While reading “On the Cult of Books” by Jorge Luis Borges, I very quickly noticed a more modern-day example to the first two examples Borges gives in the first couple paragraphs in his piece. The one example comes from Mallarmé, who says that “’the world exists to end up in a book’” no matter how good or bad the event was (Borges, 568). The other, from Book VIII of the Odyssey, states that the world has evil and disasters because a story needs conflict to continue to be told generation after generation (Borges, 358). Borges discusses how these two ideas are contrasted because one originally was created to be read out loud while the other was written to be read in a book.
On the other hand, I was reminded of the storytelling game of Dungeons and Dragons, and specifically within it, my own character Calypso Mistgrove. Already, Dungeons and Dragons is known both to have written modules to help lead a story and created together by groups of friends telling stories. This helps it be an example both to Borges written and spoken examples. The one that stuck strongest with me though was a connection of these friends to “gods” of The Odyssey. Though I will also mention how it feels like an exaggeration to compare to such a high title as gods, even if technically correct, as this group adds and defeats different conflicts to the story in order to obtain different characters’ goals.
My own character, Calypso, who I will not go into much detail here, started his adventure with a goal to become part of a heroic tale. In time, he would find out that adventuring is a lot more dangerous than he had imagined, especially after becoming cursed by a Corruption from a sealed off other world. He had gained new worries that maybe his own story would not be so heroic. Instead, maybe his story would end up as one of a villain’s, a destroyer of worlds. Both the heroic and evil stories easily reminded me of how both great and horrible events have used Mallarmé’s beliefs in why events happen. That they happen to then be written down into the books of all history that has ever occurred.
[Image Description: This is a sketch of Calypso Mistgrove drawn in a red Colorase pencil. This sketch was drawn by Matis Stephens in 2021.]
While perhaps not a perfect representation of these ideas, it was interesting to see how a common game and even my own characters connected with Borges’s examples of books and the spoken word.
Borges, Jorge Luis. “On the Cult of Books.” Selected Non-Fictions. Translated by Eliot Weinberger, Penguin, 2000, 358.