An analysis of Pierre Menard: the author of Borges’s Don Quixote
I would like to analyze the story from the literary codes developed by Barthes. They are: the hermeneutical code, the proairetic code, the semantic code, the symbolic code and the cultural code. For Barthes, the hermeneutical code represents the enigma of the text. The Proairetic code represents the spatial and temporal dimensions. The semantic code refers to the level of connotation. The symbolic code represents the binary division of language and the cultural code the conventions of society.
Looking at history from a hermeneutical code, Borges writes about an imaginary writer and a book that does not exist. He creates facts from fantasy and fantasy from facts and all his fictional exploration is useless phantasmagoria.
He begins the story by citing a catalog by Madame Henri Bachelier on the omissions and additions made to Menard’s text that appeal to Calvinists, Masons, and the circumcised. Are you delving into conservatism? Are you skeptical about tradition? One can never fully interpret due to the very darkness of his comment. There is an ironic humor inherent in this statement.
Borges is once again fictitious and goes on to list that an examination of Menard’s archives is necessary for the exegesis of Don Quixote. The files are literary and mention the following:
(a) A symbolist sonnet that appears twice in a review. Everyone is familiar with the idea of symbolism and symbolist poets. What cannot be discerned is why Borges makes a random connection to symbolism when trying to explain Menard’s Don Quixote. Is Borges playing a practical joke on the reader?
(b) A monograph that contains the possibility of creating a poetic vocabulary of concepts that would not be synonyms or periphrasis of those that make up everyday language. Is Borges hinting at an ornament of poetic language? The adornment can be made by dressing words with figures of speech or by using neologisms.
(c) A monograph on certain connections and affinities with the Philosophies of Descartes, Leibniz, and Wilkins. Is Borges bluffing, or does he want to impress his readers that he is familiar with the philosophies of the aforementioned philosophers? Why does the author want to show off to an audience?
(d) The worksheets from a monograph on symbolic logic by George Boole. It is very intriguing that Borges makes this strange connection. How can logic be related to fiction?
e) An examination of the essential metric laws of French prose. Borges speaks Spanish. I’m not sure I have the right skills to comment on French prose. The subway is again connected to poetry. How can it be equated to prose? Is this a structural flaw in the narrative?
(f) A work in which different solutions are given to the problem of Achilles and the Tortoise. It is really absurd, a duck of the mind. Borges may be leading the reader to think that Achilles won the race. Borges has not deconstructed Zeno’s paradox. I wonder why Borges doesn’t suggest an alternative.
(g) A determined analysis of the Toulet syntactic customs. Menard says that censorship and praise are sentimental operations that have nothing to do with literary criticism. This statement makes Borges a forerunner of literary theorists.
Again Borges rambles and goes on to discuss the texts that inspired Menard to create Don Quixote. One is a philological fragment that mentions Christ on a boulevard, Hamlet on La Cannebiere, and Don Quixote on Wall Street. The description of Christ is quite incongruous. What is the mystical connection between Christ and a boulevard? The same goes for Hamlet. Are Wall Street moguls quixotic?
Again the writer Borges mentions that Menard writes to him that the final term in a theological, metaphysical demonstration – the objective world, God, causality, the forms of the universe – is common in my framed novel. This shows that Borges is a confused writer. If the world was created by God, how can it be objective? Are you mixing a soup of evolutionary theism?
Again he reproaches that to write Don Quixote one must know Spanish well, recover the Catholic faith, fight against the Moors and forget the history of Europe between 1602 and 1918. Everyone knows that Cervantes’s Don Quixote was a revolt against him. Catholicism. The fight between Catholics and Moors is related to History. Is Borges being ironic when he reiterates that we must forget about History? 1918 is a symbol of the beginning of the First World War. Borges’s narrative is so fragmented and irrelevant wanders from one topic to another.
Borges contradicts himself saying that in a passage in Menard never written by him there is a phrase: “the nymphs of the river and the painful and humid echo”. This causes the reader to laugh with delicious delight. Borges embarks on a flight of fantasy. This statement brings to Borges’ mind a quote from Shakespeare ‘Where an evil Turk and a turban’. Is the monument to literature an extravagant extravagance? Are you built on the foundations of a capricious ploy?
Menard in his novel Don Quixote has no gypsies, conquerors or mystics. Is Borges making an allusion to irony? Again Borges says that in chapter nine of Menard’s Don Quixote there is a quote: ‘… the truth whose mother is History, rival of time, custodian of facts, witness of the past, exemplary and counselor of the present and counselor of the future . Borges is being philosophical about History. But the fundamental questions are: is History a truth? In postmodernism, History is a methodological discourse.