“Thus we begin to see the book’s general scheme: The insatiable search for a soul by means of the delicate glimmerings or reflections this soul has left in others – at first, the faint trace of a smile or word; toward the last, the varied and growing splendors of intelligence, imagination, and goodness. The more closely the men interrogated by the law student have known Al-Mu’tasim, the greater is their portion of divinity, but the reader knows that they themselves are but mirrors. A technical mathematical formula is applicable here: Bahadur’s heavily freighted novel is an ascending progression whose final term is the sensed or foreapprehended ‘man called Al-Mu’tasim.’ The person immediately preceding Al-Mu’tasim is a Persian bookseller of great courtesy and felicity; the man preceding the booksller is a saint…After all those years, the law student comes to a gallery ‘at the end of which there is a doorway and a tawdry curtain of many beads, and behind that, a glowing light.’ The law student claps his hands once, twice, and calls out for Al-Mu’tasim. A man’s voice – the incredible voice of Al-Mu’tasim – bids the law student enter. The law student draws back the bead curtain and steps into the room. At that point, the novel ends.”

Jorge Luis Borges, “The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim”

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