A book that changed me

JAH WOBBLE on Jorge Luis Borges's 'Labyrinths'
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The Independent Culture
When did you first read it? Only last year, but I'd had it on my shelf for a few years before that. My old guitar player Justin Adams recommended the book, but I just ignored him. I didn't like the cover; I imaged some slightly effeminate Latin American geezer being whimsical about the world, and I thought, "Nah, that's bollocks." I don't read much fiction; this is the only stuff I can handle because practically everyone else seems so predictable.

Why did it strike you so much? It's a collection of short stories, essays and parables, and what I always do with a book of stories is find the shortest one - "Oh, here you go, page 182 to 184" - and just steam in. To me, Borges is easy reading, and yet a lot of people have difficulty with him. In one paragraph you'll have a German spy in WWII, and in the next you're in a maze and it's the Middle Ages. And yet it all seems much more real than anything in the latest "gripping thriller". You don't have to look for meaning, the meaning will come and find you. It's the literary equivalent of trance music; it's heart to mind and back again. You don't have to analyse. As a result, I went into all these different dream states. You have very strange dreams after reading Borges.

Have you re-read it? I pick it up quite often. When you're reading him, it's important not to stop and go back, or shut the book after a few pages and say, "Mmm, what happened there?" You've got to open up, don't pause. A lot of people get very hung up on knowing what everything means, following a linear thread - basically being control freaks. I never worried about the temporal displacement because there's a spiritual dynamic. So yes, I dip into it, I find it very relaxing, very meditative. If you're on a train, all stressed out, having difficulty concentrating, it seems to draw all the threads together again.

Did it make you want to find out more about the author? I don't really know anything about Borges, and it's not necessary. He obviously knew a lot about Greek philosophy, Wittgenstein, Cabbalist texts; he's studied all that. But the person isn't important. It's like, I'm glad I never met Miles Davies. Because at the end of the day, you'd only be meeting a human being. You connect with the godhead in the work.

! Jah Wobble's next album, 'The Light Programme' (30 Hertz), will be released at the end of this month.