chapter  5
35 Pages

Out of Which Past?

In Labyrinths, Jorge Luis Borges imagines a modern writer, Pierre Menard, who sets out to write a few pages which would coineide - word for word and line for line - with some passages from Cervantes' Don Quixote. Assessing the results of this imaginary endeavour, Borges insists that while the two texts - Menard's and Cervantes ' - may be verbally ident ieal, their meanings are not the same. Although the same words are assembled in the same order, they eould not help but eonvey different meanings by virtue of the different eireumstanees in whieh they were written and thus the different eultural horizons - those of twentieth-eentury France and seventeentheentury Spain - through whieh their signifieanee would be inflec ted . Above all, Borges argues , Menard's text would be rieher than Cervantes ' - rieher beeause more ambiguous, and more ambiguous beeause of its status as a faesimile (Borges 1970: 69).