The Argentinian writer, Jorge Luis Borges, is probably best known for his Ficciones, a collection of short stories. These surreal little gems use magical realism– yeah, I said it and I’m glad — to create worlds and situations which seem at first blush to be real, but as they march on, they get stranger and stranger.
Tion, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius is no exception. It centers around a fictitious encyclopedia entry about a country that on further research, the reader discovers, does not exist. It is a country with its own physical and metaphysical laws in which the epics and legends of Uqbar literature are set. It is a hoax, if you will, concocted by a large group of intellectuals.
But, it’s made up language begins to creep into the real world’s vocabulary, and artifacts begin to be found. The story is an examination of the notion that ideas ultimately manifest themselves in the physical world, and the line between reality, between fiction and non-fiction is a supremely blurry one.
This piece of speculative fiction is very deep, and has spawned related stories and pieces by other authors, references to the imaginary country, and to characters and to the encyclopedia itself. The unwary reader may have a hard time determining what is real and what is imagination.
It is about books, libraries, mirrors, and illusion.
It makes you question just what in your own life might be the result of a conspiracy of intellectuals. Like string theory, maybe. Or the Easter Bunny.