Interviewer: There is an element of fantasy in your work, then–which leads me to ask you about the fantastic. You use the word a great deal in your writing, and I remember that you call Green Mansions, for example, a fantastic novel.
Borges: Well, it is.
Interviewer: How would you define fantastic, then?
Borges: I wonder if you can define it. I think it’s rather an intention in a writer. I remember a very deep remark of Joseph Conrad–he is one of my favorite authors–I think it is in the foreword to something like The Dark Line, but it’s not that. . .
Interviewer: The Shadow Line?
Borges: The Shadow Line. In that foreword he said that some people have thought that the story was a fantastic story because of the captain’s ghost stopping the ship. He wrote–and that struck me because I write fantastic stories myself–that to deliberately write a fantastic story was not to feel that the whole universe is fantastic and mysterious; nor that it meant a lack of sensibility for a person to sit down and write something deliberately fantastic. Conrad thought that when one wrote, even in a realistic way, about the world, one was writing a fantastic story because the world itself is fantastic and unfathomable and mysterious.
Interviewer: You share that belief?
Borges: Yes. I found that he was right. I talked to Bioy Casares, who also writes fantastic stories–very, very fine stories–and he said, I think Conrad is right; really, nobody knows whether the world is realistic or fantastic, that is to say, whether the world is a natural process or whether it is a kind of dream, a dream that we may or may not share with others.