This Wednesday: time for something completely different. This is a list that appears in an essay by Jorge Luis Borges, “The Analytical Language of John Wilkins,” in Borges: Selected Non-Fictions.
I have no idea why I love this passage so much, but I do.
These ambiguities, redundancies and deficiencies recall those attributed by Dr. Franz Kuhn attributes to a certain Chinese encyclopedia entitled Heavenly Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge. In its distant pages it is written that animals are divided into:
(a) those belonging to the emperor;
(b) embalmed ones;
(c) those that are trained;
(d) suckling pigs;
(f) fabulous ones;
(g) stray dogs;
(h) those that are included in this classification;
(i) those that tremble as if they were mad;
(j) innumerable ones;
(k) those drawn with a very fine camel’s-hair brush;
(m) those that have just broken the watcher pitcher;
(n) those that at a distance resemble flies.
How I love this list. My favorite: “those that are included in this classification.” Also “mermaids.” What do you think…do you find this list thought-provoking, intriguing, or nonsensical?
Thinking about this passage and this list is making me want to go re-read Borges. Where’s my copy of Labyrinths?