An Analysis of Pierre Menard’s Quixote by Borges

I would like to analyze the story based on the literary codes developed by Barthes. They are: the hermeneutic code, Proairetic code, the Semantic Code, the symbolic code and the cultural code. For Barthes, the hermeneutic code represents the enigma of the text. The Proairetic code represents the spatial and temporal dimensions. The Semantic code refers to the level of connotation. The symbolic code represents the binary division of language and the cultural code the conventions of the society.

Looking at the story from a Hermeneutic code, Borges writes about an imaginary writer and a book that does not exist. He creates facts out of fantasy and fantasy out of facts and his whole fictional exploration is a futile phantasmagoria.
He begins the story by quoting a catalogue made by Madame Henri Bachelier on the omissions and additions made to the text of Menard which appeal to Calvinists, Masons and the Circumcised. Is he making a dig at conservatism? Is he being skeptical about tradition? One can never fully interpret due to the very obscurity of his comment. There is an ironic humor inherent in this statement.
Borges again becomes fictional and goes on to enumerate that an examination of the files of Menard is necessary for the exegesis of Quixote. The files are literary and mention the following:
(a) A symbolist sonnet which occurred twice in a review. Everyone is familiar with idea of symbolism and symbolist poets. What one can’t discern is to why Borges makes a random connection to symbolism while trying to explicate Menard’s Don Quixote. Is Borges playing some kind of practical joke with the reader?
(b) A monograph containing the possibility of creating a poetic vocabulary of concepts which would not be synonyms or periphrases of those which make up everyday language. Is Borges hinting at adornment of poetic language? Adornment can take place by clothing words with figures of speech or using neologisms.
(c) A monograph on certain connections and affinities with the Philosophies of Descartes, Leibniz and Wilkins. Is Borges making a big bluff or does he want to impress his readers that he is conversant with the philosophies of the above mentioned philosophers. Why does the author want to show off to an audience?
(d) The work sheets of a monograph on George Boole’s symbolic logic. It is very intriguing that Borges makes this strange connection. How can logic be related to fiction.
(e) An examination of the essential metric laws of French Prose. Borges is conversant in Spanish. I am not sure whether he has the adequate knowledge to comment on French Prose. Meter again is connected to poetry. How can it be equated with prose? Is this a structural flaw in the narrative?
(f) A work in which different solutions are given to the problem of Achilles and the Tortoise. It is really absurd, a canard of the mind. May be Borges is inducing the reader to think that Achilles won the race. Borges has not deconstructed the paradox of Zeno. I wonder why Borges does not suggest an alternative.
(g) A determined analysis of the syntactical customs Toulet. Menard says that censure and praise are sentimental operations which have nothing to do with literary criticism. This statement makes Borges a precursor to literary theorists.
Again Borges digresses and goes on to discuss texts which have inspired Menard to create Quixote. One is a philological fragment which mentions Christ on a boulevard, Hamlet on La Cannebiere and Don Quixote on Wall Street. The depiction of Christ is rather incongruous. What is the mystic connection between Christ and a boulevard? The same goes to Hamlet. Are the Moguls of Wall Street Quixotic?
Again Borges the writer mentions that Menard writes to him that the final term in a theological, metaphysical demonstration –the objective world, God, causality the forms of the universe is common in my framed novel. This demonstrates that Borges is a confused writer. If the world is created by God how it can be objective? Is he mixing up a broth of evolutionary theism?
Again he expostulates that to write Quixote, one must know Spanish well, recover a Catholic faith, fight against the Moors and forget the history of Europe between the years 1602 and 1918. Everyone knows that Quixote by Cervantes was a revolt against Catholicism. The fight between Catholics and the moors is related to History. Is Borges being ironic when he reiterates that we should forget History? 1918 is symbolic for the beginning of the First World War. The narrative of Borges is so fragmented and ambles irrelevantly from one topic to another.
Borges contradicts himself by saying that in a passage of Menard never authored by him there is a sentence: ‘the river nymphs and the dolorous and humid echo.’ This provokes the reader to laugh in delicious delight. Borges is embarking on a flight of fancy. This statement brings into the mind of Borges a quotation of Shakespeare ‘Where a malignant and a turbaned Turk’. Is the monument of literature a sheer extravagant waste? Is it built on the foundations of whimsical chicanery?
Menard in his novel Quixote has no gypsies, no conquistadors and no mystics. Is Borges making an allusion of irony? Again Borges says that in chapter nine of Menard’s Quixote there is a quote: ‘…truth whose mother is History, rival of time, depository of deeds, witness of the past, exemplar and adviser to the present and the future’s counselor. Borges is being philosophical about History. But the fundamental questions are: is History a truth? In postmodernism History is a methodological discourse.


Dream Journal

I have insomnia and when I do not take sleeping pills, I go into a dream state. Yesterday, the whole night I was dreaming. I am able to recount only one of my dreams. I was driving a minivan to buy cigarettes and I crossed a bridge and after that I was driving on and on through a lush paddy field. I woke up without reaching the destination. I can’t find a single dream book which carries multiple interpretations. What does the dream signify? Do the bridge and the lush green paddy field signify new positive beginnings? Is a Freudian interpretation of anxiety in the unconscious a right one or is the dream a detour from the realities of life? Freud calls it as condensation and displacement. I don’t trust my unconscious with Freud. Am I authenticating my life in the existential Sartre’s- way?

