I’ve rendered a new translation of Tlon, striving to first match Borges’ style and second his content.
I owe to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia the discovery of Uqbar. The looking glass disturbed the depths of a corridor in a farmhouse on Gaona Street, in Ramos Mejia; the encyclopedia erroneously claimed to be The Anglo American Cyclopaedia (New York, 1917), and was a faithful, albeit inadequate, reprint of the 1902 Encyclopaedia Britannica. Presently it will have been five years since it all happened. Bioy Casares had dined with me that night, and we dallied in a vast dispute concerning the proper execution of a first-person novel, whose narrator would delete or distort events and implicate himself in myriad contradictions, permitting only a few readers—scant few readers—the ascertainment of any true detail, outrageous or trivial. From the remote end of the corridor, the mirror spied upon us. We discovered (in the wee hours, such discoveries are inevitable) that mirrors possess some monstrous quality. Then Bioy Casares remembered that one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had declared that mirrors and copulation are abominations, for they multiply the ranks of men. I queried as to the source of this striking observation, and Bioy answered that it was registered in the Anglo American Cyclopaedia, in the article regarding Uqbar. The farmhouse (which we had rented already outfitted) contained a copy of this work. In the final pages of Volume XLVI we found an article about Upsala; in the first of Volume XLVII, one concerning Ural-Altaic Languages, but not a word about Uqbar. Bioy, rather embarrassed, scrutinized the index. He exhausted in vain every conceivable spelling: Ukbar, Ucbar, Ooqbar, Ookbar, Oukbahr…Before leaving, he told me that Uqbar was a region of Iraq or Asia Minor. I admit that my assent was accompanied by some distrust. I figured that this clandestine country and its anonymous heresiarch were an extemporaneous artifact of Bioy’s modesty in order to justify his aphorism. The profitless perusal of one of the atlases of Justus Perthes strengthened my doubt.
The next day, Bioy called me from Buenos Aires. He informed me that he had before him the article about Uqbar in Volume XLVI of the encyclopedia. It did not betray the name of the heresiarch, but did convey a note on his doctrine, devised in words almost identical to those spoken by Bioy, although—perhaps—rhetorically inferior. Bioy had said, Mirrors and copulation are abominations. The encyclopedic text explained: For one of these Gnostics, the visible universe constituted an illusion, or in particular, a sophism. Mirrors and fatherhood are abominations because they multiply and extend it. I told him quite honestly that I should like to see the article. A few days later, he brought it to me. I was surprised; the conscientious cartographic catalogues of Ritter’s Erdkunde were thoroughly ignorant of the name “Uqbar.”
The volume brought by Bioy was, in effect, Volume XLVI of the Anglo-American Cyclopaedia. On the false cover and spine, the alphabetical marking (Tor-Ups) matched that of the aforementioned copy, but instead of that encyclopedia’s 917 pages, Bioy’s consisted of 921. These four additional pages comprised the article concerning Uqbar; they were not merited (as the reader will have been advised) in the alphabetical listing. We confirmed afterwards that there existed no other difference between the two copies. Both (as I believe I have mentioned) were reprints of the tenth Encyclopaedia Britannica. Bioy had acquired his copy at one of many auctions.
We read the article with considerable care. Bioy’s remembered quotation was perhaps the only surprising one. The rest were downright true-to-life, in continuity with the general tone of the entry, and (as is common) a tad boring. On a rereading, we found under the scrupulous script a prevailing vagueness. Of the fourteen names that figured into the geographical section, we recognized a mere three—Khorasan, Armenia, Erzurum—interpolated into the text in an ambiguous manner. Of the historical figures, we knew just one: Smerdis the impostor magician, invoked only as a sort of metaphor. The article seemed to specify the borders of Uqbar, but its indistinct reference points were rivers and craters and mountains therein. We read, for instance, that the lowlands of Tsai Jaldun and the delta of Axa defined the southern border, and that the islands of that delta were the mating grounds of wild horses. All this we found on the top of page 918. In the historical section (page 920), we learned that following the religious wars of the thirteenth century, the orthodox claimed refuge in the islands, where their obelisks still remain, and where it is not unusual to unearth their flinted mirrors. The section “Language and Literature” was brief. Only one feature was memorable: an annotation that the literature of Uqbar was of the fantastical persuasion; the epics and legends did not concern real events at all, but rather the two imaginary realms of Mlejnas and Tlon…The bibliography enumerated four sources that neither of us had previously encountered, although the third—Silas Haslam’s Hystory of the Land Called Uqbar, 1874—is featured in the catalogues of Bernard Quaritch’s bookstore . The first source, Lesbare und lesenswerthe Bemerkungen uber das Land Ukkbar in Klein-Asien, dated to 1641 and is authored by Johannes Vantinus Andrea. This fact is crucial: a few years later, I found his name on an unlooked-for page of De Quincey’s Writings, the thirteenth volume, and learned that he had been a German theologian who, at the turn of the seventeenth century, sang of the mythical brotherhood of the Rose Cross—a society later rendered real by the work of others, in imitation of the one he imagined.
