QUESTION – In Red Tape’s adaptation of Dog in a Manger, the Countess Belflor tells a story about the map of Borges. What is the origin of this tale?
ANSWER – The story Del Rigor en la Ciencia (On Rigor in Science) was written by Jorge Luis Borges and first published in 1946. A translation by Andrew Hurley reads:
“In that Empire, the Art of Cartography attained such Perfection that the map of a single Province occupied the entirety of a City, and the map of the Empire, the entirety of a Province. In time, those Unconscionable Maps no longer satisfied, and the Cartographers Guilds struck a Map of the Empire whose size was that of the Empire, and which coincided point for point with it. The following Generations, who were not so fond of the Study of Cartography as their Forebears had been, saw that that vast Map was Useless.”
The map was at last allowed to rot, revealing the true kingdom underneath. The story was referenced by the French philosopher Jean Baudrillard in his 1985 treatise Simulacra and Simulation which Red Tape Theatre studied in our lab series last season. Baudrillard writes:
“The territory no longer precedes the map, nor does it survive it…. It is the real, and not the map, whose vestiges persist here and there in the deserts that are no longer those of the Empire, but ours. The desert of the real itself.”
In a society where the genteel social codes have failed to obscure their underlying prejudices the Countess Belflor finds the map of Borges a most appropriate example.
Paul G. Miller
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