When he comes to what he calls the "ineffable center" of his story, our narrator, called "Borges," tells us that this is the place where the "hopelessness of the writer" begins (282/624). A few lines after confessing his "hopelessness" as a writer, this same narrator unleashes what surely must be one of the longest sentences that Borges - famous for his economy - ever published. It runs to 34 lines over two pages in his Obras completas and consists of a series of independent clauses each beginning with the word "vi" - "I saw." How should we understand the proximity of a writer's confession of hopelessness to his prodigious production of a two-page sentence? What can we make of this curious juxtaposition of hopelessness and potency in "Borges'" tale? In the following pages I wish to unfold one way of making something of this juxtaposition. But in order to do so, I think it will be best first to go back to the beginning.
From the get go, "Borges" has a problem with time. Noticing the installation of a new billboard advertisement on the morning of the death of Beatriz Viterbo, his great unrequited love, "Borges" recalls that: "the fact deeply grieved me [me dolió], for I realized that the vast unceasing universe was already pulling away [se apartaba] from her, and that this change was but the first in an infinite series" (274/617, translation modified). Perhaps understandably, he resolves to resist the "vast unceasing universe", affirming to himself: "The universe may change, but I shall not". More specifically, he avails himself of the opportunity to pay a visit to Beatriz' family home on the anniversary of her birth and so to preserve his relationship to her.
"Once again I would wait . . ., once again I would study the details of the many photographs and portraits of her: Beatriz Viterbo, in profile, in color; Beatriz in a mask at the Carnival of 1921; Beatriz' first communion; Beatriz on the day of her wedding to Roberto Alessandri; Beatriz shortly after the divorce, lunching at the Jockey Club; Beatriz in Quilmes with Delia San Marco Porcel and Carlos Argentino; Beatriz with the Pekinese that had been a gift from Villegas Haedo; Beatriz in full-front and in three-quarters view, smiling her hand on her chin. . . . " (274/617)
Most striking in "Borges'" description of this plan is the punctuated repetition of the name, of the same name, over and over again. The variety of times and poses fade back into the single repeated name: Beatriz, Beatriz, Beatriz, Beatriz, Beatriz, Beatriz, Beatriz - seven times in as many lines of prose. And this repetition of the same name is itself repeated in the fact that "Borges'" first visit to the home becomes an annually repeated visit.
We have then, right from the beginning of "Borges'" tale, the experience of time as a problem along with a proposed solution: resistance to time through repetition. The solution already begins to clue us into the fact that at least part of the problem with time is that it proliferates differences. Beatriz alive is not the same as Beatriz dead. And the universe with a dead Beatriz in it is not the same as the universe with a live Beatriz in it. Even Beatriz herself, at the carnival, with her husband, after the divorce, and so forth, is not the same Beatriz. At the same time, this solution reveals a corollary symptom of the problem of time-as-difference: forgetting. Hence the monotonous, rhythmic repetition of the name, which intends to subsume the variety of the temporally unfolding images of Beatriz-in-the-world back into the single abstract name -- Beatriz, Beatriz, Beatriz - and to drum that name unforgettably into our memory. Time appears then as the sticky, chaotic, and varied fabric of being-as-becoming and of being-as-difference and repetition through representation appears as the only means to combat time's effects.
"Borges" isn't the only one dogged by time. Over the course of his annually repeated visits to the home - twelve in all - he makes the acquaintance and forges a pseudo-friendship with Carlos Argentino Daneri, Beatriz' first cousin. Almost from our first meeting with Daneri, we learn that his months long labor on the poems of the French symbolist Paul Fort was motivated less by those poems than by "the idea of a glory that could never be tarnished" (275/618). Tarnishing, of course, is a function of time, so that this first description already shows us Daneri pitched in his own battle to preserve an image against the effects of time. The threat that time poses to Daneri appears more clearly in his response to his experience of the Aleph.
