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Monday
Mar302015

Borges, "Ragnarök"

A prose poem by this Argentine on this series of events.  You can find the original in this collection.

In dreams (writes Coleridge), images assume the shape of the impressions we think they cause. We do not feel horrified because a sphinx oppresses us; we dream of a sphinx to explain the horror that we feel. If this is so, how could a mere chronicle of its forms transmit the stupor, the exaltation, the alarm, the menace, and the joy woven together in the dreams of last night? Nevertheless, I will attempt this chronicle; perhaps the fact that a single scene completed that dream may erase or mitigate the essential difficulty.

The place was the Department of Philosophy and Literature; the time was twilight. Everything (as tends to occur in dreams) was a bit different; a subtle magnification altered things. We were choosing committees; I was speaking with Pedro Henríquez Ureña, who during wakefulness had died many years ago. Suddenly we were deafened by the sound of a band of street musicians or demonstration. Human and animals screams reached us from El Bajo. One voice shouted: Here they come! And then: The Gods! The Gods! Four to five subjects emerged from the mob and occupied the dais of the main lecture hall. We all applauded, sobbing; it was the Gods returning from centuries of exile. Enlarged by the dais, their heads thrown back and their chests thrust out, they welcomed our homage with arrogance. One of them was holding a branch, which doubtless corresponded to the simplistic botany of dreams; another, with a broad gesture, extended his hand which turned out to be a claw; one of Janus's faces looked distrustfully at Thoth's curved beak. Excited, perhaps, by our applause, one of them – I don't know which – burst into a victorious and incredibly sharp cluck, gargling and hissing. From that moment on things changed.

It all began with the suspicion (perhaps exaggerated) that the Gods did not possess the faculty of speech. Centuries of life as wild fugitives had atrophied what was human about them; the moon of Islam and the cross of Rome had been implacable with these deserters. Beetling brows, yellowed teeth, the sparse mustaches of a mulatto or Chinaman, and bestial protruding lips announced the degeneration of the Olympian line. Their clothes did not declaim decorous and decent poverty, but rather the baleful luxury of the gambling dens and brothels of El Bajo. A carnation was bleeding in a buttonhole; beneath a tight jacket one could espy the bulge of a dagger. We suddenly felt that they had played their last card, that they were cunning, ignorant and cruel like aging predators, and that if we let them win through fear or shame, they would end up destroying us.

We took out our heavy revolvers (revolvers appeared in the dream out of nowhere) and gleefully put an end to the Gods.

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