Emma Zunz

Last updated

"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. [1] 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. [2] 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. [1]



Emma Zunz, a worker at a textile mill, returns home and finds a letter indicating that her father has died in hospital after an accidental Veronal overdose. Emma, overwhelmed by grief, believes that her father has in fact committed suicide. She recalls how her father told her that the textile mill owner Aaron Loewenthal was guilty of an embezzlement charge which led to his arrest, and she plots revenge.

On the following weekend, Emma calls Loewenthal, claiming she has information about an impending strike and agrees to meet him that night. In the afternoon she seduces a Scandinavian man at a bar who pays her for a sexual encounter. The encounter disgusts Emma but she continues with her plan.

She meets Loewenthal at the factory and pretends to report on workers involved in the strike. He leaves his office to get a glass of water, at which point Emma takes a revolver from his desk and murders him. She then calls the police, claiming that Aaron Loewenthal was abusing her and that she killed him in retaliation. The remains of Emma’s disgust from the earlier encounter allow her to speak convincingly.

The story ends with the narrator noting that Emma’s emotions were true, only the exact circumstances, time and names were false.

Screen adaptations

Various films have been based on Borges' "Emma Zunz":

Related Research Articles

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Jorge Luis Borges</span> Argentine writer, essayist, poet and translator (1899–1986)

Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo was an Argentine short-story writer, essayist, poet, and translator, as well as a key figure in Spanish-language and international literature. His best-known books, Ficciones (Fictions) and El Aleph, published in the 1940s, are compilations of short stories interconnected by common themes, including dreams, labyrinths, philosophers, libraries, mirrors, fictional writers, and mythology. Borges's works have contributed to philosophical literature and the fantasy genre, and influenced the magic realist movement in 20th century Latin American literature. His late poems converse with such cultural figures as Spinoza, Camões, and Virgil.

<i>Martín Fierro</i> Argentine epic poem by José Hernández

Martín Fierro, also known as El Gaucho Martín Fierro, is a 2,316-line epic poem by the Argentine writer José Hernández. The poem was originally published in two parts, El Gaucho Martín Fierro (1872) and La Vuelta de Martín Fierro (1879). The poem supplied a historical link to the gauchos' contribution to the national development of Argentina, for the gaucho had played a major role in Argentina's independence from Spain.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Norah Borges</span> Argentine artist, art critic (1901–1998)

Leonor Fanny "Norah" Borges Acevedo, was a visual artist and art critic, member of the Florida group, and sister of the Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges.

<i>Labyrinths</i> 1962 book by Jorge Luis Borges

Labyrinths is an anthology of short stories and essays by the writer Jorge Luis Borges. It was translated into English, published soon after Borges won the International Publishers' Prize with Samuel Beckett.

<i>The Aleph</i> (short story collection) 1949 book by Jorge Luis Borges

The Aleph and Other Stories is a book of short stories by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. The title work, "The Aleph", describes a point in space that contains all other spaces at once. The work also presents the idea of infinite time. Borges writes in the original afterword, dated May 3, 1949, that most of the stories belong to the genre of fantasy, mentioning themes such as identity and immortality. Borges added four new stories to the collection in the 1952 edition, for which he provided a brief postscript to the afterword. The story "La intrusa" was first printed in the third edition of El Aleph (1966) and was later included in the collection El informe de Brodie (1970).

"The Aleph" is a short story by the Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. First published in September 1945, it was reprinted in the short story collection, The Aleph and Other Stories, in 1949, and revised by the author in 1974.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">María Kodama</span>

María Kodama Schweizer is the widow of Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges and the sole owner of his estate after his death in 1986. Borges had bequeathed to Kodama his rights as author in a will written in 1979, when she was his literary secretary, and bequeathed to her his whole estate in 1985. They were married in 1986, shortly before Borges' death.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Macedonio Fernández</span> Argentine writer, humorist and philosopher

Macedonio Fernández was an Argentine writer, humorist and philosopher. His writings included novels, stories, poetry, journalism, and works not easily classified. He was a mentor to Jorge Luis Borges and other avant-garde Argentine writers. Seventeen years of his correspondence with Borges was published in 2000. His published poetry includes "Creía yo".

