The Zahir: the desire that eclipses the world

by Belen Gache

In his short story The Zahir, Jorge Luis Borges narrator is given by chance a 20 cent coin, a regular coin in Argentina of the time (the 30´s); one among others. Only that this one is special: it is a "zahir". This concept, borrowed from the Islamic folklore, involves an object that catches the attentions of the beholder to the point of completely obsess him and make him lose the sense of reality. Departing from the encounter with this coin Borges reflects on other famous currencies: Charon's obol, the obol that Belisario begged for, the guilder of Leopold Bloom, the doubloon of Captain Ahab. He also speculates on how each currency symbolize in a way the freedom of choice of he who owns it because, just as a magic item, you can turn it into anything else in the world.