That night we went to the National Library. In vain did we exhaust atlases, catalogues, annuals of geographical societies, memoirs of travelers and historians: not one had ever been in Uqbar. Neither did the general index of Bioy’s encyclopedia register its name. The next day, Carlos Mastronardi (to whom I had referred the matter) spotted on a bookstore in Corrientes and Talcahuano the gold and black spine of the Anglo American Cyclopaedia…He went in, and consulted Volume XLVI. Naturally, he did not find even the slightest mention of Uqbar.
Some slight and shrinking memory of Herbert Ashe, engineer of the southern railroads, endures in the hotel at Adrogue, between the gushing honeysuckles and the illusory background of the looking glasses. In life he suffered from fantasy, like so many Englishmen; in death, he is not even the phantasm that he was then. He was tall and torpid, with what was once a red rectangular beard. To my understanding, he was a childless widow. Every few years, he went to England, to visit (I surmised, from some photographs that he showed to us) a sundial and some oak trees. He and my father had been close (the word is too strong) in one of those English friendships that begin without trust and proceed without conversation. They were wont to exchange books and newspapers; they were wont to meet for silent games of chess…I remember him in the hotel corridor, with a mathematics text in his hand, occasionally glancing towards the irretrievable colors of the sky. One afternoon, we spoke of the duodecimal numerary system (in which twelve is written as 10). Ashe said that he had just been translating some duodecimal tables (I do not know which) to sexagesimal (in which sixty is written as 10). He added that this work had been entrusted to him by a Norwegian in southern Rio Grande. Eight years I had known him, and he had never mentioned his stay there…We discussed the pastoral life, the plantation workers, the Brazilian etymology of the word “gaucho” (which some old orientals still pronounce “gaúcho”), and no more was said—God forgive me—of duodecimal systems. In September 1937 (when we were not in the hotel), Herbert Ashe died of an aneurysm rupture. Days before, he had received from Brazil a sealed and certified package. It was a book in large octavo. Ashe left it in the barroom, where—months later—I found it. Beginning to leaf through it, I felt a speechless, weightless vertigo that I will not waste words describing, for this is the history not of my emotions but of Uqbar and Tlon and Orbis Tertius. In Islam, there is a night called the Night of Nights in which the disguised doors of heaven are thrown open, and water sweetens in the canteens; if these doors were to open, I would not feel the fulness of that which I felt that afternoon. The book was written in English and totaled 1001 pages. On the flaxen leather spine I read those curious words restated on the false front: A First Encyclopaedia of Tlon, vol. XI: Hlaer to jangr. There was no indication of the date or place. On the first page, and on a silken sheet of paper that covered one of the colored lamellas was stamped a blue oval with the inscription Orbis Tertius. It had been two years since I had discovered in a volume of a certain corrupted encyclopedia a dim description of a spurious country; now, something yet more precious and punishing awaited me. Now, I held in my hands a massive, methodical fragment of the complete history of an undiscovered planet, with its architectures and its tarot cards, with the terror of its mythology and the whispers of its languages, with its emperors and its oceans, with its sacred stones and its fowl and its fish, with its arithmetic and its flame; with its controversial theologies and metaphysics: all eloquent, expressive, without any observable gestures to doctrinal propaganda or satirical tone.
