Borges and I - Looking at it through a Short Story

 Loss of Identity - Exploring Borges and I through a Short Story

The below short story aims at discussing the idea of the self and loss of identity when dealing with the creation of characters with personality that authors go through. Jorge Luis Borges’ Borges and I was the text which raised these questions for me.

The Organist

James followed behind the woman like a snake, always keeping up to her no matter how fast she walked. He seemed to have blended in with the shadows, and she had no inkling that she was being stalked. As she neared Central Park to go for her everyday evening jog, James popped out of nowhere in front of here and slit her throat. He hissed, “Ah, one more, one more. I was just hoping I would find one more. I’ll take care of you, woman, don’t worry. I’ll take care of you properly…”

A day later, a passer-by found a body of a woman that was completely unrecognizable. Her eyes had been ripped out, and her chest and stomach had been ripped open. She seemed to be missing all of her internal organs. The police arrived there quickly and set up a perimeter. Detective Cordego was assigned to the case alongside his partner Detective Bryce. As they arrived at the scene, they both started with a sudden intake of breath. Despite having worked Homicide for 10 years each, such a brutal murder was not something they had seen before. Cordego said, “Whoever killed this woman, was so cruel… I’ve never seen or imagined such a murder.” Bryce replied, “Look at what’s been done to her – all her organs have been removed. Was the murderer someone who wanted organs for an organ replacement, or to sell them?” “Let’s just wait for the autopsy report – that’ll clear up it easily.” “Yeah, alright.”

A fortnight later, they were staring at a report describing the gruesome methods of the murder. The woman had first been killed by a knife cutting through her neck, and then all her organs had been removed horrifically, and worst of all – the organs were removed surgically, but clearly in a manner that they couldn’t be used. They looked at each other, and Cordego said, “Which sick bastard actually did this? He took her organs just to destroy them?” Bryce said in a low tone, “There’s another thing we need to be worried about… What if this was just the first? This M.O. could well be of a serial killer.” Just then, a message came in for them, and both of them went white. Cordego said, “You idiot, did you really have to say that? Your mouth is cursed you know?” Another two women had been found – murdered in exactly the same way, in two alleyways of New York.

They looked through the places of death, and the victims. But there was no commonality between them, except that all of them were women in the prime of life – murdered and their organs mutilated in the very same way. At least the M.O. matched – it made it clear that it was the same killer – and he seemed to be an expert. At this time, they started thinking about the reason for this M.O. – to find a psychological profile for their killer - it was clear that the killer seemed to kill women and then harvest their organs while ruining them. What kind of reason could he have for something like this? Perhaps a friend of his died because of not receiving organs in time? As they were beginning to have a headache thinking about how to go about this, suddenly a subordinate of theirs, Alan – one of their expert information-gatherers - came in. He said that yet another woman had been found, killed in exactly the same way, and that there was another weird thing that he wanted to mention. The detectives said, “Go ahead, man, just say it, this is getting hard enough to deal with already. We have no leads whatsoever.” With a queer face, Alan said, “There’s a book series, written by an author which deals with the life and crimes of a serial killer. A serial killer with the very same methods of our killer – and the latest book seems to focus on victims remarkably similar to ours.” Cordego stood up and exclaimed, “What?! How? We’ve kept all our information secret!” Bryce seemed to think for a moment, and then said, “Wait, Alan, was the book released first, or did the murders occur first?” Alan quickly replied, “The murders happened first, the book was just released yesterday.” A strange light shined in Bryce’s eyes, and he murmured, “Time to go take a look at this author and his publishing house, then. Let’s see if we’ll finally get some kind of clue from them.”

An hour later, Cordego and Alan reached the doors of the publishing house and started asking questions of the publisher who handled the author they were looking for – Darren Cormack. He told them that in fact, the final draft of the book had been handed in barely 2 days before the publishing date and their publishing house had been incredibly overworked in order to finish the printing in time. Cordego and Alan glanced at each other and the detective said in a particular tone, “Oh, is that so… Would you happen to have a photograph of this man, and his address plus any means to contact him?” The publisher showed them a photograph, and their expressions changed. Alan grabbed the published by his collar and shouted, “Are you sure that’s him? That’s Darren Cormack?” There seemed to be a sort of crazed madness on both their faces, and the publisher with a face full of fear and sweat nodded repeatedly and said, “Ye-yes, that’s him, that’s really him, you can ask anyone in the building.” Cordego smashed a hand on the table and exclaimed, “Damn it! No wonder he went to see the author and told us to come here first. Alan, call in to the station now and let them know. We’ll head to his house first, and then to this ‘Darren’s’ address.”

