THE SHADOW COURT–A PASSAGE FROM MY STORY “INVISIBLE CITIES,” IN TRIBUTE TO JORGE LUIS BORGES

Today is the birthday of Jorge Luis Borges, one of the great figures of 20th century world literature. His speculative stories and fantastical essays (always hard to discern the boundaries between them) are often described as the foundation of magical realism. But they are really unique and of themselves.

Borges was a character in my time travel graphic novel, Time Breakers, co-created with artist Chris Weston (soon to be released in a deluxe Italian edition). He appears there simply as Luis, the Blind Librarian who has read everything. Borges did indeed become blind while serving as head librarian of the Argentine National Library. If I was a Puritan I might say it was punishment for accepting the post from the Peronista government. Luckily for me (Borges is long since caring), I am not a Puritan.

By a kind of deliberate coincidence, I had planned today to work on a short story titled “Visible Cities,” itself a tribute to Italo Calvino, whose books include–beside “Invisible Cities”–the great Tarot novel, “The Castle of Crossed Destinies.” The passage I wrote struck me as at least as much Borgesian as Calvinoesque. so I offer it here as tribute to one of my literary heroes.

The Shadow Court, also known as the Court of Shadows, or the City of Shadows, did not show up in any Linear maps, though the Travelers had marked it in their Atlas of Invisible Places. As with the City of Age, the people who lived there, old as well as young, were not actually unseen, they just believed themselves to be. Not just unseen, but non-existent. What they did consider real was shadows. You did not exist, only your shadow did. To move through the streets, to talk to anyone or conduct business, or teach a class, to sit at home alone and read a book, to make love, even to sleep, you needed at least one, preferably more, light sources to cast your shadow. Indeed, if someone fell asleep and woke up to discover that their bedside lights had burned out, they would flail about in terror, or else lie frozen until the Sun came up and they could see even a sliver of shadow. When a woman gave birth the midwives positioned lamps to make sure that the baby’s shadow emerged from the shadow of the mother’s thighs.

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Published in: on August 24, 2017 at 10:24 pm  Leave a Comment  

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