In this eleventh volume of which I treat there are allusions to tomes anterior and subsequent. Nestor Ibarra, in a now authoritative article in the NRF, has denied that there exist these companion volumes; Ezequiel Martinez Estrada and Drieu la Rochelle have refuted, and perchance prevailed over, his doubt. The truth is that until now, even the most earnest examinations have been barren. In vain have we disheveled the contents of the libraries of both Americas and Europe. Alfonso Reyes, fed up with these inferior sleuthing expeditions, proposes that together we commit ourselves to the work of reconstructing the many and mountainous tomes that we lack: ex ungue leonem. He estimates, in a tone between satire and seriousness, that a generation of “Tlonistas” could suffice. This risky reckoning brings us back to the fundamental question: Who are the inventors of Tlon? The plural is certain, as the hypothesis of a singular architect—one limitless Leibniz working in darkness and diffidence—has been unanimously discarded. Instead, the common conjecture is that this “brave new world” is the work of a secret society of astronomers, biologists, engineers, metaphysicists, poets, chemists, algebraists, moralists, painters, geometers…guided by some murky man of genius. Individuals who have mastered these diverse disciplines abound, but none of those are of the visionary sort, let alone capable of subjecting the visionary impulse to a strict and systematic design—a design so vast that the contribution of any one participant is infinitesimal. At first, we thought Tlon to consist of mere chaos, of an irresponsibly permissive imagination; now, it is known that it is a universe, and that the deepest dictums that govern it were well-defined, even by provision. It suffices to recall that the conspicuous contradictions of the eleventh volume are the hallmark which proves that the others must exist as well, so cogent and condign is the order that has been observed within it. Popular magazines have exposed, with pardonable sensationalism, the zoology and topography of Tlon; I wonder if its transparent tigers and towers of blood deserve the continued attention of all men. I dare to request a few minutes to explain Tlon’s concept of the universe.
Hume noted for posterity that the arguments of Berkeley do not allow the slightest refutation, nor do they cause the faintest conviction. This dictum is thoroughly reliable in its application to Earth, and completely false on Tlon. The peoples of that planet are congenitally idealists. Their languages and the cultures derived from these languages—religions, letters, metaphysics—are dependent upon idealism. The world, for them, is not a collection of objects in space; it is a sundry string of independent acts. It is successive; temporal—not spatial. There are no nouns in the conjectural Ursprache of Tlon, from which developed the prevailing tongues and dialects: there are only impersonal verbs, qualified with single-syllable suffixes (or prefixes) of an adverbial value. For example, no word corresponds to the English word “moon,” but there exists a verb which might translate in English “to moonize” or “to moon.” Where we would say “The moon rose above the river,” they say “hlor u fang axaxaxas mlo,” or in our understanding, “upwards and behind the constantly-flowing it mooned.” (Xul Solar translates briefly: “Up and behind where it onstreamed, it mooned.”)
The former refers to the languages of the southern hemisphere. In those of the northern hemisphere (the native Ursprache of which is very little treated of in the eleventh volume), the primordial feature is not the verb but the monosyllabic adjective. The noun forms through accumulation of adjectives. One does not say “moon”: one says “aerial-clear-light on the dark-round” or “orange-dim in the sky” or some other construction. In this case, the lump of adjectives corresponds to a real object, but this fact is purely a fortuitous coincidence. In the literature of that hemisphere (and the subsistent world of Meinong) ideal objects abound, summoned and dismissed in an instant, according to the poetic necessities. They are determined sometimes by their mere concurrence. There are objects composed of two terms, one of a visual character and the other auditory: the color of birth and the distant call of a bird. They are made up of multitudes: the sun; the waves crashing against a swimmer’s chest; the vague, vibrating rosiness that can be seen on the underside of closed eyelids; the sensations experienced by those who allow themselves to be carried by the current of a river and of a reverie. These second-rate objects can be combined with still others; the process, compounding by means of certain concatenations, is effectively infinite. There are famous poems composed of one unending word, which constitute the poetic “object” created by the author. The fact that nobody supposes the reality of nouns causes, paradoxically, that the number of these nouns becomes interminable. The languages of the northern hemisphere of Tlon possess all the nouns of our Indo-European dialects, and many more.
