The story unfolds as a first-person narrative and contains many references (see below) to real people, places, literary works and philosophical concepts, besides some fictional or ambiguous ones. Events and facts are revealed roughly in the order that the narrator becomes aware of them or their relevance.The timing of events in Borges's story is approximately from 1935 to 1947; the plot concerns events going back as far as the early 17th century and culminating in the postscript, set in 1947.
The story alludes to many leading intellectual figures both in Argentina and in the world at large, and takes up a number of themes more typical of a novel of ideas.
Most of the ideas engaged are in the areas of metaphysics, language, epistemology, and literary criticism.
It goes that a "benevolent secret society" was formed "one night in Lucerne or in London", in the 17th century, and had Berkeley among its members.
That group, a society of intellectuals named Orbis Tertius, studied "hermetic studies, philanthropy and the cabala" (an allusion to societies such as the Bavarian Illuminati, the Freemasons and the Rosicrucians), but its main purpose was to create a country: Uqbar.
(Andrew Hurley, one of Borges' translators, wrote a fiction in which he says that the words "axaxaxas mlö" "can only be pronounced as the author's cruel, mocking laughter".) In another language family of Tlön, "the basic unit is not the verb, but the monosyllabic adjective", which in combinations of two or more forms nouns: "moon" becomes "round airy-light on dark" or "pale-orange-of-the-sky".
In a world where there are no nouns—or where nouns are composites of other parts of speech, created and discarded according to a whim—and no things, most of Western philosophy becomes impossible.
The "postscript" dated 1947 is intended to be anachronistic, set seven years in the future.
The first English-language translation of the story was published in 1961.
towers of blood" In the anachronistic postscript set in 1947, Borges remembers events that occurred in the last years.
In 1941, the world and the narrator have learned, through the emergence of a letter, the nature of Uqbar and Tlön.