Finding Historical Truth: How Literature Interrupts National Narratives And Exposes Delusional Thinking

ASU Author/Contributor (non-ASU co-authors, if there are any, appear on document)
Camille Roth (Creator)
Appalachian State University (ASU )
Web Site:
Christopher Meade

Abstract: In the short story “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, by Jorge Luis Borges, the main character is introduced to an old encyclopedia edition that contains an almost limitless amount of information about a different world and planet named Tlön. This encyclopedia includes fantastical details of the geography, language, and culture of Uqbar and Tlön, revealing major differences between the Earth that we know and Tlön. As the narrator learns more about this world, he discovers that it is a complete fiction that was invented by someone in the seventeenth century. After the contents of the encyclopedia become public knowledge and widely available to everyone, people begin to forget the difference between Earth and Tlön. Despite the fact that the culture, languages, and practices in the encyclopedia were a complete fabrication, the history of Tlön gradually invades and mixes with the history and culture of Earth until both Tlön’s and Earth’s history are essentially the same. This short story is a powerful example about the dangers of capitalism and globalism, idealist philosophy, and the depth to which humans can be entranced by ridiculous beliefs. It reveals not only how history can be constructed but also how the present is manipulated to conform to a certain narrative. Tlön does this because, according to Borges own literary theory “it [Tlön] is about fiction invading reality…it is a reality that pushes through and puncture’s fiction. And somehow makes the possibility of fiction invading reality more plausible” (Diaz, Between History and Eternity, 60). The power of fiction to invade reality is, for Borges, the true power of narrative and the true purpose of nationalist and even globalist myths. Because Tlön’s reality seeps through into Earth’s, the power of national narratives is unmistakable.

Additional Information

Honors Project
Roth, C. (2021). Finding Historical Truth: How Literature Interrupts National Narratives And Exposes Delusional Thinking. Unpublished Honors Thesis. Appalachian State University, Boone, NC.
Language: English
Date: 2021
Latin America, Historical Imaginary, World Literature, Contextual Deferral, Irruptive Thinking

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