Borges - The Secret Miracle (Summary)

On March 19th 1939, Jaromir Hladik a Jewish author is arrested by the Third Reich. He was tried for being Jewish and working against the Nazi state and sentenced to death on the 29th of same month. His first emotion were of terror and he reflected greatly on the different methods of his execution. The pure act of dying did not engross him as much as the circumstances of it. He tried to foresee every variation of it and died hundreds of death in his thoughts standing in courtyard whose shape took all possible form and executed by soldiers of changing faces and numbers. Hladik reflects that the reality seldom acts the way it has been envisioned before hand and he deduces that if he can foresee the actual reality, he can prevent it from happening. He began to weave exquisite circumstances for that day so that they would not occur. Ultimately he came to fear that is thoughts would become prophetic. On the eve of his execution, he pondered over his unfinished play "The Enemies". He always thought that this play would redeem his reputation from less satisfactory earlier works. The play is about the unities of time, place and action. In the play even though the events play out yet the time is shown to stay still. The complete scenes repeats and the characters who die appear become alive in subsequent scenes and the multiple characters are in fact the same person in different times. It is as if the play has never taken place and it is a circular delirium that the characters experiences and re-experiences.

Not satisfied with the way the play is written and having no time to finish it now, he asks God for more time. If, he prayed, I do somehow exist, if I am not one of Thy repetitions or errata, then I exist as the author of The Enemies. In order to complete that play, which can justify me and justify Thee as well, I need one more year. Grant me those days, Thou who art the centuries and time itself. In his sleep, he visits a library looking for God.The librarian said it is in one of the letters on one of the pages of one of the four hundred thousand volumes here. Hladik picks up a random book and flips it pages. He saw a map of India and suddenly certain, he touched one of the tiny letters. A voice that was everywhere spoke to him:The time for your labor has been granted.  .

At this moment Hladik wakes up and two soldiers take him to the backyard for execution. The firing squad lines up and the final order are shouted. At that moment, the physical universe stops. All are made immobile and paralysed. In his mind he wonders if the time has been halted but then he argues that if that were true, his thoughts would have halted as well. For an unknown amount of time he slept and when he wakes up still paralysed, he realises that God has granted him his request. In Hladik’s mind a year would pass between the order to fire and the discharge of the rifles. He furiously reworks on his unfinished work rewriting and redoing it to his satisfaction, until a single epithet was left to be decided. He finds it and at that moment, the volley of bullets fells him and he died exactly on the day and time when it was designated for.

Unlike many stories that Borges wrote, this story's background is based on historical events that actually took place in WWII Europe. Jews were widely targeted and mostly summarily executed. In this story, there is a surreal play within the story which is eerie familiar to the main story. The plot of the play is a circular drama where characters and their actions repeat and the time on stage is shown to have not changed. The drama in fact never takes place. It is like a collective neurosis that all characters experience. In the story the unconscious mind (dreams) and the conscious both appear seamless and influence one another. Similarly the distinction between reality and fiction are blurred and reality actually copies from the fiction. The God is all powerful and unattainable but for Hladik He is approachable and personal. The success of Hladik's last wish is the vindication of Hladik's God's existence for Hladik. There are shades of determinism (as in he never asks God to not be executed and he does not want to change what awaits him), but at the same time he uses his free will and thought to finish his masterpiece ultimately redeeming himself. Familiar Borges's ideas of dreams, God, story within story, perception of reality and time are all visited in the story. Can the the perception of time be open to change? Can we live a life in a passage of a second of the clock? If universe was in fact was to stop, would time also stop and how would the conscious mind understand it?  Pretty dense for a three page story.

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