For the short story reader. Updated every Monday.

The Short Form

“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”

Jorge Luis Borges


Hume declared for all time that while Berkeley's arguments admit not the slightest refutation, they inspire not the slightest conviction. That pronouncement is entirely true with respect to the earth, entirely false with respect to Tlön. The nations of that planet are, congenitally, idealistic. Their language and those things derived from their language—religion, literature, metaphysics—presuppose idealism. For the people of Tlön, the world is not an amalgam of objects in space; it is a heterogeneous series of independent acts—the world is successive, temporal, but not spatial. There are no nouns in the conjectural Ursprache of Tlön, from which its “present-day” languages and dialects derive: there are impersonal verbs, modified by mono-syllabic suffixes (or prefixes) functioning as adverbs. For example, there is no noun that corresponds to our word “moon,” but there is a verb which in English would be “to moonate” or “to enmoon.” “The moon rose above the river” is “hlör u fang axaxaxas mlö,” or, as Xul Solar succinctly translates: Upward, behind the onstreaming it mooned.

We read it in Collected Fictions.