“Around 1916, I decided to apply myself to the study of Oriental literatures. As I was reading with credulous enthusiasm the English translation of a certain Chinese philosopher, I came across this memorable passage: ‘It matters little to a convict under a death sentence if he has to walk on the edge of a precipice; he has already given up living.’ To that phrase, the translator had appended an asterisk, and indicated that his interpretation was to be preferred to that of a rival sinologist who had translated ‘The servants destroy the works of art so as not to have to adjudicate on their merits and defects.’ At that point, like Paolo and Francesca, I did not read any further. A mysterious skepticism had crept into my soul.”

~ Jorge Luis Borges


One thought on “194

  1. A note on the source of this quote. The translation is by Simon Leys and is included in a footnote to his translation of the Analects of Confucius. Leys cites the source as Oeuvres completes (Paris: Gallimard-Pleiads, 1993).

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