It is scarcely an exaggeration to claim that the classical culture of Tlon concerns itself with only one discipline: psychology. All other subjects are subordinated to it. I have said that the men of this world envisage the universe as a series of mental methodologies, which proceed not in space but rather sequentially in time. Spinoza attributes to his infallible God the qualities of extension and thought; on Tlon, not a soul could fathom the juxtaposition of the former (typified only in certain states of being) and the latter (a synonym for the selfsame cosmos). The claim must be made in other words: the residents of Tlon do not believe that space persists in time. The sight of smoke on the horizon, then of a smoldering field, then of the half-extinguished cigar that produced the blaze, is considered just one of many possible associations of ideas.
This monism, or total idealism, invalidates the sciences. To explain or consider an event is to connect it to others; this interdependence, on Tlon, is a retroactive state of the subject, which cannot affect or account for the prior state. All mental states are irreducible: the simple act of naming them—i.e. of classifying them—brings to bear a falsehood. From this, it is fitting to conclude that there exist no sciences on Tlon—nor so much as reasons. The incongruous truth, however, is that such reasons do exist, and indeed are but innumerable. To systems of thought occurs the same process that occurs with nouns in the northern hemisphere. The fact that all philosophy is a priori a dialectical game, a Philosophie de Als Orb, only serves to further multiply them. Fantastical systems abound, always of an agreeable or sensational structure. The metaphysicists of Tlon seek neither truth nor even plausibility, but rather wonder. They view metaphysics as an arm of fantastical literature. They are aware that a system is nothing but the subjugation of all aspects of the universe to any mere one. Even the phrase “all aspects of the universe” is dubious, because it assumes the impossible: summation of the present moment and of previous ones. Neither is the concept “previous ones” admitted; it attempts another impossible operation…One of the Tlon traditions rejects time altogether, reasoning that the present is ill-defined; the future, only real as present hope; the past, only real as present memory . Another school claims that all of time has already elapsed, and our life is a scant memory or mirror in the gloam, doubtless garbled and mutilated, an artifact of an irrecoverable process. Still another professes that the history of the universe—and these our lives, down to the most delicate detail—is the work of an auxiliary god seeking concord with a demon. Another, that the cosmos is comparable to those cryptographies wherein not all the signs are reliable, and that only the events of one out of every three hundred nights are true. Another, that while we sleep here, we are awake somewhere else; thus, each man is two men.
Of all the Tlonist doctrines, none has merited such infamy as that of materialism. Many thinkers have derived it, with less perspicuity than passion, like one who proposes a paradox. To facilitate the fathoming of this inconceivable thesis, a heresiarch of the eleventh century  constructed the casuistry of the nine copper coins, the scandalous renown of which is equal on Tlon to that of the Eleatic Aporias. Of this “specious argument” there are several versions, which differ in the number of coins and in the results. Here is the most prevailing:
On Tuesday, X traverses a deserted road and loses nine copper coins. On Thursday, Y finds on the road four copper coins, somewhat rusted from Wednesday’s rain. On Friday, Z discovers three coins in the road. On Friday morning, X finds two coins in the hallway of his house.
The heresiarch wished to deduce from this story the reality—in particular, the continuity—of the nine recovered coins. It would be absurd, he affirmed, to believe that four of the coins did not exist between Tuesday and Thursday; three between Tuesday and Friday afternoon; two between Tuesday and Friday morning. It is logical to conclude that the coins have existed—even in some mysterious manner, the fathoming of which is forbidden to men—in every moment of those three periods.
The language of Tlon resisted the formulation of that paradox; most did not understand it. The proponents of common sense at first limited themselves to denying the accuracy of the anecdote. They reiterated that it was a verbal fallacy, originating in the temerarious application of two neologisms, the use of which was unauthorized and alien to all rigorous thought: the verbs to find and to lose, which beg the question in presupposing the identity of the first nine coins and the following. They reminded others that any noun (man, coin, Thursday, Wednesday, rain) carries only a metaphorical value. They denounced the duplicitous conjuncture “somewhat rusted from Wednesday’s rain,” which presumed that which it meant to prove: the perseverance of the four coins between Tuesday and Thursday. They explained that equality is one thing and identity quite another, and formulated a sort of reductio ad absurdum: the hypothetical case of nine men who, on nine consecutive nights, suffer a vivid pain. Would it not be preposterous, they challenged, to purport that the pain is the same?  They declared that the heresiarch had been driven only by the blasphemous proposition of ascribing the divine breed of Being to a few silly coins, and that he sometimes refuted plurality and other times accepted it. They concluded: if equality implies identity, it would be furthermore requisite to acknowledge that the nine coins were one.
