merely to disappear into the pit of our stomach.
Borges, in his essay “The Detective Story,” in speaking about literary genres, shows that the reader’s compulsion to label, to classify a piece of writing, is an integral component of the text's creation. He asserts, “The aesthetic event requires the conjunction of reader and text; only then does it exist. It is absurd to suppose that a book is much more than a book. It begins to exist when a reader opens it.
Then the aesthetic phenomenon exists, which can be similar to the moment when the book was created” (491-2). Thus, imagining the author locked in a room, face-to-face with the page, gives too much power to the authorial genius, to create, like some deity, out of the void. Writing is not an independent act of creation. The world the writer sets down has already revealed itself to her as reader. And the reader, in turn, shares in the creation of the written word when her eyes sweep over the pages, breathing life into the fashioned mold of the text. Roles become fluid.
In this respect, then, literature is not a consumption. Neither is it even a kind of open house, into which the reader has been invited. First, because, although the writer surely anticipates her reader when she composes the text, this reader only ever remains just on the threshold of the creation itself, until it no longer belongs to the writer, until it is no longer hers to show. In much the same way she
creates her characters, the writer conjures the sensibilities of a potential reader, and such sensibilities are airy things, always hovering, more or less obtrusively depending on the writer. It is not – should not – be to reader that she writes, but rather to herself as reader. That is, the writer, in her text, tentatively responds to those questions the books before her have asked, creating a palimpsest whose pages further probe the world and its mysteries.
Nor does the reader, when wandering through the unfamiliar halls of the text, have access to that seemingly distant architect to help orient her. And even if the writer were there to take the reader’s hand and lead her through, would the two of them, together, find their way? Because the writer only raised the frame of the work, crafted a guiding aesthetic. The reader flung open its doors, shone light into the hidden recesses. Perhaps, then, it would be more accurate to see writer and reader as co-workers, each with her own role to play in the creation of a structure which then grows to dwarf them both, taking on a life of its own. A structure that grows more solid over time, with each new reader who adds her own flourishes from the palette of a shared human experience.
I therefore thank you, readers, for visiting this site. For taking an interest in my work and giving it life with your attentive reading.
Source: Borges, Jorge Luis. “The Detective Story.” Trans. Esther Allen. Selected Non-Fictions. Ed. Eliot
Weinberger. New York: Viking-Penguin Putnam, 1999.