The passage starts off with a brief historical excerpt of World War I, where a planned offensive by the British divisions against the Germans was delayed. A recount of the event, written by Dr. Yu Tsun, then starts abruptly from its third page.
Dr. Yu Tsun, a German spy hidden in London, is forced to escape after the murder of his comrade Viktor Runeberg, by English serviceman Captain Richard Madden. In a mission to relate the information of the British artillery whereabouts to his Chief in Germany, he quickly plans his next move. In this reading, Yu Tsun gives a detailed recount of his journey, or escape, towards a man named Dr. Stephen Albert, with the help of a well-timed train departure and some children. Upon reaching the home of Dr. Albert, Yu Tsun identifies himself as the descendent of Ts’ui Pen, who abandoned his career as a Governor of Yunnan and dedicated the rest of his life to the writing and construction of a novel and labyrinth, “The Garden of Forking Paths”.
Dr. Albert and Yu Tsun then proceeds to discuss about the controversy of the published novel – deemed as a shapeless, disoriented mass of drafts. However, the two ventures further into the real conception of the novel and the symbolic representation of the labyrinth. Ts’ui Pen’s labyrinth explores the infinite dimensions of time, presenting a network of converging and diverging possibilities, ever-spreading. For example, one can be a friend in one dimension and an enemy in the next. Interestingly, this mirrors the present conflict between Yu Tsun and Dr. Albert. To Yu Tsun, Dr. Albert is a friend because of his help in the restoration of Ts’ui Pen’s garden, but an enemy because he has to be killed in order to convey his message to his Chief. Madden is an enemy because he arrested Yu Tsun, but also a friend because he helps to ensure that both Yu Tsun and Dr. Albert’s names appear in the same newspaper article.
Overall, The Garden of Forking Paths is rather captivating, though confusing on the first read. It compels its readers to think critically about present day situations and the complexity of time.