Incredibly, these refutations did not definitively settle the question. Some hundred years after the parameters of the problem were set forth, a scholar no less brilliant than the heresiarch, but of the orthodox tradition, developed an audacious hypothesis. His happy conjecture vindicated the existence of only one subject, that this indivisible subject is each one of the beings of the universe, and that these beings are the organs and veils of the divine. X is Y and Z. Z discovers three coins because he recalls that X lost them; X finds two in his corridor because he remembers that the others have been recovered…The eleventh volume allows one to understand that for three crucial reasons did idealistic pantheism emerge thoroughly victorious on Tlon: first, the repudiation of solipsism; second, the possibility of preserving the psychological principal of the sciences; third, the possibility of retaining the worship of the gods. Schopenhauer—passionate, precise Schopenhauer—devises a similar doctrine in the first volume of Parerga und Paralipomena.
The geometry of Tlon comprises two rather discrete disciplines: the visual and the tactile. The latter concurs with that of Earth and is subsidiary to the former. The basis of visual geometry is the surface, not the point. This geometry disavows parallel lines and declares that a man displaced disrupts the forms around him. The basis of their arithmetic is the concept of indeterminate numbers. They emphasize the importance of the concepts of greater than and less than, which our mathematics represent with the symbols “<” and “>”. They attest that the operation of counting alters the sum, and renders determinates of indeterminates. The fact that many individuals who count the same quantity attain identical results epitomizes for the psychologists a case of association of ideas or of good use of memory; as we know, on Tlon the subject of knowledge is unified and eternal.
In the literary tradition too is the idea of the single subject supreme. It is unusual for books to be signed. The concept of plagiarism is nonexistent: it has been established that all books are the artifacts of a single author, anonymous and abiding. It is the wont of literary critics to invent authors, by choosing two unrelated works—say, Tao Te Ching and The 1001 Nights—attributing them to the same writer, and then examining charitably the psychology of this interesting homme de lettres…
The books of Tlon are distinctive as well. Those of fiction encompass one plot with all imaginable permutations. Those of philosophy unfailingly contain a thesis and its antithesis, the rigorous cases for and against a doctrine. The book that does not include its own counterbook is considered incomplete.
Centuries upon centuries of idealism have not failed to influence reality. In the most ancient regions of Tlon, the duplication of lost objects is not uncommon. Two people search for a pencil; the first finds it and says nothing; the second encounters a second pencil, no less real but better adjusted to his expectation. These secondary objects are known as hronir, and are, although ungainly in shape, somewhat longer. Until recently, these hronir were the occasional offspring of distraction and neglect. It seems incredible that the dawn of their methodical manufacture was barely a hundred years ago, but so says the eleventh volume. The first attempts were feckless. Nonetheless, the modus operandi warrants mention. The director of a state prison notified the inmates that under the old riverbank were certain tombs, and promised freedom to whoever brought in a valuable finding. During the months leading to the excavation, they were provided with photographs of what they were meant to find. This first trial demonstrated that hope and avarice are inhibitions; a week’s hard work with shovel and spout succeeded in unearthing no hron but a rusty wheel, dated to after the experiment. The secrecy of the experiment was maintained, and it was repeated afterward in four schools. Three yielded near-total failure; in the fourth experiment (whose lead architect had died in a freak accident during the first excavation), the students exhumed—or produced—a gold mask, an ancient sword, two or three clay urns, and the moldering and mutilated torso of a king, whose chest bore an inscription that has still not been deciphered. Thereby was discovered the unsuitability of participants familiar with the experimental nature of the excavation…Mass investigations produce contrary objects; these days individual and nearly improvised assignments are preferred. The systematic development of hronir has been of tremendous use to archaeologists. It has allowed the examination and even the revision of the past, which is now no less plastic and pliant than the future. A curious fact: second- and third-degree hronir—a hron derived from another hron, hronir derived from the hron of a hron—amplify the aberrations of the first degree; those of the fifth degree verge on uniformity; those of the ninth degree can be confused with those of the second; in those of the eleventh there is a purity of lines not even found in the original objects. The process is periodic; already the twelfth-grade hron begins to decay again. Stranger and purer than any hron is, sometimes, the ur: the product of suggestion, the object of hope. The great golden mask I have mentioned is a well-known example.
