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Mysterious things and situations always entice the human mind. Jorge Luis Borges is one such author who has captured this human tendency in his literary works. Through the use of symbolic labyrinths, Borges has added a touch of mystery to his story “The Garden of Forking Paths”. The protagonist in his story “The Garden of Forking Paths” is Dr. Yu Tsun, a spy who is working for the Germans. Tsun is baffled by the incomplete novel and labyrinth of his ancestor, Ts’ui Pen. The other labyrinths in the story are created through the narrative of the story, Tsun’s view about time and Albert’s theory regarding reality.
The protagonist in the story “The Garden of Forking Paths” is a spy Dr. Yu Tsun. Tsun works as a spy for Germany and in a desperate attempt to convey his discovery about a potential British attack to Germany, Tsun hatches a meticulous plan. According to his plan, he embarks on his journey to meet Dr. Stephen Albert. During his journey, he thinks about his ancestor, Ts’ui Pen and his attempt at writing a novel and constructing a labyrinth. Ts’ui Pen wanted to create his novel and labyrinth in such a manner that any individual would find it very difficult to comprehend their meaning. But the novel remains incomplete, as Pen is killed before he could end the novel. Although Tsun reads the incomplete novel, he is unable to understand the novel or find the labyrinth. Even while walking to Albert’s house, Tsun is thinking about the labyrinth of time, in which things of past, present and future, are taking place simultaneously. “I thought of a maze of mazes, of a sinuous, ever growing maze which would take in both past and future and would somehow involve the stars” (Borges 94). Tsun’s view about time influences his action when he kills Albert to convey his message to the Germans. Torn between his duty and loyalty, Tsun chooses to carry out his duty but also thinks that there is a different end to his and Albert’s life, as the other possibility which is taking place simultaneously.
The mystery behind the labyrinth constructed by Ts’ui Pen is solved by Albert. He states that the novel itself was the labyrinth that Pen wanted to construct. Albert explains that the book written by Pen consists of a plot where decisions of human beings lead to multiple paths. All the paths are included in the story which results into the creation of a labyrinth. Albert’s words to Tsun, sum up his notion regarding the labyrinth of reality. “For example, you come to this house; but in other possible pasts you are my enemy; in others my friend” (Borges 98). Albert mentions that an incident appears to be real in the present time but the same incident may have a different outcome in other period of time. .
In this story, the author places the protagonist in the imaginary world of Pen’s novel. Through the thoughts of Albert, the author creates an imaginary world which runs parallel to the real world. Tsun is presented as a character who is trying to apply Albert’s theory while finding his way through the labyrinth.
Borges, Jorge L. Ficciones. Grove Press. 1962.