Thursday, December 3, 2015

12/3/19?? Death and the Compass begins

December 3, 19??.  Jorge Luis Borges was a great Argentinian writer, a creator of what is now known as Magical Realism.  In his early years he believed that a writer needed to create a new world, so some of his "fiction" consisted of biographies of people who never lived, reviews of books that were never written, detailed descriptions of buildings that could never be built.

But he was always interested in detective fiction.  Around his fortieth birthday (midlife crisis?) he wrote three masterful short crime stories: "The Garden of Forking Paths," "The Shape of the Sword," and "Death and the Compass." 

The plot of "Compass" begins on this date and it describes detective Lonnrott trying to solve a series of increasingly bizarre crimes including a dead rabbi, masked harlequins, and a master criminal. 

A casual reader might think this was a standard, if rococo mystery, if the reader failed to notice that in  spite of all the overwhelming details Borges provides about the case and the city, he never even identifies the continent, much less the country.  Weird things are going on...

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