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Fitzgerald and Borges: The desire for the absolute

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  1. Introduction
  2. The Great Gatsby
  3. Borges and 'El Aleph'
  4. Conclusion
  5. Bibliography

F. Scott Fitzgerald?s The Great Gatsby and Jorge Luis Borges?s ?El Aleph? can be said to share a structural framework or paradigm which takes the form of a paradox. This paradox concerns the fact that desire is at once finite, because it becomes substantialized in an object, and infinite, because it necessarily exceeds its objects, and any possible object. The experience of this paradox, when carried to the limit, is aporetic, where an aporia is a paradox which cannot be sustained, as continuation is impossible. Specifically, it becomes an aporia when it posits what I will call an absolute object and imagines that this object can be attained. The finitude of subjects and objects of desire may not render it impossible to sustain the desire for an absolute object, but they do render it impossible to attain or possess it.

[...] One such example is Aleph?, which is connected with the idea of an infinite, totalizing vision of the world, where infinite knowledge or omniscience figures as a dream of power.[iv] Just as in Gatsby there was a disillusionment with the American dream, in Aleph,? the narrator becomes disillusioned with the absolute knowledge he glimpses by means of the Aleph, a magical object which delivers a vision of the universe and everything in it.[v] At the beginning of the story, the narrator, who will identify himself as Borges, after losing his lover Beatriz Viterbo to death, develops an acquaintance with the writer Carlos Argentino Daneri, her cousin. [...]

[...] Because the absolute object is structurally impossible, the perception that it has been or is about to be attained always leads to or is accompanied by frustration, which is manifest in Fitzgerald as communicative) impotence (Gatsby cannot speak to Daisy, for example, to tell her he loves her) and in Borges as a sense of disillusionment which leads the narrator to renounce the desire for the absolute. In Fitzgerald this disillusionment, or rather disenchantment, is also expressed, by the narrator, Nick, with regard to a vision of America as once seen by Gatsby. [...]

[...] Here ?Nick undercuts the physical objects of desire that are imagined in the visions of the Dutch sailor and of Gatsby, indicating the inadequacy of these partial objects to the absolute nature of desire, and in his own vision of the endlessly renewed quest for the orgiastic future, he pointedly refuses to specify any physical object to be attained in the future all of which points to Nick's sense that the only compensation connected with his vision lies in the act of figuration itself (ibid., 539-41). [...]

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