The Aleph is a sphere, two or three centimeters in diameter. It contains everything in the universe seen from every point of view, simultaneously, "without transparency and without superposition". And it is under a staircase in Carlos Argentino Daneri's basement. Daneri apparently discovered the Aleph as a child and returned frequently to savor its dizzying perspectives. As an adult, however, he has taken to composing a poem, which he calls "The Earth", recording his visions. Already in this fact, we can see something of our narrator's own aversion to time in this enterprise. To capture the Aleph via the word, via the poetic representation, is an extended version of the narrator's own project of repeating the name Beatriz not only as a way of remembering, but as a way equally of preserving abstract identity in the face of the difference that time makes.
To this intention, however, Daneri seems also to be obsessed - as he was in relation to the poetry of Paul Fort - with securing a "glory that could never be tarnished." Indeed, when Daneri first reads some of the poem to "Borges," the latter's impression is that the poem is "forgettable" (a serious criticism in view of both characters' obsession with time) and that "the poet's work had lain not in the poetry but in the invention of reasons for accounting the poetry admirable" (275/619). Daneri's discourse with respect to his own poetry (as with respect to Fort's poetry), in other words, if it is creative of anything is creative of Literature, capital "L": the canonized, fossilized collection of texts that must not be forgotten, must be preserved against the ravages of time, circumstance, and difference. So Daneri and Borges appear, for the moment, to be allies in a battle waged against time. The problem, however, is that Borges doesn't seem to like Daneri very much. And, though at one instant he sympathizes with Daneri's grief at the prospect of losing his home, he ultimately encourages Daneri to give up his battle for preservation and allow his home to be demolished. Why? What are we to make of the uneasiness of this alliance? To respond to these questions, I'd like first to reflect further on some of the social dimensions of time. They will appear, temporarily, to take us away from the story, but we will return better equipped first, to grasp the differences between what now appear to be the virtually identical stances of Borges and Daneri in relation to time, second, to begin to make something of the juxtaposition of hopelessness and productivity with which I began these thoughts, and finally, to create one way, at least, of plugging the whole story back into our time.
In his unpublished notebooks of 1857, known as the Grundrisse, Karl Marx wrote that "Labour is the living, form-giving fire; it is the transitoriness of things, their temporality, as their formation by living time" (361). Marx here offers a functional definition of labor: labor is that which introduces form and time to things. And if labor is the temporality of things, then it should also be true that the temporality of things is labor. But in what sense specifically is this the case? Marx elaborates that it is only living labor that activates what he called "use-value" in things (Grundrisse 361). Cotton, in other words, is just a plant until someone picks it, spins it, weaves it, dyes it, cuts it, and sews it. Living labor - picking, spinning, weaving, dying, cutting, sewing - makes of the plant something useful. Of course, even as a plant, cotton is still subject to time: to the time of nature, we might say, the temporal work of the seasons. But via labor, which purposively transforms cotton into thread, yarn, fabric, garment, new, human temporalities are introduced to cotton that accord at once with particular human needs and with the creative interplay of human ingenuity and physical skill with raw material. It is in this sense that labor is the temporality of things and that the temporality of things is labor, just to the degree that the creative, transformative activity of living labor makes something new and useful according to the varying rhythms of need, desire, skill, and circumstance.
Of course, the whole point of Marx's analysis in this text as in others was that use-value and the living labor that produces it was ever-more being subsumed into the capitalist process of the production of surplus-value. I cannot in this short space describe that process in all its facets, but at the heart of this process, already in Marx, was the theft of time (Grundrisse 334; Capital, Vol. 1 300-1). Capital appropriates the irregular temporalities of labor's production of use-value, converting them first into the abstract, homogenous temporalities of exchange-value and the commanding, through its ownership of the means of production, excess labor that becomes the source of surplus-value. Antonio Negri, in his recently translated work, Time for Revolution, takes off from Marx to elaborate a fuller account of the different temporalities at work within the capitalist mode of production. Negri distinguishes what he calls "a time of command" from "the times of the liberation of exploitation" (44-45). Negri elsewhere defines the "times of the liberation of exploitation" as "the global phenomenological fabric, as base, substance and flow of production in its entirety" (29). This is Marx's time of living labor, or rather, times - plural -- of living labor: the perhaps infinitely varied temporalities lived by human subjects in the course of creating - from given circumstances - something new and useful to them. Against this has stood "a time of command", "the time of capital". Now for capital, the dream is to eliminate time entirely. Time, as every American knows, is money. That is to say, time wasted is money lost. And from the point of view of capital's desire for perfectly smooth circulation all time is time wasted. Of course, for capital to eliminate time entirely would be also to eliminate labor, which is the basis of its own functioning. The solution, Negri argues, is a single, abstract time as measure. With this, Negri completes the translation of Marx's use-value subsumed into surplus-value as the living temporalities of labor subsumed into the abstract measured temporality of capital.
