Magical Realism And The Sublime In The Circular Ruins

1260 words - 5 pages

Magical Realism and the Sublime in The Circular Ruins  

    Among the many short stories that the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges has written, "The Circular Ruins" was published in 1964 in a collection of his works entitled Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings. Even though "The Circular Ruins" may be classified as a Magical Realist text, one may wonder if this short story could be classified as the Sublime as well. By examining "The Circular Ruins," a reader will be able to see several similarities between Magical Realism and the Sublime.


Of course, the first step in deciding whether or not "The Circular Ruins" is a type of the Sublime is to look at some of the characteristics of the Sublime. For instance, one of the characteristics of the Sublime is that it causes the feeling of transcendence, which means that the reader feels as if or she is rooted in the world but, at the same time, senses something that is beyond the world (Sandner 52). By using the element of dreams in "The Circular Ruins," transcendence is experienced by not only the reader but the main character, too. With the specific purpose to "dream a man" and "insert him into reality," the main character travels to circular ruins to sleep (Borges 46). After he finally accomplishes his purpose, the main character discovers that he himself is only the result of someone else's imagination (Borges 50). As a result, the reader may wonder if he or she, like the main character, is just the dream of someone else. Therefore, while the character and the reader may feel as if they are real human beings, they may begin to feel as if they are imaginary human beings, which is the sense of something beyond the world.


How does this feeling of transcendence parallel to Magical Realism? In Magical Realism, one of the characteristics is a cross between the real and the unreal (Flores 112). Since the main character is said to have come from the South "where the Zend tongue is not contaminated with Greek and where leprosy is infrequent," then his origin seems to be quite real (Borges 45). Another real element is the setting, which is not in some other realm but instead at a temple in the jungle. However, the magical element of the dreams hints to the reader that the main character is not from a normal background and that the story is probably just in an imaginary jungle. Yet, both the reader and the characters in the story accept these unreal elements as being real. Because of the cross between the real and the unreal, Magical Realism, like the Sublime, causes transcendence.


According to Longinus, another identifying mark of the Sublime is the use of accumulations, which are also found in "The Circular Ruins." For example, before the magician dreamt his entire son, he first dreamt his son's beating heart. Over a period of fourteen nights, he carefully examined this heart until he actually touched it with his finger. After that, he dreamt another organ...

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