Objects duplicate in Tlon; they also possess the propensity to blur and lose detail when people forget them. A classic example is that of a ridge that persisted while visited by a beggar, but was lost from view after his death. On occasion, some birds, a horse, have rescued the ruins of an amphitheater.
1940, Salto Oriental
Postscript, 1947. I reproduce the above article as it appeared in Anthology of Fantastical Literature, 1940, with no excisions save for those of some metaphors and of a sort of derisive summary that now rings frivolous. Many things have happened since that date…I will confine myself to relating them.
In March 1941, a letter by Gunnar Erfjord was discovered in a Hinton book that had belonged to Herbert Ashe. The envelope carried the postal stamp of Ouro Preto; the letter explained entirely the mystery of Tlon. Its contents corroborated the theory of Martinez Estrada. The splendid history began in a night in Lucerne or London, at the turn of the seventeenth century. A benevolent secret society (which, among its affiliates, boasted Dalgarno and later George Berkeley) arose to invent a country. “Hermetic studies,” philanthropy, and the Kabbalah figured into the vague initial scheme. From this first era dates Andrea’s curious book. At the conclusion of a few years of councils and premature syntheses, they understood that a generation could not suffice to compose a country. They resolved that each of the experts involved in its integration should choose a student for the continuation of the creation. This hereditary provision prevailed; after a hiatus of two centuries, the persecuted brotherhood reemerged in America. Until 1824, in Memphis, Tennessee, one of the affiliates communicated with the ascetic millionaire Ezra Buckley, who allowed him to speak with some disdain—and chuckled at the modesty of the project. He told the affiliate that in America, it is absurd to invent a mere country, and proposed instead the invention of a planet. To this titanic idea Buckley added another, child of his cynicism : that of guarding the enormous empire in silence.
At that time circulated the twenty tomes of Encyclopedia Britannica; Buckley suggested a meticulous encyclopedia of the illusory planet. He would loan them his gold-bearing mountain ranges, his navigable rivers, his pastures trampled by bull and bison, his Blacks, brothels, and bullion, under one condition: “The project will have nothing to do with that impostor Jesus Christ.” Buckley did not believe in God, yet wished to prove to the nonexistent God that mortal men might be capable of constructing a world. Buckley was poisoned in Baton Rouge in 1828; in 1914, the society sent to its three-hundred-some collaborators the final volume of A First Encyclopedia of Tlon. The edition was secret; the forty volumes it comprised (the greatest project men have yet undertaken) were meant to be the guide for another even more minute, written not in English but in one of the languages of Tlon. This study of an imaginary world was provisionally christened Orbis Tertius, and one if its modest makers was Herbert Ashe—I do not know whether as an agent of Gunnar Erfjord or as an affiliate, though his receipt of a copy of the eleventh volume ought to favor the latter. But what of the other volumes? By 1942, the progression of events had intensified. I recall with singular clarity one of the first, and I believe I felt even then something of its foreboding character. It transpired on a section of Laprida Street, in front of a clear, tall balcony that faced the sunset. The princess Faucigny Lucinge had received silverware from Poitiers. From the vast depths of a crate plastered with international stamps, splendid sedentary objects were emerging: silverware from Utrecht and Paris with the heraldic faunal crest, a samovar. Between them—with the visible and tenuous tremor of a resting bird—a compass was pulsating unexplainably. The princess did not recognize it. The navy needle pined for magnetic north; the metal cage was concave; the letters on the sphere corresponded to those of one of the alphabets of Tlon. So went the first intrusion of the imagined world into the real one. It unsettles me yet that a coincidence rendered me witness also to the second. It occurred a few months later, in a Brazilian grocery in Cuchilla Negra. Amorim and I were on our way back from Sant’Anna. A flood of the Tacuarembo River compelled us to chance (and to suffer) the grocer’s primitive lodgings. He provided us crisp cots in a large room, clogged with casks and cowhides. We lay down, but the drunken delirium of an unseen neighbor, who mixed inescapable insults with gusts of milonga songs—or rather, gusts of one unending milonga—prevented us from sleeping until dawn. As to be expected, we attributed the insistent shouting to the sharp cane licquor of the owner…In the early morning, the man was dead in the hallway. The rough tone of his voice had deceived us: he was a young man. In his delirium, he had dropped a few coins and a lustrous metal cone, the diameter of a die, from his belt. In vain, a boy attempted to recover the cone. A grown man barely managed to lift it. I held it in the palm of my hand for a few minutes: I remember that it was of intolerable weight, which persisted after the cone was taken away. I remember, too, the perfect circle it engraved in my flesh. This trace of an object so small yet at the same time so heavy left me with a disagreeable affect of disgust and dread. A local proposed that we throw it into the fast-flowing river. Amorim acquired it by means of a few dollars. Nobody knew anything concerning the dead man, except that “he came from the border.” Those tiny, incredibly heavy cones (made from a metal not of this earth) are effigies of the divine in certain religions of Tlon.
