in fact
a comsummating


a combinational
digestion and gestation

but all in jest
of course!

wv: gallowe

like glow and gall


TC said...

The kitties can't get by without the stuff, which is laced into their food to prevent myocardia (congestive heart failure).

In humans the antianxiety effects are interesting indeed.

Vegans have problems with taurine uptake.

Memo to Red Bull marketing director: target vegans.

phaneronoemikon said...


wv: redunph

you are a good chemistry buff Tom!

TC said...

Perhaps the first and last time the term "buff" shall ever be applied to me, Lanny.

(Though in freshman chemistry I did manage once to set the desk on fire with a bunsen burner... more of a muff than a buff, that, though, I guess.)