Borges works in mysterious ways

The Gospel According to Mark, a tale by Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, appears in Chris Baldick’s The Oxford Book of Gothic Tales.

This is a fantastic anthology, which gives a really comprehensive view of the history of Gothic Literature, through short stories. The introduction and end notes mention the longer Gothic works such as The Monk and The Castle of Otranto, giving ideas for further reading once you have eased yourself into the genre via the short stories.

Gothic Tales can be a difficult genre to read, as they explore some very dark themes, with a rather humorous (sardonic) slant. I do enjoy their honesty, they do not shy away from unpleasantries, and they give some very frank character sketches of the darker aspects of the human psyche.

Reading Borges’ tale The Gospel According to Mark I felt quite disappointed. I have high expectations of his fictions, but this piece seemed like an unconnected series of needlessly surreal events. It struck me as pretentious, which his work never does, and I thought it may just be an experimental or lazy piece, a wanton foray into Gothic literature.

Except that it isn’t. The second I finished the piece I understood it completely. Every line is written for a reason. It is a work of genius. It may actually be one of the cleverest stories ever written, even by Borges (which is saying something). I read it in my lunch hour at work, then spent the afternoon pondering the character of The Baffled Christ. I don’t want to ruin the ending for anyone, hence the rather cryptic style of this post, but I will say that it is well worth reading. It is only about five pages long, and you will get far more out of it than you would most novels.

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