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This article is taken from PN Review 259, Volume 47 Number 5, May - June 2021.

The Underlining Is Yours
translated by William Rowe
Pablo Martín Sánchez
You, who are reading me, are you
sure you understand my language?

—Jorge Luis Borges

Let’s imagine a reader reading at night. Let’s suppose the reader is you, lying in bed; and the text you’re reading, Borges’s The Library of Babel. Suppose you read it once and find it hard to understand. Let’s accept that you reread it and begin to decipher it. You pick up a pencil in case you might want to mark a passage that’s important for comprehending the text, and it’s not long before you underline the first phrase, which is one that appears, curiously, in a footnote: it’s enough for a book to be possible for it to exist. It’s getting late and you ought to start thinking about turning out the light and trying to sleep, but you can’t resist the temptation to begin reading again. This time you underline two phrases which seem as significant or more than the first one. A new reading surprises you with hidden meanings that you hadn’t imagined. You continue rereading and underlining. Well into the early hours, sleep overcomes you and the pencil falls from your fingers, clattering on the tiles.

Next morning you wake in a sweat and you’re surprised to discover Borges’s book thrown into a corner of the room, without being able to understand how it got there. You have a quick shower and go to work, forgetting the nocturnal frenzy. In the evening you go back home, take off your shoes and stretch out on the sofa ...

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