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Bronstein, C. (2002). Borges, Immortality and the Circular Ruins. Int. J. Psycho-Anal., 83(3):647-660.

(2002). International Journal of Psycho-Analysis, 83(3):647-660

Borges, Immortality and the Circular Ruins

Catalina Bronstein

The author explores ideas surrounding immortality and death focusing on the interplay between their development in two stories by Borges (‘The circular ruins’ and ‘The immortal’) and their manifestation in a patient. With the help of Borges's stories, the author addresses the desperate necessity experienced by some individuals to search for immortality. This is not just an expression of the universal wish to live forever but, at a deeper level, arises from the impossibility of bearing the mental pain of experiencing ordinary human vulnerability and loss—death being the ultimate expression of such vulnerability. It is suggested that the relentless pursuit of immortality in such individuals expresses an omnipotent phantasy of ridding the self of the emotional pain and fear that arises through being alive. It leads to a denial of the emotional significance of passage of time, of separation and sexual differences. In actuality, the individual's state of not feeling approximates to a complete loss of human identity and emotional death, with no place for any meaningful others. The individual him/herself becomes a ‘mere image’, living in a delusional world peopled by him/herself and his/her projections, and ending up trapped inside the circular ruins he/she has generated. The horror experienced at the stark awareness of the individual's emotional death and the wish to re-establish contact with the good internal objects that have been attacked sets in motion the long process of searching for the recovery of a sense of temporality (that would still include the wish for immortality) and, with it, a sense of identity.

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