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Borges and KafkaSons and Writers$
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Sarah Roger

Print publication date: 2017

Print ISBN-13: 9780198746157

Published to Oxford Scholarship Online: February 2017

DOI: 10.1093/acprof:oso/9780198746157.001.0001

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The Congress of the World

The Congress of the World

(p.112) 6 The Congress of the World
Borges and Kafka

Sarah Roger

Oxford University Press

‘El Congreso’ (1971) was the final work in which Borges openly emulated Kafka. The story tells of Alejandro Glencoe’s attempt to assemble a congress whose members represent every individual on earth. As part of their project, the congressmen collect books for a total library. The failure of this infinite task alerts Glencoe to the impossibility of his project. The story’s subplot concerns Alejandro Ferri, a congressman who views Glencoe as a father figure. Ferri’s subordination to Glencoe conjures the Kafkian ‘patria potestad’. The plot of ‘El Congreso’ recalls Jorge Guillermo Borges’s novel, El caudillo, and through it, Borges’s obligations as his father’s literary descendent. Uncharacteristically, the conclusion of ‘El Congreso’ turns away from Kafka and towards Chesterton. The story ends with a celebratory pantheistic vision—a positive representation of infinity and the ‘patria potestad’.

Keywords:   Borges, Chesterton, congress, father–son relationship, infinity, library, Kafka, pantheism, subordination

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