“Parable of Cervantes and the Quixote”
Jorge Luis Borges
Translated by Andrew Hurley
Weary of his land of Spain, an old soldier of the king’s army sought solace in the vast
geographies of Ariosto, in that valley of the moon in which one finds the time that is squandered by dreams, and in the golden idol of Muhammad stolen by Montalbán.
In gentle self-mockery, this old soldier conceived a credulous man—his mind unsettled by the reading of all those wonders—who took it into his head to ride out in search of adventures and enchantments in prosaic places with names such as El Toboso and Montici.
Defeated by reality, by Spain, don Quixote died in 1614 in the town of his birth. He was survived only a short time by Miguel de Cervantes.
For both the dreamer and the dreamed, that entire adventure had been the clash of two worlds; the unreal world of romances and the common everyday world of the seventeenth century.
They never suspected that the years would at last smooth away the discord, never suspected that in the eyes of the future, La Mancha and Montici and the lean figure of the Knight of Mournful Countenance would be no less poetic than the adventures of Sindbad or the vast geographies of Ariosto.
For in the beginning of literature there is myth, as there is also in the end of it.
When Narcissus died the pool of his pleasure changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, and the Oreads came weeping through the woodland that they might sing to the pool and give it comfort.
And when they saw that the pool had changed from a cup of sweet waters into a cup of salt tears, they loosened the green tresses of their hair and cried to the pool and said, ‘We do not wonder that you should mourn in this manner for Narcissus, so beautiful was he.’
‘But was Narcissus beautiful?’ said the pool.
‘Who should know that better than you?’ answered the Oreads. ‘Us did he ever pass by, but you he sought for, and would lie on your banks and look down at you, and in the mirror of your waters he would mirror his own beauty.’
And the pool answered, ‘But I loved Narcissus because, as he lay on my banks and looked down at me, in the mirror of his eyes I saw ever my own beauty mirrored.’
“Robinson Crusoe” by Franz Kafka:
Had Robinson Crusoe never left the highest, or more correctly the most visible point of his island, from desire for comfort, or timidity, or fear, or ignorance, or longing, he would soon have perished; but since without paying any attention to passing ships and their feeble telescopes he started to explore the whole island and take pleasure in it, he managed to keep himself alive and finally was found after all, by a chain of causality that was, of course, logically inevitable.