Critical Analysis of the Philosophy of Deleuze

Deleuze belongs to school of Postmodern, post-structuralist thought. In his philosophical works, he has addressed questions on art, literature, science and philosophy. He has used the Cinema and conceptualized it into a philosophical system.
According to him questions on Science, Literature, Art and Philosophy are extensions of the questioning power of life. Post structuralism responded to the impossibility of founding knowledge either on phenomenology or the structures of language. This argument, a flawed one poses serious questions for philosophy. Phenomenology or the appearances of the contents of consciousness and language as a semantic structure of signs (the signifier and the signified) have structures inherent in them. There is no empty sign. A sign carries a code with an inherent meaning in it. Deleuze also emphasizes the structure of becoming. There is always a being to a becoming.
In his book: Anti Oedipus complex and Schizo-analysis he reiterates that life was an open and proliferating world of connections. The self is in paranoid flux. This statement is rather eccentric as to how can we assume that the self is paranoid. The stability of the self lies in balancing the ID, EGO and the Super Ego. The balancing is not an easy task. The self is always like a tightrope walker adjusting his poles when walking on a rope or a string of wire. Life as a series of connections is quite compatible and deserves no argument.
Deleuze defines Philosophy as providing concepts, art as providing affects and Science as being functional. For example postmodernism as a Philosophy provides us a binary divide of language where signs privilege and marginalize each other. A deconstructive reading of text exposes these contradictions inherent in it. As an example for ART, let’s take the ‘Persistence of Memory’ by the Surreal Artist Salvador Dali. The painting represents an embryo covered with a melting clock. Dream and reality is co-represented in this work of art. Time is interiorized and made as an inherent inner reality. Does the embryo represent the conflict of the artist with his own Oedipus complex? When we look at Science, the DNA codifies our genes and the analysis of a genetic structure is a functional one. According to him Literature should shock, shatter or provoke the reader. It’s questionable to ask Deleuze how themes, like incest, rape, murder and pedophilia can be represented in Literature. Sigmund Freud has rightly said that a society has to prevent incest and murder for the continuance of civilization. Deleuze also remarks that events in Science and Art will provoke new problems for Philosophy.
Deleuze classifies the Cinema and its philosophy into two. They are, the Movement image and the Time image. Movement image is linked to the movement of the camera, giving expression to movement. Thus we find that a series of shots captured on screen are represented in a sequence or a flow. In art cinema there are many variations where images can be presented from multiple perspectives. In the Time Image, time is presented indirectly. Cinema presents images liberated from the everyday organizing structure of life. Deleuze is not very clear about the viewer’s perspective. Do we succumb to the Cinema or challenge it. Popular Cinema is mainly made to suit the entertainment needs of the public. There is a lot of stereotyping in popular cinema. On the other hand art Cinema offers different perspectives. I felt like viewing art when I watched Akira Kurosawa’s Dreams. I was particularly fascinated by the presentation of Van Gogh’s pictures. The question for the Philosophy of Cinema is that when does it become art? Popular Cinema is a commercialized fetish for mass consumption.
Deleuze introduces the concept of life to that of a machine. For him, a machine is not a metaphor but a reality. For Deleuze the machine allows for an active ethics. Machine has no subjectivity or organizing center. Machines work through connections. De-territorialisation occurs when the event of becoming escapes or detaches from the original territory. My question for Deleuze is how we can view life as a machine devoid of subjectivity. For example making love is like writing poetry. The functional aspect of it can be a machine. The sharing and giving of love is not mechanical but poetic and it’s an immersion of subjectivity. Again if I am talking of romance to a lover, I am establishing a connection that is not mechanical phenomenon. The subject and consciousness can never exist in a state of de-territorialization. When I read a text, I am not detached but enter into the realm of the reader’s thoughts. Deleuze has mistakenly appropriated a political concept into human cognition and effect. De-territorialization lacks conceptual clarity. How can we conceptualize ethics into a system of machines? That would result in anarchy in the world.
Again Deleuze has used the concept of transcendental empiricism. He has mixed up two unrelated concepts together. In existential Philosophy, the concept of transcendence has been shorn of its divine character and given the status of feeling and emotion. Empiricism is a philosophy that relies on the structure of epistemology based on facts and data. An empirical based on approach is scientific or mathematical where as we can say that human relationships are transcendental.

Restoration of JOB

Restoration of JOB as an idiom sprung across my mind while reading the book of JOB. Job looses everything and in the end, after being tested by the Devil, he is restored and blessed by GOD. Restoration of JOB is an idiom means a period of prosperity after a bitter period of loss, ruin and deprivation.

Example: When will JOB be restored for me?

The coming of Modi as Prime-minister of India was a restoration of JOB in his life.
he have-nots of India have to be restored to JOB.