But Negri does not rest there. He continues to examine these temporalities under the aspect of their political manifestations, what he has elsewhere called "constituted power", or the negative, dominating Power of the State seeking to appropriate and command "constituent power", or that always insurgent, creative and affirmative power that eludes all attempts at definition or delimitation (Insurgencies e.g. 21-2). Here again, the function of the State, as constituted power, is to negate time. Drawing up the constituent energies of insurgency into a fixed constitution, the State literally seeks to stop time (Time for Revolution 84). That is, it seeks to stop the time of insurgency (the refusal in various forms to capitulate to the time of capital and of the State) (Time for Revolution 91-97); to stop the time of constituent power (the time of self-organization); to stop, finally, the time, of revolution (which, for Negri, is nothing other than the multiple temporalities of autonomous, social subjects unleashed to affirm creative desires in the act of self-valorization [Insurgencies 326-7; Time for Revolution 120-2]). Communism, for Negri drawing elsewhere directly from Marx is "the real movement that destroys the present state of things" (Labor of Dionysus 5). We should allow ourselves to understand state not only in the sense of "present conditions", but also in the sense of constituted power. This state, meanwhile, as Gareth Williams has reminded us, never stops talking (Williams 114). So that to the senses of present conditions and constituted power we can now add the discursive element of "statement-making." The state, in that case, ceaselessly states so as to conserve the present state of things.
Now we can come back to Carlos Argentino Daneri who, like the state, never seems to stop talking. Of course, it's not just that he never stops talking. It's the way he talks (with absolute authority and self-satisfaction) and why he talks (to secure absolute control over the right to talk). Consider "Borges'" first description of Daneri: ". . . he is authoritarian, though also ineffectual; . . . His mental activity is constant, passionate, versatile, and utterly insignificant. He is full of pointless [inservibles] analogies and idle scruples" (275/618). Authoritarian and ineffectual, full of pointless analogies and idle scruples. "Witless," "sweeping," and "pompous," Daneri's ideas are dismissed as "Literature" (276/618). And indeed, in his Literary - capital L again -- project to represent the universe and universal knowledge, does not Daneri echo the universalizing, representative pretensions of the modern State? Finally, recall that Daneri's real creative work, according to Borges, lay not in the representation itself, which was "forgettable" and "pedantic", but in the admiring glosses he himself supplies for the work. Is he not just a little bit State-like in investing at least as much effort in promoting his representation as he does in actually fulfilling the representation itself?
But if you are not yet convinced of the plausibility of my comparison of Carlos Argentino Daneri with the state - and we should not forget that he is named after a state, consider his response to the threat of the demolition of his house; the house, recall, that contains the Aleph. As he tells "Borges", he "needs the house to finish his poem" (280/622-3). But two enterprising café owners, Zunino and Zungiri, plan to expand their café onto the property currently occupied by Daneri's home: "It's mine, it's mine . . . Zunino and Zungri [the café owners] shall never take it from me - never, never! Lawbook in hand, Zunni [his attorney] will prove that my Aleph is inalienable" (280-1/623). Now the claims of the home-owner, backed by the laws of private property, converge with the proprietary ambitions of the poet and the ceaseless representational discourse of the State to secure his absolute control over the universe for all time or, more precisely, beyond all time. Of course, it is also true and worth noting, as it is true and worth noting of the State, that Carlos Argentino Daneri, notwithstanding his insatiable appetite for transcendental, timeless, and absolute control of all things and all perspectives, could be persuaded to part with this control in exchange for "a good hundred thousand" or, as it reads in the Spanish original: "cien mil nacionales" (280/622).
