“The internet, which Borges did not live to see but certainly imagined, has introduced questions over intellectual property…”
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That in 2015, when everything is reproduced and available to anyone clever enough to perform a web search, someone can risk prison for a literary game brings into view the clear incongruities between contemporary culture and copyright laws. It takes only a Google search to dig out Borges’s complete works – even the now infamous The Aleph, in many languages – without charge, and not always illegally. The internet, which Borges did not live to see but certainly imagined, has introduced questions over intellectual property that most guardians of privately owned culture still refuse to acknowledge. that most guardians of privately owned culture still refuse to acknowledge.
Has Katchadjian’s stunt harmed Borges in any way? Will people stop reading Borges, damaging his legacy, because someone did a Menard on one of his short stories? It seems unlikely. Do canonised writers need jailers to protect their work? That most big players manage to keep their place in the bookshelves long after their executors are dead would seem to indicate that they do not.
It is tempting to ask oneself what Borges would have done with The Fattened Aleph. He was renowned not only for his rather reactionary politics but also for his sharp sense of humour. I find it hard to believe that he would have taken Katchadjian to court over an experimental book. Perhaps he would have just sneered – as he did in one of his perhaps apocryphal anecdotes – that this “century has been very mediocre”, hence the need for canonised masters that we can mash-up to the point of exhaustion.
The Fattened Aleph might be a facile attempt at recycling a canonised narrative, or it might be a work of art. This is something worth debating, but surely not in the courts of justice.”