There appears to be a couple different ways to understand Danielewski’s use of Borges’ use of Cervantes. Pierre Menard, is the author of the Quixote, which is written in the form of a review or literary critical piece about the non-existent Pierre Menard. Borges' review describes Menard's efforts to go beyond a mere translation of Don Quixote by immersing himself so thoroughly in the work as to be able to actually re-create it, line for line. Thus a reader looking at the two texts can be related by the way they are written and the way it can be interpreted.
Both stories deal with difficulty of creating meaning or perhaps finding or determining meaning. In the case of Quixote the meaning depends on reader-response or context of the work. However any work with meaning is random and not the product of human action and therefore drained of meaning. In the case of Quixote the human action of writing and reading the work affect meaning. Menard’s admirable ambition was to produce a number of pages which coincided—word for word and line for line—with those of Miguel de Cervantes” (91). Even though the words are exactly the same Pierre Menard rewriting Cervantes' Don Quixote as a product of his own creativity. “The Cervantes text and the Menard text are verbally identical, but the second is almost infinitely richer more ambiguous, his decorators will say—but ambiguity is richness” (94). The two passages may be the same, but there lies a more in depth meaning that cannot be seen maybe because the authors are drawing their own conclusions as to why they are different. Maybe their evidence as to why Menard’s passage has more meaning or is it the reader’s own interpretation as to distinguish the difference. Or it could be simply the true under lying meaning is fictional and it can be interpreted any way you read it.
Interpretation is based on the mindset of the reader. The mindset of the readers distinguishes their own perspective on the words that are actually written. As Menard states it “is not what happened; it is what we believe happened” (94). As Mark Danielewski refers to Johnny having trouble understanding the difference in the two passages, reading them over and over again. Johnny can’t even rap his mind around the idea of the two passages having different meanings without “wanting to detect at least one differing accent or letter.” No matter how many times Johnny reads the passage he never notices the overall meaning behind the difference in the two passages. Its what he makes of it as he reads it over and over again. “Menard has perhaps unwitting enriched the slow and rudimentary art of reading by means of a new technique—the technique of deliberate anachronism and fallacious attribution” (95). The art in the difference lies in the way it is red and interpreted. As it will be different for anyone who reads it as they have a different outlook and perspective to the overall meaning and difference.
I selected the footnote on page 423 as my passage. Simply stated it is a description of the walls in the house. Everyone that reads this passage is going to formulate a different idea of what this really looks like. Although the author gives an accurate description of the walls, he leaves room for interpretation. This interpretation what makes the passage different to each reader. There appear to be many passages that can be directly connected to the house. Each passage is open for interpretation and allows the readers to formulate their own idea to overall meaning. The true meaning cannot be found as described in the passage the “oblique, forever obscure and unwritten. Behold the perfect pantheon of absence” (423). As all three authors Borges, Danielewski, and Cervantes may not have a specific intent to their meaning. They leave it open for the reader to make their own judgments and thoughts to what they believe is the overall meaning. Every time a reader reads the words on the page they are going to appear identical. The difference that is presented lies in the reader’s mindset and perspective not the written words on the page.