It would be an exaggeration to say that ours is a hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. (Borges 1)
This is very obviously an example of Borges stressing a universal emotional challenge to self, how so often the individual gets lost in the public image and fails to integrate the internal thoughts to public expectations. The work is in many ways an oral commentary on self-actualization.
While "The Lottery in Babylon" is a commentary on civics and tradition, the self is lost in the evolution of how as individuals in a culture tend to divorce themselves from how cultural norms and taboos are developed and eventually affect the individual. The work details the "lottery" in Babylon a place where the main character has lived and evolved through many if not all the stations of life and positions of citizenry. Reflecting, as he is leaving his home the character attempts to tell the history of the development of the lottery, where individuals play it as a matter of course, as though it is not mandatory those who do not play it are considered poor citizens. While the lottery, unlike what we think of as a lottery is random, reward/sanction system, where those who draw winning numbers receive rewards and those who receive losing numbers pay fines, which then support the winnings. In many ways the work is a casual analysis of economics in general,...
The buyer of a dozen amphoras of damascene wine will not marvel if one of them encloses a talisman or a [vibora]; the scribe who draws up a contract will hardly ever omit to introduce some erroneous date; I myself, in this [apresuada] declaration, have falsified some splendour, some atrocity. perhaps, also, some mysterious monotony... our historians, who are the most persipicacious on the planet, have invented a method to conduct chance; it is rumoured that the operations of this method are (in general) trustworthy; however, naturally, they are not divulged without some dose of trickery. otherwise, nothing is as contaminated with fiction as the history of the Company... A paleographic document, exhumed from a temple, can be a work of yesterday's lottery, or of a secular draw. not a book is published without some divergence between each instance of it. The scribes [prestan] secret oath of omission, interpolation, variation. they also exercise indirect lies. (Borges 1)
The description of the lottery is a description of how unintentional and intentional effects are demonstrative of traditional decisions. We as a group or an entity (like "the Company in the work") think that choices, rules and regulations will do one thing while in reality they have other unintended effects. In the case of Babylon, the famed fallen civilization of antiquity, the lottery created a mass exodus. The work is riddled with casual language, the beginning of paragraphs notably un-capitalized, as well as unconventional expressions of casual relationships between words. Borges creates a civic criticism about how so many individuals work together to create difficulties for the whole of culture, without intention. The nature of rejecting history, demonstrating individual intention is an example of how the post-modern text demands self-reflection. "The Lottery in Babylon" provides a text which demands that the reader analyze his or her actions as they effect the whole as well as looking at issues and concerns in his or her own culture that might mirror those events in the work, i.e. self-reflection as a motive for post-modern literature.
Borges, Jorge L. "The Lottery in Babylon" http://frot.org/borges/lottery.html
Borges, Jorge L. "Borges and I http://spdbv.vital-it.ch/TheMolecularLevel/WelRed/Borges01.pdf
Calvino, Italo, "If on a winter's night a traveler." New York: Harvest. 1982.
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