The Secret Miracle
by Jorge Luis Borges
We are introduced to our main squeeze, Jaromir Hladik, by means of his occupation. He's a writer – the author of a handful of intellectual works – and the first sentence of "The Secret Miracle" gives us his entire bibliography. Jaromir's identity as an author explains not only what happens to him (his arrest and sentencing to death by the Nazi army) but also his internal thought processes and motivation in life. After all, all that he wants to do before he dies is finish his play. Now that's devotion to a job.
Full disclosure: we're not the only ones who think that names are a big deal in this story. Some critics have noted that Jaromir's names – both his last name and his mother's maiden name – are significant because they situate him in the historical and political drama of World War II, in which ethnicity and nationalism played major roles. That sounds pretty academic, so let's break it down.
Hladik (Jaromir's last name) is a Czech name. Jaroslavski, on the other hand (Jaromir's mother's maiden name) is Jewish. This means that his names tell us both his national and religious identities at the same time. Oh, and on top of that, it makes us think that those two identities are not incompatible. They live together in Jaromir, so shouldn't' they be able to live together in the world?
Bonus name excitement: the protagonist of Jaromir's play – Jaroslav Kubin – has a name that's pretty similar to "Jaroslavski," don't you think? That's probably a hint that Jaromir and Jaroslav have a lot in common. In fact, we're pretty sure they're foils (check out "Character Roles" for more on that).