To this point, we have seen two individuals who share an aversion to time, which is associated with the production of difference and oblivion. Both individuals combat time by clinging to repetition: for Borges, the name and the visits, for Daneri, the State-like repetitive identity of representation, personal glory, and private property. But we have seen also, via our detour through Marx and Negri, that time, in addition to being the creator of difference and forgetting, might also be seen as the ontological fabric - the very being - of human creativity. The Aleph, for its part, is nothing more than the absolute, degree zero reduction of time to space. The plurality of spaces may well be compressed in the Aleph to a single tiny sphere, but the plurality of times is compressed to zero, a single instant in which all times appear simultaneously. And with this, we return once again to my starting point, which is also the "ineffable" center of Borges' tale: his own encounter with the Aleph.
You may recall that I was struck by Borges' confession of hopelessness. I would like first to look at this more closely. Borges himself explains his hopelessness in the following terms:
Every language is an alphabet of symbols the employment of which assumes a past shared by its interlocutors. How can one transmit to others the infinite Aleph, which my timorous memory can scarcely contain? In a similar situation, mystics have employed a wealth of emblems. . . . Perhaps the gods would not deny me the discovery of an equivalent image, but then this report would be polluted with literature, with falseness. And besides, the central problem - the enumeration, even partial enumeration, of infinity - is irresolvable. . . . What my eyes saw was simultaneous; what I shall write is successive because language is successive. (282/624-5)
Essentially, then, Borges' hopelessness as a writer stems from the confrontation of language - his medium and tool as a writer - with the Aleph. Language, in short, is incommensurate with the Aleph. Language, in Borges' explanation is first of all social in that it "assumes a past shared by its interlocutors". Then, in addition, in referring to the "past shared by its interlocutors" and by speaking of language as "successive", we see that language is also temporal, a time bound form. The Aleph, of course, is simultaneous and total so that the incommensurability of language with the Aleph may seem obvious.
But incommensurate in what sense? This too may seem obvious. However, incommensurability can only be measured in relation to a purpose, in this case, the purpose of language. The Aleph, an experience of infinite time and space contained in a single flashing slice of the present could never be represented in language, which unfolds over time. Moreover, the Aleph, as an infinite collection of perspectives could never be represented in any single human language, which necessarily, as Borges also explains, depends upon a past shared by its speakers (and so also not shared by speakers of other languages). Any attempt to represent the Aleph in language would necessarily fail and so, if language's ability to represent the Aleph is the criteria of its commensurability, we would indeed have to conclude, with Borges, that language is incommensurate with the Aleph and, we might, like him, fall into the hopelessness of the writer.
Borges here runs up against and articulates the finitude of language, which is also to say the finitude of the human. And registers this first as an experience of hopelessness. But what if the function of language and writing were not representation, but something else? Something that, like Borges himself in the tale, were intimate with the finitude, the limits -- the point of death we might say -- of language itself? Borges himself gives us two clues as to what this other function might be called. In the midst of his expression of hopelessness he wonders how he might "transmit to others the infinite Aleph" and at the very end of his explanation of that hopelessness he claims for what he will write only that "something of it, though, I will collect [recoger]" (283/625, my translation).
"Transmit" and "collect". Let me pause to think a bit about these words as ways of describing what language - if it cannot hope to represent the Aleph - perhaps can do. Transmit comes to us in English, like the Spanish original trasmitir, from the Latin transmittere which in turn comes from "trans-", meaning "across" and "mittere", meaning "to send." Recoger, meanwhile, which I have translated as "collect" (departing from the current published translation which renders it as "capture") comes to us also from Latin, in this case from the word "recollegere", which in turn derives from the composition of "re-" (meaning "again"), "col-" (a variant of "com-, meaning "with"), and "legere" (meaning "to read"). In that sense, recoger (collect, or assemble) means to "read together again". So we have now "sending across" and "reading together again" as things that a writer might hope to do, if indeed he cannot hope to represent, to make present again, the Aleph.
