List of Terror and Relief in Jorge Luis Borges

Matt Miller
2 min readMay 25, 2017

In the short story The Circular Ruins by Borges he describes the feelings of terror and relief occurring at the same time. Two emotions that normally happen in serial working at once in parallel. Something about it struck me, existing in a binary state, is relief in this context simply resignation to what is causing you terror or could it be something more?

I’m not sure, but I thought I would make a list of what causes terror and relief in the short stories of Borges. I made a big list earlier this week, so I thought it fitting to make a short list at the end of it. Below is a list that contextualize the occurrences of the words terror and relief in his works. I don’t think it resolves my question but it gives something to reflect on.


  • Recalling the hardship of a former way of life. -The Years of the Apprenticeship
  • Gang violence. (terror and glory) -The Larval State
  • Realization. -The Circular Ruins
  • The cycle of heavy gambling (terror and hope). & Nameless/unknown fear. -The Lottery in Babylon
  • Meaning of words (tenderness and terror). -The Library of Babel
  • Hatred for another. -The Garden of Forking Paths
  • Passion of fear / cowardice. -The Shape of the Sword
  • God (virtues and terrors). -Death and the Compass
  • Death by firing squad. -The Secret Miracle
  • Theses proposed at a soirée. -Three Versions of Judas
  • Unreality of hell. -Emma Zunz
  • Social amnesia. -The Other Death
  • Bringing destruction -The Writing of the God
  • Unrequited request for protection. & Guilt of committed sins. -Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth
  • Telephone. -The Aleph
  • Past knowledge. -The Maker
  • Ancient force. -A Dialog Between Dead Men
  • Self imprisonment. -Pedro Salvadores
  • Knowledge of knife fighters and thugs. -Juan Muraña
  • Bullets. -Brodie’s Report
  • Profanement of beliefs. & Reoccurring dreams -Blue Tigers
  • Loss of self. -Shakespeare’s Memory


  • Temporary break in weariness. -Man on Pink Corner
  • The properties of grass-green emeralds. -The Chamber of Statues
  • Realization. -The Circular Ruins
  • Reprieve from loneliness. -The Immortal
  • The end of waiting. -Emma Zunz
  • Self absolution. -The Zahir
  • Possible death of another. & An opportunity for aggression. -The Wait
  • The end of waiting. -Unworthy
  • Asserting self-assurance/authority. -Guayaquil
  • The break in the heat by rain. -The Gospel According to Mark
  • Returning from a long absence while another has not yet. -The Congress
  • Succinctness. -The Mirror and the Mask
  • The end of waiting. -Avelino Arredondo
  • Familiar surroundings. & Knowledge of one’s impending death (sweetness and relief). & Finding someone’s opinions are the same as yours. -Shakespeare’s Memory
  • The possibility of break in jungle heat. & The hope that something impossible is not happening. & Removing yourself as a burden to others. & Books. -Blue Tigers