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leopoldo Torre Nilsson</span>

Leopoldo Torre Nilsson, also known as Leo Towers and as Babsy, was an Argentine film director, producer and screenwriter.

<i>María Mercedes</i> (Mexican TV series) Mexican telenovela

María Mercedes is a Mexican telenovela produced by Valentín Pimstein for Televisa in 1992. It was the first of the "Marías" telenovela trilogy, being followed by Marimar and María la del Barrio. María Mercedes is remake on the telenovela Rina which in turn is based on the radionovela Enamorada by Inés Rodena.

Días de odio, literally translated as Days of Hate, is a 1954 Argentine film. It is based on the short story Emma Zunz by Jorge Luis Borges. Días de odio was directed by Leopoldo Torre Nilsson and filmed in black and white. The script was adapted by Nilsson from the short story "Emma Zunz" by Jorge Luis Borges. The film was released on 3 June 1954, starring Elisa Galvé, Nicolas Freguês, Raul del Valle, Enrique de Pedro, Duilio Marzio and Virginia Romay in the main roles. The producer of the film was Armando Bó.

To Make My Bread is a novel written by Grace Lumpkin about the Loray Mill strike. It was published in 1932. Lumpkin chronicles the McClures, a family of poor Appalachian tenant farmers, during the industrialization of the south. Released in the heart of the Great Depression, the story takes the McClures to the mill town of Leesville, North Carolina, after their land was taken by a logging corporation. Soon after their optimistic arrival induced by economic conditions, they find the worst is yet to come as they endure a new, challenging life of being a part of the exploited working class under mill management. The book won the Maxim Gorky Prize for Literature that year, too.

<i>Shakespeares Memory</i> (short story collection)

Shakespeare's Memory is a short story collection published in 1983 that collects the last stories by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, which had been published in diverse mediums, such as the national newspapers La Nación and Clarín. It was published three years before the author's death.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Estela Canto</span> Argentine writer, journalist and translator

Estela Canto was an Argentine writer, journalist and translator best known for her relationship with Jorge Luis Borges.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Leonor Acevedo Suárez</span> Mother of Jorge Luis Borges

Leonor Rita Acevedo Suárez was the mother of the Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, and a major figure in his life and work.

<i>Gran Casino</i> 1947 Mexican film

Gran Casino is a 1947 Mexican film. It was written by Mauricio Magdaleno and Edmundo Baez, based on a story by Michel Weber, and directed by Luis Buñuel.

<span class="mw-page-title-main">Zofia Chądzyńska</span>

Zofia Chądzyńska or Sophie Bohdan, was a Polish writer and translator of the Iberoamerican literature. Her first book was published in French under a pseudonym of Sophie Bohdan, entitled "Comme l'ombre qui passe", Publisher: Paris : Calmann-Lévy, 1960. Later she was publishing in Polish under her original name Zofia Chądzyńska.

Jorge Guillermo Borges was an Argentine lawyer, teacher, writer, philosopher and translator. He was also an anarchist and a follower of Herbert Spencer's philosophy. He's also a notable figure for being Jorge Luis Borges’s father.

Céline Clairette Roos was a French and Canadian chess player who held the FIDE title of Woman International Master (WIM).

"Man on Pink Corner" is a short story by Argentine writer and poet Jorge Luis Borges. It is the first of several stories he wrote concerning duels between knife-fighters, which Borges recognized as one of his archetypal themes. "The story is one I have been retelling, with small variations, ever since. It is the tale of the motiveless, or disinterested, duel—of courage for its own sake."


  1. 1 2 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.
  2. Porinsky, Rebecca (2002). "True Lies: Metaphysical games in Borges' "Emma Zunz"" (PDF). WELS and ELS Undergraduate Research Symposium. Archived from the original (PDF) on 19 March 2015. Retrieved 8 April 2012.

Further reading