Here is one of Jorge Luis Borges’s sonnets about chess. Except, as you can imagine, it is about more—a whole lot more.
Faint-hearted king, sly bishop, ruthless queen,
straightforward castle, and deceitful pawn—
over the checkered black and white terrain
they seek out and begin their armed campaign
They do not know it is the player’s hand
that dominates and guides their destiny.
They do not know an adamantine fate
controls their will and lays the battle plan.
The player too is captive of caprice
(the words are Omar’s) on another ground
where black nights alternate with whiter days.
God moves the player, he in turn the piece.
But what god beyond God begins the round
of dust and time and sleep and agonies?
The translation is by Alastair Reid. Having just finished a cup of hot yerba mate at 9:30 in the evening, after having read a collection of Argentinean short stories by César Aira, I find myself, once again, drawn toward the land of the Sol de Mayo.
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