Did Pedro Damian die as a brave man or as a coward? Jorge Luis Borges‘s short story, “The Other Death,” centers on this question. That the story makes us wonder what the suppression of the past, if it were possible, would mean and adverts to the foretold “birth of God” proves how expansive it is. Philosophical the tale is, but on another level it reminds us of the perennial importance of war to the minds of men who have fought.
Another Borges story, “The Dead Man,” entertainingly resembles a Western. In it, a narrator with incomplete knowledge gives an account of the life of a hoodlum in the late 1800s. The young man’s “only recommendation was his infatuation with courage.” In the long run, it’s an infatuation that doesn’t matter. The young man ends up dead and the narrator, as he indicates, must later correct and expand the story he is telling. The hoodlum is, as it were, lost to us. But very possibly he met his death with the courage so esteemed by the great Argentine writer, Borges.