Borges, his Aleph, and The Aleph: Constructing identity through the written text
Mariea, Josephine P.
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Jorge Luis Borges came of age at a time when the global artistic and intellectual climate was changing rapidly in response to shifting ideologies, the influences of industrial domination, and the devastation of large-scale war. In addition to this, Borges's own upbringing imbued in him a fundamental sense of both alienation and an insecurity of his own autonomous selfhood. As such, Borges was able to assume a voice in the radicalized artistic community that both reflected the predominant struggle of the individual within an increasingly unstable communal landscape as well as asserted his own very particular conception of the varying approach to constructing identity. His collection of short stories that emerged shortly after the Second World War, The Aleph, is a manifestation of this conception, in which he attempts, through the act and process of writing these narratives, to construct a notion of his own Aleph: a conceptual dynamic image that establishes the framework by which the self can reconcile a sense of identity within and through a seemingly overwhelming environment of alterity. As such, Borges's Aleph proposes a self-reflexive and temporally complex form of autobiography. Resisting being simply a retrospective account of his own experiences, Borges's autobiographical impetus works to provide a concept of identity that allows for self-recognition and -identification in the face of a slippery internal environment, made so by self-fragmentation, the unreliability and malleability of memory, and the simultaneous terror and need for death. Thus, as his Aleph always fails to totalize this identity, this form of autobiography, rather than preserving a self-narrative for posterity, instead grants a sense of ongoing temporal continuity.