We might say that when the aspiration (the hope) to represent falls away into hopelessness, what appears in its place is "sending across" or "reading together again." And this, is what that might look like:
"I saw the populous sea, saw dawn and dusk, saw the multitudes [muchedumbres] of the Americas, saw a silvery spider web at the center of a black pyramid, saw a broken labyrinth (it was London), saw in a rear courtyard on Calle Soler the same tiles I'd seen twenty years before in the entryway of a house in Fray Bentos, saw clusters of grapes, snow, tobacco, veins of metal, water vapor, saw convex equatorial deserts and their every grain of sand, saw a woman in Inverness whom I shall never forget, saw her violent hair, her haughty body, saw a cancer in her breast, saw a circle of dry soil within a sidewalk where there had once been a tree, saw a country house in Adrogué, saw a copy of the first English translation of Pliny (Philemon Holland's), saw every letter of every page at once (as a boy, I would be astounded that the letters in a closed book didn't get all scrambled up together overnight), saw simultaneous night and day, saw a sunset in Querétero that seemed to reflect the color of a rose in Bengal, saw my bedroom (with no one in it), saw in a study in Alkmaar a globe of the terraqueous world placed between two mirrors that multiplied it endlessly, saw horses with wind-whipped manes on a beach in the Caspian Sea at dawn, saw the delicate bones of a hand, saw the survivors of a battle sending postcards, saw a Tarot card in a shop window in Mirzapur, saw the oblique shadows of ferns on the floor of a greenhouse, saw tigers, pistons, bisons, tides, and armies, saw all the ants on earth, saw a Persian astrolabe, saw in a desk drawer (and the handwriting made me tremble) obscene, incredible, detailed letters that Beatriz had sent Carlos Argentino, saw a beloved monument in Chacarita, saw the horrendous remains of what had once, deliciously, been Beatriz Viterbo, saw the circulation of my dark blood, saw the coils and springs of love and the alterations of death, saw the Aleph from everywhere at once, saw the earth in the Aleph, and the Aleph once more in the earth and the earth in the Aleph, saw my face and my viscera, saw your face, and I felt dizzy, and I wept, because my eyes had seen that secret, hypothetical object whose name has been usurped by men but which no man has every truly looked upon: the inconceivable universe."
There is no doubt, Borges cannot hope as a writer to represent the infinite and timeless Aleph, but freed of the burden of representing it, freed of the burden of the hope of representing it, hopeless, in short, Borges unleashes a breathless torrent of words. This is reading together again: "saw you face" Borges tells me. Whose face? My face? Your face? We are reading together again. This is reading together again. And it represents nothing. Rather, this is sending across, like a radio signal. This is transmission. And it represents nothing. But it communicates -- in the sense of the immediate transmission of a communicable infection -- a being breathless with potent productivity in the face of (and hopelessly accepting) his own finitude. It communicates not "the infinite", but rather the evocatively partial, irreducible particularity of time-bound things that actually constitute what the man of the state would arrogantly call "the infinite". The Aleph, perspective-less because it encompasses all possible perspectives, together with any stately attempts to represent it, pale in comparison with the insistent particularity of Borges "vi" - "I saw". The repetition, reminiscient in form to his earlier melancholic repetition of the name "Beatriz Viterbo", here assumes a very different function. In the earlier passage, the repetition dulled difference and stopped time, here the repeated "vi" serves always as the launching pad for a new facet of a world, at once epic and minute: from the multitudes of America to the circulation of his own blood, that Borges does not represent but rather brings forth on this flood of writerly productivity. And make no mistake, it is a production of language at once temporal and social.
