Read El Informe de Brodie by Jorge Luis Borges Free Online
Book Title: El Informe de Brodie|
The author of the book: Jorge Luis Borges
Edition: Destino Ediciones
Date of issue: January 1st 2007
Format files: PDF
The size of the: 766 KB
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Reader ratings: 4.7
ISBN 13: 9788423338726
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Welcome to the many universes of Jorge Luis Borges. For those new to the author, this is an excellent book of Borges to read first, since these stories are accessible and straightforward, containing very little of the baroque complexity characteristic of his earlier collections. To share the flavor of these eleven Borges tales, I will focus on the title story. And let me tell you folks, I have read a number of books on indigenous tribes by cultural anthropologists such as Raymond Firth and Colin Turnbull, but I have never encountered a study quite like “Brodie's Report.”
Strange Find: The narrator relates how he discovers a manuscript tucked inside the cover of “Thousand and One Nights," a manuscript written by one David Brodie, a Scottish missionary who preached in the jungles of Brazil, a manuscript he is now making known to the world; and, the narrator says, how he will take pains to reproduce the manuscript’s colorless language verbatim. Such a mysterious find is classic Borges: the narrator is only the messenger, any actual firsthand experience of unfolding peculiar events belongs to another.
Bare Facts: Here are the raw facts about this bestial, wild, brutish tribe Brodie calls Yahoos: vowels are absent in their harsh language; the number of their tribe never exceeds seven hundred; they sleep wherever they find themselves at night and only a few have names; they call one another by flinging mud or throwing themselves in the dirt; their diet consists of fruits, roots, reptiles and milk from cats and bats; they hide themselves while eating but have sex out in the open; they walk about naked since clothing and tattoos are unknown to them; they prefer to huddle in swamps rather than grasslands with springs of fresh water and shade trees; they devour the raw flesh of their king, queen and witch doctors so as to imbibe their respective virtues. For an author like Borges, a highly cultivated, refined, aesthetically attuned urbane gentleman and man of letters, life among this tribe of Yahoo could be seen as his worst nightmare.
Questionable Honor: The tribe is ruled over by a king whose power is absolute. Each male child is closely examined to see if he possess bodily signs, both secret and sacred, revealing him as their future king. Once a child is chosen as king of the Yahoos, he is immediately castrated, blinded, and his hands and feet cut off so as he will not be distracted by the outside world, setting him free to imbibe inner wisdom. The king is then taken to a cavern where only witch doctors and a pair of female slaves are permitted entry to serve the king and smear his body with dung. By this extreme social custom, I think Borges is asking us to ponder the perennial philosophical question: is our basic, corrupt human nature improved by society and culture, a view held by such as Plato and Aristotle; or, are we, as according to Jean-Jacques Rousseau, good by nature and corrupted by society? However we approach this question, one thing is for sure: no other non-human primate tribe would inflict such brutal dismemberment on their leader.
Vision and Creativity: The queen looks at Brodie and then, in full sight of her attendants, offers herself to him. He declines but then the queen does something unexpected – she pricks Brodie with a pin, a pin manufactured elsewhere since the Yahoos are incapable of manufacturing even the simplest objects. Pin pricking from the queen is seen by the Yahoo as an honor -the queen projects that Brodie will not feel any pain since all the Yahoos are insensitive to pain and pleasure with the exception of the pleasure they take in gorging on raw and rancid food and smelling its noxious odor. On the heels of this episode, Brodie make a startling pronouncement: lack of imagination makes them cruel. To my mind, one of the most powerful statements within the story: linking cruelty with an individual’s lack of imagination and also linking cruelty with a society’s lack of imagination. How far removed are we from the Yahoos in this respect, really?
Bizarre: Brodie reports how the Yahoo number system is unique, how they count one, two, three, four, and then immediately go to infinity. Also unique is the power the witch doctors have to transform anyone into an ant or a tortoise; as proof of this truth, the Yahoo point out red ants swarming on an anthill. Then we arrive something truly unique: the Yahoo have virtually no memory, they barely have any recollection of past time beyond yesterday. On this topic, Brodie makes a general philosophically point: memory is no less marvelous than prophesy since the ancient happenings we easily recall (the building of the pyramids; the parting of the Red Sea) are much more distant in time than tomorrow. As we all know, our very human capacity to remember can be a mixed blessing: although our humanity is enriched, we can frequently be burdened by continually bringing to mind not only nasty and sad memories but tragic and horrific memories. Not the Yahoo - they only go back as far as yesterday.
Theology: Since Brodie is a Scottish missionary, predictably his report includes the Yahoo system of religious belief. Turns out, the Yahoo believe both heaven and hell are underground: their hell is bright, dry and inhabited by the old, the sick, the mistreated as well as Arabs, leopards and the Apemen. Yes, Brodie reports how the Yahoo have to fend off attacks by the Apemen. No further detail is given on the Apemen which makes the whole report a bit spooky. Anyway, the Yahoo heaven is dark and marsh-like and the afterlife reward for kings, queens, witch doctors along with the happy, the hardhearted and the bloodthirsty. I can just imagine what Jorge Luis Borges must have been thinking outlining such a Yahoo theology, a theology that really stretches our more conventional views of the afterlife, to say the least.
The Arts: Brodie’s report includes the two Yahoo sports: organized cat fights and executions. Sound like fun? I wonder if they would sell tickets to outsiders. Then Brodie reports on how a poet is a Yahoo who can string together six or seven enigmatic words. The poet will then shriek out these mysterious words surrounded by his fellow Yahoo who consider the poet no longer a man but a god. And as a god, they have the right to kill the poet on the spot. However, if the poet can escape the circle, he can seek refuge in a desert to the north of the jungle. Again, I wonder what was going through the mind of Borges when he envisioned poetry and the Yahoo – certainly enough to make a refined aesthete’s skin crawl.
Home Sweet Home: Bordie reports how now that he’s home in Scotland, he still dreams of the Yahoo and how the Yahoo are not that far removed from the streets of Glasgow, since, after all, the Yahoo have institutions, a king, speak a language based on abstract concepts, believe in the divine origin of poetry and also believe the soul survives death. Lastly, let me note how Brodie reports how, based on their rather abstract language, the Yahoo are not a primitive people but a degenerative people; in other words, they are a people whose ancestors were once highly civilized, perhaps even European. A rather chilling thought.
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Read information about the authorJorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, usually referred to as Jorge Luis Borges (Spanish pronunciation: [xoɾxe lwis boɾxes]), was an Argentine writer and poet born in Buenos Aires. In 1914, his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school and traveled to Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in Surrealist literary journals. He also worked as a librarian and public lecturer. Borges was fluent in several languages. He was a target of political persecution during the Peron regime and supported the military juntas that overthrew it.
Due to a hereditary condition, Borges became blind in his late fifties. In 1955, he was appointed director of the National Public Library (Biblioteca Nacional) and professor of Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1961, he came to international attention when he received the first International Publishers' Prize Prix Formentor. His work was translated and published widely in the United States and in Europe. He died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986.
J. M. Coetzee said of Borges: "He, more than anyone, renovated the language of fiction and thus opened the way to a remarkable generation of Spanish American novelists."
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