Around 1916, I decided to apply myself to the study of Oriental literature. As I was reading with credulous enthusiasm the English translation of the great Chinese philosopher, I came upon this memorable passage: “It matters little to a convict under a death sentence if he has to walk on the edge of a precipice; he has already given up learning.” To that phrase, the translator had appended a footnote, and indicated that his interpretation was to be preferred to that of a rival sinologist who had translated the same line this way: “The servants destroy the works of art so as not to have to adjudicate on their merits and defects.”
At that point … I did not read any further. A mysterious skepticism had crept into my soul.
- Jorge Luis Borges