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The blue book and "The mystery of Borges' night 602"

posted on 18.05.2017, 03:18 by Garcia Ochoa, Gabriel Carlos
The Blue Book is an intergenerational narrative that explores metafictional aesthetics and the use of the mise en abyme. The story unfolds over a period of ninety years, and centres on the protagonist’s unusual association with a red book that he chances upon as a young man. As Charles soon discovers, there are uncommon characteristics to the red book that he has found: although dyslexic, he can read it with absolute ease while no one else seems to be able to, and occasionally his name appears in its pages, interspersed within the framework of a greater narrative. That narrative is the life story of a mysterious character, the Reader, who is also reading a book, which is not red, but blue. Throughout his life Charles tries to unravel the mysteries of the red book and its relationship to the elusive Reader whose story it narrates. The strange properties of the red book affect the members of Charles’ family too, who interact with the text in a variety of ways. The twelve chapters of Charles’ story alternate between the points of view of different members of his family and Charles’ own. The novel is set primarily in Mexico City, and as its characters travel or resettle to California, South America, Rome, and the South of France, it touches briefly on topics of migration and multiculturalism. The Blue Book is followed by a concomitant, exegetical component, which explores a specific use of the mise en abyme in Latin American literature. “The Mystery of Borges’ Night 602” discusses Jorge Luis Borges’ reinscription of the six hundred and second night of the Arabian Nights in his works. According to Borges, in Night 602 of Sir Richard Francis Burton’s Arabian Nights, Scheherazade narrates her own story, creating a mise en abyme effect. Although the passage in which Scheherazade tells her own story does exist, to date no edition of Burton’s Nights has been identified where this passage takes place on the six hundred and second night. In “The Mystery of Borges’ Night 602” I argue that Borges had a specific purpose in mind when he assigned the number 602 to this episode in the Nights: to reference three works that were crucially important for him, and in so doing, to create a sign that articulated his very particular understanding of infinity. In The Blue Book I present an examination and variation of this idea through my own creative writing.


Principal supervisor

John Hawke

Year of Award


Department, School or Centre

Languages, Literatures, Cultures and Linguistics


Doctor of Philosophy

Degree Type



Faculty of Arts