Death and the Compass: Comparing Ideas.
One of the oldest standards in Western literature as we know it today is that of the detective story. We, as a people, are fascinated with stories woven thick with intrigue and dastardly deeds, just as we are fascinated with the detective character that tirelessly and ceaselessly, almost obsessively works to unweave the mystery and right whatever wrongs have occurred. Jorge Luis Borges' short story Death and the Compass, broken down to its simplest roots, is precisely that: an exciting little detective story. At a chaste and mere thirteen pages long, it is one of the shortest and most simplified detective stories that I have ever encountered as a student of literature. But even at its concise length, it still manages to captivate its audience and take on a life of its own, delving into issues far too complex to really be explored in such a succinct environment. From ancient Grecian labyrinths consisting of a single straight line to the very name of god himself, volumes could be written on the philosophical contents of Borges' unique style of writing, yet he himself only uses but thirteen pages to simply tell his story, without utilizing literary devices like tension, and character development, opting, instead, to simply say what he has to say, and leave it up to the reader to think what he will of it. Two works in film have been produced, based on Borges' Death and the Compass. Both are quite different from each other, yet still adhere to the same basic plot structure as Borges' original story.
The story of Death and the Compass examines a brilliant, if not eccentric, detective named Erik Lonnrot, and the circumstances and events leading up to his inevitable demise at the hands of a vengeful criminal called Red Scharlach. Red Scharlach knows that Lonnrot is a thinker, and a researcher, and plays upon his deep curiosity and desire to unravel mysteries, luring him to the foreboding Tiste-le-Roy through a series of mysterious murders involving cryptic little clues and hinting at kabala-related sacrifices and rabbinical intrigue.