Slaughter is the best medicine

Just had a somewhat Borges-defying moment…having fallen victim to the dreaded ‘O’ virus that’s been doing the rounds, I happened to be scouring the medicine cabinets for any stray paracetamol tablets that might have become separated from the herd when, right at the back of the last cabinet, I stumbled upon a slim volume that must have been lying there for a decade or more. I picked a page at random, and there was a Borges story that I’d lost and searched high and low for years to find again, finally giving up the ghost and presuming it only to have existed in my imagination. Turns out the reason I couldn’t locate another copy was that Borges was just the editor of the anthology – the story was Cocteau’s…

The Face of Death

A young Persian gardener said to his Prince:
    “Save me! I met Death this morning. He made a threatening face at me. Tonight, I would like, by some miracle, to be in Ispahan.”
    The bountiful Prince lends him his horses. That afternoon, the Prince encounters Death, and asks:
    “Why did you make a threatening face at our gardener this morning?”
    “It wasn’t a threatening face,” comes the reply, “but a surprised face. For I met him this morning far from Ispahan, and it is in Ispahan that I must take him tonight.”

From Le Grand Écart, by Jean Cocteau


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