At this time, in an unknown location, ‘Darren’ was quickly packing up his latest work. He murmured, “Damn it, that Alan found out about my side job. The station won’t let this go once they find out, and they definitely will once they get to the publisher. Cordego is an idiot, but even he isn’t that dumb. At least I got the money safely delivered to a bank account in the Cayman Islands, so all I have to do now is disappear.” He picked up a leather bag and a backpack, and then coldly glanced at the building he was in. He lit his lighter and threw it on the already prepared gasoline and newspapers strewn across the room. He walked away without a second glance as the building went up in flames behind him.

10 minutes later, as Cordego and Alan arrived at the address with reinforcements from the station, they saw the flames and realised that Bryce had definitely escaped. Their expressions were quite ugly, as they realised that they had been deceived by him all this while. And even more, they had lost their last lead towards the serial killer that was terrorising New York. And just then, as they stared at the blaze in front of them, they got another message – yet another woman had been found. They were getting numb to these deaths by now and stared at each other helplessly. They knew that this case was beyond them and would probably be reassigned to an FBI task force instead. They shook their heads and returned to the station to report their mistakes.

Two months later, while they were filing papers in the station – a punishment for their mistakes in the famous case of ‘The Organist’ as named in the by now famous book - they saw a commotion in the station, and many officers looked angry and were staring at the elevators. They stood up and went ahead to have a look and were shocked. Bryce had been caught!

An FBI agent at this moment started talking and said, “This man is truly terrifying. Not only was he working on the case of ‘The Organist’ and writing a book about it, but who would have guessed – that he was ‘The Organist’ himself?”

There was uproar in the crowd and many people expressed their disbelief.

Another agent next to him interrupted and said, “It’s not as simple as that. It’s a multiple personality disorder case – those are never simple. But I have to admit, that I never expected all three people to be the same. The author, the character and the persecutor of both of them were all the same person. I’ve heard of method acting, but this is the first time I’ve seen an author who got lost in the character he was trying to create and became the character himself…”

Bryce himself stood there with a sullen expression, even though he was in handcuffs and said, “I did not kill all those people. How is that even possible?”

“We have evidence. Videos, blanks in your memory. It’s clear that it was you, even though you apparently had no clue about the existence of him – he calls himself James by the way. So even though you managed to remember that you were in fact playing the character of the cop, it appears the character of the criminal became a separate personality for you>”, the second agent explained slowly.

“Anyway, it’s time to face the court and the charges. I hope they don’t accept the insanity plea though.”, said the first agent, in a righteously angry tone.

Creative Process

 In his short story, Borges deals with the loss of identity that comes with the separation of the social ideal of the author Borges – the person who writes the books and comes to social functions and the real Borges who has an identity outside of his books. In my short story, I thought about the question of how an author, in the process of creating a true character, with personality, and depth might think about all the different facets of this character. Perhaps, as in my story, in the process of letting loose their creative genius, they might become the character themselves in order to get a deeper understanding of the new person they’re trying to create. As time goes on, this character may gain more and more depth and become more and more like a real person, and in this case, the author might end up with a split personality with the character also sharing the same body as the original personality.

Borges talks about the differences between the likes and dislikes of his two personalities, and how he has forgotten the dividing line between the two. So, I thought about a character who, in fact, already plays two parts – and who can completely understand the divisions between the two i.e. Bryce the cop and Darren the author. The same man is aware of the distinction between two characters and is able to play them both to perfection, but when one of his identities develops a split personality and he also turns into a terrifying criminal – ‘The Organist’ – he remains unaware of the same. This can help us understand how easy it is to lose our own identities in the process of creating new ones. Thus, through this we can say that when we create a new character for ourselves, whether it be simply a persona presented to the public or a protagonist of a novel, a loss of identity and blurred lines that confuse ourselves as to who we really are, are both results which are possible and quite probable.

Borges also refers to the fact that death is inevitable for our real personalities, and so all that will be remembered of him will be through the author Borges and his books, and everything else shall return to oblivion. This can be considered to be another reason for the creation of new characters – the pursuit of immortality. In my short story, maybe Bryce decided to become an author in order to pursue immortality through fame, but then unwittingly and unknowingly fell prey to his greed and decided to turn to becoming a deadly character instead. This serial killer was not only immortalised through a book series where he was the main character, but also due to the infamy gained through his acts. Thus, his subconscious acted according to his desire and created another identity for him that would make sure he would not be forgotten.

In this way, my short story attempted to explore the questions of loss of identity and the blurring of the self in the creation of new characters, while referring to Borges and I.