Augusto Monterroso: the brief and the infinite

"Like Borges, Augusto Monterroso is one of the storytellers whose reading, in addition to being a true delight, helps us writers to pay close attention to what we are going to do when we sit before a blank page."

Alfredo Bryce Echenique

Probably the best known story by Augusto Monterroso (1921-2003) is The dinosaur :

When he woke up, the dinosaur still it was there.

And, probably, The dinosaur is one of the most cited and studied texts in the history of literature. In fact, Monterroso himself stated that this story has "interpretations as infinite as the universe itself".

This " mathematical analysis " by Claudio Escobar proposes some "crazy scientific theories" about the purpose of this story:

This … I don't know what to say …

Well: 7 words, 7 It is the fourth prime number, an "interesting number" that can be decomposed into the sum of two other primes, as Ramanujan told me personally Ramanujan, before his early death : 7 = 5 + 2.

7 = 4 + 3, something like a perfect number for some cultures.

It has 4 temporary words: When, still, it was, there … the truth is that they are rather words space-time, as Einstein demonstrated, that the dimensions are 4: 3 spatial and one temporal, inseparable, to the point that one can only speak of space-time, being a bad exercise to separate these dimensions …

Eye that alternate adverbs and verbs … 3 and 2 respectively, again 2 prime numbers …

For me that this c uento is the odyssey and the cosmogony of all Latin American (and African) peoples… we awakened to hope when the dinosaurs were still there! and we had to organize and fight to get the dinosaurs out… so that other dinosaurs would come later, this time self-styled "democrats" !!! But the story is an «H» ellipsis, so beware that we must question ourselves by / in its cycle …

I tried to derive or integrate this «H» ellipsis and nothing, hummmmm [19659016]I suspect that behind this story there is a sacred formula, a powerful omen, a FERMATIC prediction or challenge. Surely he did not have paper to apostille, to continue the story …

Anyway, I hope to wake up and that tomorrow the dinosaur is gone or that we have thrown it out, better, at least in my dreams (utopias), I will fight for it!

(published in a Harvard University pamphlet)

The fable of Achilles and the turtle one of the paradoxes of Zeno has a close relationship with the infinity . Monterroso proposes a brief and sharp version:

Finally, according to the cable, last week the turtle reached the goal.

At a press conference he modestly declared that he always feared losing, because his His opponent was on his heels all the time.

Indeed, one ten billionth of a second later, like an arrow and cursing Zeno of Elea, Achilles arrived.

The tortoise and Achilles

The quote from Alfredo Bryce Echenique who opens this writing alludes to Jorge Luis Borges. Monterroso admired the Argentine writer, as shown in his Profits and Hexes by Jorge Luis Borges and of which some fragments are included below in which the infinite is the protagonist: [19659057] When I discovered Borges in 1945, I did not understand him and it rather shocked me. […]

Going from that prologue to everything that came from Borges has constituted for me (and for many others) something as necessary as breathing, at the same time as dangerous as approaching an abyss more than is prudent. […]

Accustomed as we are to a certain type of literature, to certain ways of conducting a story, of solving a poem, it is not surprising that Borges' ways surprise us and from the first moment we accept it or not. His main literary resource is precisely that: surprise. From the first word of any of your stories, anything can happen. However, the overall reading shows us that the only thing that could happen was what Borges, owner of an implacable logical rigor, proposed from the beginning. […]

And finally, the big problem: the temptation to imitate him was almost irresistible; imitate it, useless. Anyone can afford to imitate Conrad, Greene, Durrel with impunity; not to Joyce, not to Borges. It is too easy and obvious.

The meeting with Borges never happens without consequences. Here are some of the things that can happen, between beneficial and malefic:

  1. Passing by him without realizing it (maleficent).

  2. Passing by him, turning back and following him for a long distance to see what he does (charitable )

  3. Pass by his side, return and follow him forever (maleficent).

  4. To discover that one is stupid and that until that moment an idea that more or less was worthwhile had not occurred to him (beneficial). [19659063] Discovering that one is intelligent, since one likes Borges (charity).

  5. Being dazzled by the fable of Achilles and the Turtle and believing that this is the way things are going ( maleficent).

  6. Discover the infinity and eternity (charitable).

  7. Worry about the infinity and eternity (charitable).

  8. Believe in the infinity and in eternity (maleficent).

  9. Stop writing (ben éfica).


i In “Perpetual Movement”, Seix Barral, 1981, pp. 53-58

About the author: Marta Macho Stadler is a professor of Topology at the Department of Mathematics of the UPV / EHU, and a regular contributor to ZTFNews, the blog of the Faculty of Science and Technology of this university

The article Augusto Monterroso: the brief and the infinite has been written in Cuaderno de Cultura Científica .

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