Historic manuscript of 'the introduction of hypertext' to sell in New York

Jorges Luis Borges was a greatly acclaimed Argentine writer, whose novels, essays and poems explored surrealist and mind-expanding themes. A number of his ideas have proved to echo loudly through to modern times.

In New York tomorrow, Bloomsbury Auction is holding a mammoth sale of Travel Books, Autographs, and Literature in which some handwritten works by Borges feature prominently - 10 of the 581 lots in the sale are his.

These include El Estilo y la Tiempo - a handwritten three page essay on Borge's thoughts on the act of writing and on the meaning of the word 'style'. Written in 1928, the essay is increasingly appearing on university reading lists, and is listed here at $30,000-40,000.

The most exciting piece, however is a 1941 manuscript of Borges' El Jardin de Senderos Que Se Bifurcan (The Garden of Forking Paths).

The work is part of Borges' experiments with the format of the detective novel, but it is most noted for being arguably the first text to explore the idea of hypertext - the keystone of the world wide web.

Set during World War I England, the story begins as the narrative of a Chinese spy under German employ, Yu Tsun, who pursued by British agent Richard Madden, must somehow relay to this masters the Allied plan to bomb the village of Albert in France.

Jorges Luis Borges Garden of Forking Paths
The manuscript for Borges's Garden of Forking Paths
(Click to enlarge)

He picks as his method the 'random' killing of a man named Albert: Stephen Albert, whom he visits at his home. Albert is an expert on Yu Tsun's ancestor Ts'ui Pên, a man who quit his post as governor in order to complete two complex projects: the writing of a huge, complex novel, and the construction of an equally large and intricate labyrinth.

Ts'ui Pên was murdered, leaving behind no maze and only a 'contradictory jumble of irresolute drafts' in place of the book. Albert however has discovered that he had completed both projects: the novel is the labyrinth, and represents the simultaneous outcome of all possibilities.

This is the 'Garden of Forking Paths', laid out in time rather than space. Yu Tsun is grateful to Albert, but still shoots the scholar dead to fulfil his mission.

The ideas behind the story have gained currency as essentially being those behind the internet and theories in modern physics. The text is described as 'the introduction of hypertext' by the auction house.

As handwritten texts such as these by Borges are incredibly rare, the autographed piece is offered with an estimate of $200,000-300,000.


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