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The Garden of Forking Paths

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Meagan Bell

on 30 October 2014

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Transcript of The Garden of Forking Paths

The Garden of Forking Paths
The Garden of Forking Paths
Characters
Themes
Questions
Magical realism's goal is to emphasize a philosophical concept. What do you believe the concept to be in this story?
How do you believe Borges' life affected his work?
Why do you think Tsun killed Dr. Albert in the end?
Jorge Luis Borges
Childhood
He was born on August 24, 1899 in Buenos Aires, Argentina
His father was a lawyer who published a novel
His mother translated works by Faulkner, Kafka, and Lawrence into Spanish
Borges read and wrote in Spanish and English
He moved to Geneva in 1914 before the start of WWI for father's eye surgery
He learned German, French, and Latin in a Swiss secondary school
He joined the Ultraists when he moved to Spain
Adulthood
He founded Argentinian Ultraists in 1921
His first job as a librarian inspired his first work, "The Library of Babel"
Juan Peron took over Argentina in a military dictatorship. Borges would oppose his rule his entire life
He taught English and North American Literature at the University of Buenos Aires
In 1955, he became the director of the National Library.
Also in 1955, Borges went blind.
Background
Published in 1941
It was the first piece by Borges to be translated into English
This work gained him global recognition
The style is similar to a detective story, focusing on clues
It was written in response to "realistic" novels
Magical Realism
A genre that places supernatural elements next to ordinary ones
The goal is to emphasize a central concept to the exclusion of the details
Borges established magical realism in this short story by basing the magical elements inside an article and including documented facts.
These facts include the geographic location of Albert, Ts'ui Pen's proposed model, and the History of the World War (1914-1918) by B.H. Liddell Hart.
Summary
The story is introduced as being a testimony from Yu Tsen explaining his role in the delay of the British offensive versus the Germans. The incomplete document begins when Yu Tsen, a German spy, has been discovered by British Captain Richard Madden and must rush to complete his mission. He escapes Madden on a train heading to Ashgrove.
Tsen receives directions from some local boys to the house of Dr. Stephen Albert, where he is greeted with Chinese music and lanterns. Dr. Albert is a Sinologist who has dedicated his study towards Tsen's great-grandfather, Ts'ui Pen and his labyrinth. Tsen allows Dr. Albert to explain his ancestor's theory and redeem Pen while he waits for Madden to catch up.
By the end of the hour, Tsen has befriended Albert and thanks him for restoring his ancestor's dignity. When he sees Madden outside the window, however, he shoots Albert in the back. His name in the paper notifies the Chief, Tsen's boss, to the location of the British offense, Albert. Tsen regrets killing Albert.
Yu Tsun
descendent of Ts'ui Pen
originally an English teacher in China
becomes a German spy to prove to the xenophobic Chief the worth of a Chinese man
admires and betrays Dr. Stephen Albert
intelligent, conflicted, remorseful
Dr. Stephen Albert
famous Sinologist -- scholar of Chinese culture
studied Ts'ui Pen's labyrinth for many years
decoded Pen's theory of "forking paths"
lives and dies like Ts'ui Pen
erudite, austere, appears "something like a priest" to Tsen
killed for his name only
Ts'ui Pen
never appears in story except in name; very influential
great-grandfather of Yu Tsen
governor of Yunnan Province in China
spurned by family for giving up his influence to become a scholar
created his labyrinth over 13 years in the Temple of the Limpid Sun before being assassinated by a stranger
Captain Richard Madden
Irish officer hunting Tsun to prove to his worth to his English superiors
The Chief
Tsun's German boss
never physically appears in the story
xenophobic
leaves Tsun to die
gathers information through newspapers
Time
Ts'ui Pen's theory was that time flowed in many different realities that converged and diverged at random and existed simultaneously.
"He believed in an infinite series of times, in a growing, dizzying net of divergent, convergent and parallel times. This network of times which approached one another, forked, broke off, or were unaware of one another for centuries, embraces all possibilities of time."
Fate vs. Free Will
The story establishes from the beginning the theme of inevitability. We already know by the entry that Tsun has been captured and his mission successful.
Tsun also feels this sense of destiny in how he treats his death. "I would encounter the same fate. Madden was implacable."
Albert supports fate over free will in his interpretation of Pen's book. He believes that all the realities are set regardless of individual actions. "The future already exists,"
We get the sense of fate being in control by the suspect coincidence of Tsun meeting Albert.

Internal Conflict
Tsun becomes a spy for a cause he does not support
Madden chases Tsun to prove himself against someone he hates
Tsun murders one of the few men he actually respects, Dr. Albert
Dr. Albert continues to study when he knows Ts'ui Pen's fate
Ts'ui Pen gives up his power and family for his labyrinth
Sources
http://img.slate.com/media/1/123125/2158911/2159086/2159087/070206_CL_JorgeLuisBorgesEX.jpg
http://www.playbull.com/wp-content/uploads/2013/06/Longleat-Hedge-Maze-Wiltshire-England.jpg
http://people.ucsc.edu/~cgoodell/media/time_lost_in_sand.jpg
Full transcript