“For myth is at the beginning of literature, and also at its end.”
Dreamtigers is an unusually personal collection of stories and poetry from Jorge Luis Borges, the master of the literary labyrinth. In this volume, Borges explores the space between dreams and reality, life and death, knowing and unknowing:
“It must be that I am not made to be a dead man, but these places and this discussion seem like a dream, and not a dream dreamed by me but by someone else still to be born.”
Images of mirrors appear repeatedly throughout Dreamtigers, mirrors that reflect reality and may become reality themselves. Borges seems terrified of optical distortions that are produced by imperfect reflections, and how those imperfections may reflect reality better than the more perfect images within our mind:
“As a child, I felt before large mirrors that same horror of a spectral duplication or multiplication of reality. Their infallible and continuous functioning, their pursuit of my actions, their cosmic pantomime, were uncanny then, whenever it began to grow dark. One of my persistent prayers to God and my guardian angel was that I not dream about mirrors. I know I watched them with misgivings. Sometimes I feared they might begin to deviate from reality; other times I was afraid of seeing there my own face, disfigured by strange calamities.”
The short stories in Dreamtigers consist mostly of microfiction, culminating with “Borges and I,” which builds upon the theme of duplication:
“It’s the other one, it’s Borges, that things happen to…News of Borges reaches me through the mail and I see his name on an academic ballot or in a biographical dictionary…Years ago I tried to free myself from him and I passed from lower-middle-class myths to playing games with time to conceive something else. Thus my life is running away, and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to the other one. I do not know which of us two is writing this page.”
The philosophical musings and personal analysis continue in the second half of Dreamtigers, which is devoted to poetry. Borges longs for understanding of his family as a means of knowing himself and bringing a more solid connection to the reality of his existence. For example, in “The Rain,” the sound of a rainstorm recalls the memory of his late father:
“This rain that blinds the windows with its mists
Will gladden in suburbs no more to be found
The black grapes on a vine there overhead
In a certain patio that no longer exists.
And the drenched afternoon brings back the sound
How longed for, of my father’s voice, not dead.”
The Dreamtigers collection is full of gems for the Borges fan, especially those seeking a more personal connection to this author who usually hides behind an impenetrable veil of erudition.