Remember that "hopelessness", in the original Spanish is "desperación", which is to say not only hopelessness but "waitlessness" or a refusal to wait any longer. And again, compare it to Borges stubborn but melancholy attempts to get disrupt the fabric of time with his repetitive visits to Beatriz: "Once more I would wait...". But here, when he no longer can hope, he also no longer can wait. And in this sense he enters what Antonio Negri calls the moment of decision, the shooting of an arrow at the opportune moment through the kairos or. "for that reason," says Negri, "'doing politics' means to take leave of domination, to take leave of the Power of the State and every transcendental illusion in order to produce new common cooperative temporalities and spaces on the edge of being, and to realize the amorous innovation that bestows meaning on common being" (Time for Revolution 259-260). That is how, if the Aleph and Carlos Argentino Daneri's pedantic representation of it express the zero-time dream of capital and of the state, a kind of absolute constitution, Borges' stammering (Deleuze and Guattari 98), punctuated flow of language expresses the constituent power that everywhere eludes and brings to crisis the pretentious static of the state
In the end, Borges and Carlos Argentino Daneri will have one more confrontation. As Borges emerges from the cellar, Daneri anxiously looks to lord it over Borges: "you may rack your brains, but you'll never repay me for this revelation - not in a hundred years." Typically, Daneri views the Aleph and the experience it affords as fungible: it can be exchanged for a poetic representation of itself, it can be exchanged for a "good hundred thousand", and it can, here, be exchanged for a debt that may as well be eternal since Borges can never repay it. Borges for his part, quietly takes his leave (and his revenge): "I refused, with gentle firmness, to discuss the Aleph" (284). He refuses, in other words, to play Carlos Argentino Daneri's game of representation and Power. And this refusal is nothing more than an extension, now turned active refusal, of his earlier hopelessness.
Now Borges has tapped into a power, a potentiality let me say, that permits this man who began his tale disempowered and depressed by forgetting, to feel a grateful relief when after a few sleepless nights, "forgetfulness began to working on me again" (284). Why relief? Because upon leaving Carlos Argentino Daneri's house, "Out in the street, on the steps of Constitution Station - Constitution Station!! - all the faces seemed familiar. I feared there was nothing that had the power to surprise or astonish me anymore." That is to say, in other words, that Borges has gone from stubbornly resisting the creative (and so also destructive) labor of time, even to the point of entering into an unsavory collaboration, a pseudo-friendship with the State, to gratefully, hopelessly, waitlessly allowing the power of time to do its work through and on him. For forgetfulness, which is to say: time, Borges knows, is the condition for the new.
I would like to conclude by making a few suggestions, perhaps for further connections that might become further research. First, I would like to suggest that what I have here unfolded in relation to time -- the antagonism between a constituted power aiming to negate time and a constituent power that surfs the tides and eddies of time as the condition of its own immanent creativity - may also be played out in some of Borges' other stories, such as "The Garden of Bifurcating Paths," "Funes, El memorioso" and "The Immortal" and, inflected by other tones, in "Death and the Compass" and "El Zahir" (absolute knowledge and the name of God), or transcendental calculation in "Emma Zunz" and "The Rose of Paracelsus". But everywhere in these stories, as in others such as "Pierre Menard" or "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", as in "The Aleph," and despite whatever professed philosophical or political views Borges the historical person may have espoused, there runs through the language of Borges the writer a potent, pragmatic flow of autonomous, immanent, social subjectivity, bubbling through the crusty surface of all would-be Transcendental Power in affirmation of nothing of more than the joy of creative power.
Second, I would like to suggest that what I have here cast primarily in terms of Antonio Negri's vocabulary of constituted and constituent power, might very productively be pursued through the vocabularies - at once common and unique - of other thinkers. I am thinking of C. L. R. James, writing from Detroit when Antonio Negri was still a teenager of the "struggle for happiness" (James 166); or of Giorgio Agamben's, Negri's fellow traveler in the circuits of Italian autonomia, who teaches us of "sovereignty", "bare life" and "form of life", the latter a notion bearing important resonances to Negri's constituent power (Agamben, Means, 3-12; Agamben, Homo Sacer). Or we may think, with Gilles Deleuze, influential to both Negri and Agamben, through a terminology of war machines and nomads, or of becoming major and becoming minor (Deleuze and Guattari). The point, of course, is not to force a redundancy among all these terms, but rather to generate a kind of sympathetic vibration - as among musical instruments tuning to the same key; a creative tension among them.
