"Emma Zunz" is a short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The tale recounts how its eponymous heroine avenges the death of her father. Originally published in September 1948 in the magazine Sur, it was reprinted in Borges' 1949 collection The Aleph. The story deals with the themes of justice and revenge, and of right and wrong. As in several other short stories, Borges illustrates the difficulty in understanding and describing reality. The story relies on issues of deceit, self-deception and inauthenticity to illustrate this.
In her discussion of "Emma Zunz", Dapía (1993) turns to a concept of Fritz Mauthner: the notion of Wortaberglaube, or "Word Superstition." Mauthner affirms that humans have an ineluctable inability to distinguish between the various ways in which a word can refer to an exterior reality that the word itself generates, so that by means of words, primitive humans asked themselves, "what does this earthquake mean, or this deformed child, or this comet?" Moderns are more inclined to get hung up on questions of the meaning of words like "soul" or "matter." says Mauthner, "Most humans suffer from this mental weakness of believing that because a word exists, this word must refer to something; they think that because a words exists, a real object must correspond to it." (Beiträge 1) Without discounting the possibility of a psychoanalytic reading of "Emma Zunz," or other well-known interpretations, Dapía skillfully helps us read Emma as embodying the dangers of "Word Superstition." Emma manages to construct a story that has no reference outside of language itself, but that, at the same time, takes charge of itself and is not an object of question by others.
Various films have been based on Borges' "Emma Zunz":
- Emma Zunz (1993) (Spain) directed for television by Jacquot Benoit.
- Emma Zunz (1985) (Mexico) directed by Giangiacomo Tabet.
- Emma Zunz (1984) (Holland) directed by Peter Delpeut.
- Emma Zunz (1979) (Canada) directed by Isabel Beveridge.
- Emma Zunz (1966) (Spain) directed by Jesús Martínez León.
- Días de odio (1954) (Argentina) directed by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson.
- Hall, J. B. (1982). "Deception or self-deception? The essential ambiguity of Borges' "Emma Zunz"". Forum for Modern Language Studies 18 (3): 258–265. doi:10.1093/fmls/XVIII.3.258. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
- Porinsky, Rebecca (2002). "True Lies: Metaphysical games in Borges’ “Emma Zunz”". WELS and ELS Undergraduate Research Symposium. Retrieved 8 April 2012.
Dapía, Silvia. Die Rezeption der Sprachkritik Fritz Mauthners im Werk von Jorge Luis Borges. Cologne, Weimar, Vienna: Böhlau, 1993
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