Here, I give pause to the personal component of my narrative. The rest lies in the memory (if not in the hopes and fears) of all my readers. Bear with me as I remember or mention the subsequent facts, with a reticence in words that the hollow collective remembrance will enrich or enlarge. Around 1944, a reporter from the newspaper The American (out of Nashville, TN) unearthed in a Memphis library the forty volumes of A First Encyclopedia of Tlon. From that day to this one, it is still debated whether the discovery was accidental or the leaders of the still nebulous Orbis Tertius authorized it. The second is more probable. Some far-fetched features of the eleventh volume (for instance, the proliferation of the hronir) have been deleted or diminished in the Memphis version; one might imagine that these deletions follow the plan to present a world not too incompatible with the real world. The circulation of objects from Tlon in various countries would enhance such a plan…  The fact is that the international press gave voice to this “find” interminably. Manuals, miscellanies, summaries, word-for-word copies, reprints authorized or pirated of the Great Project of Man crowded, and continue to crowd, the earth. Almost immediately, reality collapsed in more than one place. The truth is that we longed for it to. Ten years ago, any symmetry mimicking order—dialectical materialism, antisemitism, Nazism—sufficed to enchant men. How could we fail to submit to Tlon, to the ponderous and punctilious evidence of a structured planet? It is useless to protest that reality too is structured. Perhaps so, but it is in accordance with divine laws—that is, to inhuman laws—that we can never fully discern. Be Tlon a labyrinth, but a labyrinth woven by men, and a labyrinth destined to be decoded by men.
The contact and custom of Tlon have disintegrated the world. Enchanted by its intricacy, men forget again and again that it is the intricacy of grandmasters, not of God. Already the conjectural “prime language” of Tlon has infiltrated schools; already the teaching of its harmonious history (full of thrilling events) has obliterated that of the one that commanded my childhood; already in memory our past is replaced with a fabricated past, of which we are certain of nothing—not even of its falsehood. Already have numismatics, pharmacology, and archaeology been reformed. To my understanding, biology and mathematics too await its intervention…A dispersed dynasty of hermits has altered the face of the world. Their mission carries on. If our forecasts are not in error, a hundred years ago someone will discover the hundred volumes of A Second Encyclopedia of Tlon.
Then will they be gone from the earth, English and French and trifling Spanish. Earth will be Tlon. I pay that no mind; in these quiet days at the Adrogue Hotel, I proceed revising an irresolute translation (which I do not intend to have printed) of Urn Buriall by Browne.
 Haslam has published A General History of Labyrinths as well.
 Russell (The Analysis of Mind, 1921, pg. 159) supposes that the planet was created mere moments ago, provided with a human population that “remembers” an illusory past.
 “Century,” in accordance with the duodecimal system, indicates a period of 144 years.
 Today, one of the churches of Tlon maintains the Platonist view that such a pain, such a greenish shade of yellow, such a temperature, such a sound—are the only reality. All men, in the vertiginous instant of coitus, are the same man. All men who recite a line of Shakespeare are William Shakespeare.
 Buckley was a freethinker, a fatalist, and a defender of slavery.
 There remains, naturally, the problem of the substance of such objects.