Lastly, I would like to emphasize that what I have unfolded here in Borges, with the aid of Antonio Negri, what might be pursued in the texts of any number of writers and with the aid of any number more of others, is most important of all for weight it brings home to the living of our daily lives, in all the various capacities they entail. Not only as political philosophers or activists, but every moment of every day - as fathers, mothers, friends, lovers, teachers, students, colleagues, co-workers, drivers, riders, singers, writers, walkers, children - we are presented with the temptation to scratch the itch of our ego by grasping after transcendentals of one kind or another, which is to say by attempting to reign, State-like, over a mini-dominion of our fantasies. And precisely equally, at every moment, we are also presented with an opportunity to confess the hopelessness of such efforts, to recognize, with Henry Miller, that "The power which we long to possess, in order to establish the good, the true and the beautiful, would prove to be, if we could have it, but the means of destroying one another" (213), and in the process to discover the constituent, creative power we have to participate in the unfolding of the new.
Agamben, Giorgio. Homo Sacer: Sovereign Power and Bare Life.
Translated by Daniel Heller-Roazen. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1998.
Agamben, Giorgio. 2000. Means Without Ends: Notes on Politics.
Translated by Vincenzo Binetti and Cesare Casarino. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press.
Borges, Jorge Luis. "El Aleph" in Obras completas, v. 1.
Barcelona: Emecé, 1996. 617-27.
Borges, Jorge Luis. "The Aleph" in Collected Fictions.
Translated by Andrew Hurley. New York: Penguin, 1998. 274-86.
Deleuze, Gilles and Felix Guattari. A Thousand Plateaus.
Translated by Brian Massumi. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1987.
James, C. L. R.. "The Struggle for Happiness" in American
Civilization. Edited by Anna Grimshaw and Keith Hart. Oxford: Blackwell, 1993. 166-198.
Lindstrom, Naomi. Jorge Luis Borges: A Study of the Short Fiction.
Boston: Twayne, 1990.
Marx, Karl. 1973. Grundrisse. Translated by Martin Nicolaus. New
York: Penguin, 1973.
Marx, Karl. Capital, v. 1. Translated by Ben Fowkes. New
York: Penguin, 1976.
Miller, Henry. Sexus. New York: Grove, 1965.
Moreiras, Alberto. Tercer Espacio: Literatura y Duelo en América
Latina. Santiago de Chile: Arcis, 1999.
Negri, Antonio. The Savage Anomaly: The Power of Spinoza's
Metaphysics and Politics. Translated by Michael Hardt. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1991.
Negri, Antonio. Insurgencies: Constituent Power and the
Modern State. Translated by Maurizia Boscagli. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1999.
Negri, Antonio. Time for Revolution. Translated by Matteo
Mandarini. New York: Continuum, 2004.
Negri, Antonio and Michael Hardt. Labor of Dionysus: A
Critique of the State-Form. Minneapolis: University of Minnesota Press, 1994.
Sarlo, Beatriz. Jorge Luis Borges: A Writer on the Edge.
London: Verso, 1993.
Williams, Gareth. The Other Side of the Popular:
Neoliberalism and Subalternity in Latin America. Durham: Duke University Press, 2002.
Thanks to Ana Ros for helpful feedback throughout the process of composing this essay and to Gareth Williams and Cristina Moreiras, who read a near-final version. Finally, thanks to students enrolled in my Borges class at the University of Michigan in the Fall, 2004 for lively, original readings and discussion that helped seed the ideas for this essay.
I will cite quotations from Borges' story parenthetically, with the first page number referring to the English translation (Borges 1998) and the second to the Spanish original (Borges 1996). Where I have modified the English translation, I have indicated this parenthetically as well.
To my knowledge, none of the many excellent studies of Borges' work address this question. However, for approaches emphasizing other facets of the tale, or situating it in relation to different texts and contexts see Sarlo 55-56; Moreiras 175-217; Lindstrom 54-57.
We may trace Negri's terms "constituted power" and "constituent power" back to his earlier close reading of Spinoza and find there the simple distinction between potestas and potentia, or, in Italian, potere and potenza. Both terms are rendered in English by the word "power" and I thus follow the lead of translators of Negri (and of other Italian thinkers) in rendering potestas, which is "constituted power", with the capitalized English "Power", and also rendering potentia, or "constituent power" as "power", without an initial capital. See Negri Savage Anomaly xiii and Agamben Means 143 n. 1.