Death and the Compass


  • Media: #shortstory
    • Author: [[!Jorge Luis Borges]]
    • From: B-Ficciones
    • Status: read
    • Date: 2020-08-21
    • Tags: #mystery #detective
    • Rating: ★★★★★
    • Idea richness: ★★★★☆


"The first letter of the Name has been written."

Death and the Compass starts as a mundane (for Borges) detective story chronicling a series of murders around the city which seem to point to a ritual to reveal a secret name of God. It misleads you (and the detective) into thinking Borges is diving into the metaphysical and fantastical again before the Plot twist reveals it is altogether different kind of fantastical.

SPOILERS: Turns out the mundane explanation is the right one and a criminal lord latched onto the detective's supernatural theory to arrange further murders and lure him to a location for revenge.


Tied with The Library of Babel as my favourite story from B-Ficciones. It made me yearn for full length [[!Jorge Luis Borges]] mystery novels, weaving together his incredible imagination and fantastical style.

This one was also more of a 'story', rather than an exploration of high concepts but it packs the same level of imagination as you'd expect from Borges. A detective story where the main detective's theory is wrong and the simple explanation offered by second is actually correct is a great literary device.

Topics to Pursue

Scrapbook Concepts

  • "the first letter of the Name has been written" - written after murder.
  • Street with a tavern, museum of wonders, a milk store, a brother, and a company of Bible sellers #locations
  • "Black Finnegan, former Irish criminal now overwhelmed, almost crushed, by honesty." #characters
  • "The Jewish day begins at sundown and lasts until sundown of the following day."
  • Criminal boss accusing police chief of criminal negligence
  • A house abounding in "pointless symmetries and obsessive repetitions". Can use that to identify hidden stairwells #locations
  • Criminal making a crime look ritual just so they can trap and get revenge on a detective. #mystery