“No one cares about facts anymore. They are mere points of departure for speculation and exercises in creativity. In school we are taught Doubt, and the Art of Forgetting.”

“Ya a nadie le importan los hechos. Son meros puntos de partida para la invención y el razonamiento. En las escuelas nos enseñan la duda y el arte del olvido.”

Written in the 1970s those lines by Borges still seem applicable in today’s media soaked culture. “A Weary Man’s Utopia”, “Utopía de un hombre que está cansado” is one of the best late stories by Borges. There’s a slight flaw at the end, where Borges names a specific public figure of the 20th century, that lessens the impact of the story. Of course, others might read that flaw as the story’s strength.

The narrator is traveling across a vast plain, the open countryside, where he encounters a very odd, tall person that can only speak to him in Latin. Í’m purposefully leaving out some details since part of the enjoyment of this particular story is slowly understanding its setting.

There’s one point in the story where I laughed out loud, not something common for a Borges story. The narrator, who has taken an identity similar to the actual Borges, describes himself as one who writes stories of fantasy. The tall stranger says that he has read two books of fantasy: Gulliver’s Travels and Summa Theologica.

This is a world where there are no printed books. Printing has been forbidden since it is “one of the worse evils of mankind, for it tended to multiply unnecessary texts to a dizzying degree”, ha sido uno de los peores males del hombre, ya que tendió a multiplicar hasta el vértigo textos innecesarios.

As with other of his later stories, Borges is very explicit in what he is telling us, such as “it is not the reading that matters, but the rereading (emphasis mine), Además no importa leer sino releer.

As a librarian myself and someone very much into the digital culture, I found this story interesting because it talks about the proliferation of information long before the arrival of the Internet. The narrator states that everyone is “informed of the most trivial details of the latest conference of pedagogues….All this was no sooner read than forgotten, for within a few hours it would be blotted out by new trivialities.”

Borges also addresses the consumer culture of the times, which is not much different now than it was in the 1970s when he wrote the story. “Images and the printed word were more real than things…[people] believed that a piece of merchandise was good because the manufacturer of that piece of merchandise said that it was.”

This world gets bleaker with the more that the narrator learns. Unfortunately, I think that the story breaks down a little towards the very end with the flaw I mentioned previously. Regardless, it is a very powerful story with a lot of insights that can be applied to concerns facing our society today.

Without giving away the relevant context here, I do want to mention that there’s a wonderful line where the narrator says, “Every man must be his own Bernard Shaw, his own Jesus Christ, and his own Archimedes.” Cada cual debe ser su propio Bernard Shaw, su propio Jesucristo y su propio Arquímedes.