The Man With The Dagger

There is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges called ‘The South’. It is a story full of sharpness, having in it a lance, a sword, the edge of a door, two knives, the strangeness of life and the familiarity of death.

The protagonist of the story is Juan Dahlmann, secretary to a municipal library in Buenos Aires in 1939. His paternal grandfather, a German immigrant, was a minister in the Evangelical Church. His maternal grandfather was ‘that Francisco Flores, of the Second Line-Infantry Division, who had died on the frontier of Buenos Aires, run through with a lance by Indians from Catriel …’ Dahlmann keeps the sword of Francisco Flores and his daguerreotype portrait and has ‘at the cost of numerous small privations … managed to save the empty shell of a ranch in the South which had belonged to the Flores family.’ He has never lived on this ranch; year after year it waits for him.

Hurrying up the library stairs one day, Dahlmann strikes his head against the edge of a freshly painted door and comes away with a bloody wound. The next morning ‘the savour of all things was atrociously poignant. Fever wasted him …’ He nearly dies of septicaemia, and after a long stay in a sanatorium he leaves the city to go to his ranch for his convalescence.

The Architect of Unrest
Pilgrims in Ireland