The first complete, annotated collection of short stories in English by the twentieth-century Spanish master ranges from his 1935 debut up to his last work,
in its first appearance in English.
Although Jorge Luis Borges published his first book in 1923--doling out his own money for a limited edition of
Fervor de Buenos Aires--he remained in Argentinian obscurity for almost three decades. In 1951, however,
Ficciones appeared in French, followed soon after by an English translation. This collection, which included the cream of the author''s short fictions, made it clear that Borges was a world-class (if highly unclassifiable) artist--a brilliant, lyrical miniaturist, who could pose the great questions of existence on the head of pin. And by 1961, when he shared the French Prix Formentor with Samuel Beckett, he seemed suddenly to tower over a half-dozen literary cultures, the very exemplar of modernism with a human face.
By the time of his death in 1986, Borges had been granted old master status by almost everybody (except, alas, the gentlemen of the Swedish Academy). Yet his work remained dispersed among a half-dozen different collections, some of them increasingly hard to find. Andrew Hurley has done readers a great service, then, by collecting all the stories in a single, meticulously translated volume. It''s a pleasure to be reminded that Borges''s style--poetic, dreamlike, and compounded of innumerable small surprises--was already in place by 1935, when he published A Universal History of Iniquity: "The earth we inhabit is an error, an incompetent parody. Mirrors and paternity are abominable because they multiply and affirm it." (Incidentally, the thrifty author later recycled the second of these aphorisms in his classic bit of bookish metaphysics, "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Teris.") The glories of his middle period, of course, have hardly aged a day. "The Garden of the Forking Paths" remains the best deconstruction of the detective story ever written, even in the post- era, and "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" puts the so-called death of the author in pointed, hilarious perspective.
But Hurley''s omnibus also brings home exactly how consistent Borges remained in his concerns. As late as 1975, in "Avelino Arredondo," he was still asking (and occasionally even answering) the same riddles about time and its human repository, memory: "For the man in prison, or the blind man, time flows downstream as though down a slight decline. As he reached the midpoint of his reclusion, Arredondo more than once achieved that virtually timeless time. In the first patio there was a wellhead, and at the bottom, a cistern where a toad lived; it never occurred to Arredondo that it was the toad''s time, bordering on eternity, that he sought." Throughout, Hurley''s translation is crisp and assured (although this reader will always have a soft spot for "Funes, the Memorious" rather than "Funes, His Memory.") And thanks to his efforts, Borgesians will find no better--and no more pleasurable--rebuttal of the author''s description of himself as "a shy sort of man who could not bring himself to write short stories." --James Marcus
Undeniably one of the most influential writers to emerge in this century from Latin America or anywhere else, Borges (1899-1986) is best known for his short stories, all of which appear here for the first time in one volume, translated and annotated by University of Puerto Rico professor Hurley. Many of the stories return to the same set of images and themes that mark Borges''s best known work: the code of ethics embraced by gauchos, knifefighters and outlaws; labyrinths; confrontations with one''s doppelganger; and discoveries of artifacts from other worlds (an encyclopedia of a mysterious region in Iraq; a strange disc that has only one side and that gives a king his power; a menacing book that infinitely multiplies its own pages; fragmentary manuscripts that narrate otherworldly accounts of lands of the immortals). Less familiar are episodes that narrate the violent, sordid careers of pirates and outlaws like Billy the Kid (particularly in the early collection A Universal History of Iniquity) or attempts to dramatize the consciousness of Shakespeare or Homer. Elusive, erudite, melancholic, Borges''s fiction will intrigue the general reader as well as the scholar. This is the first in a series of three new translations (including the Collected Poems and Collected Nonfictions, all timed to coincide with the centennial of the author''s birth), which will offer an alternative to the extensive but very controversial collaborations between Borges and Norman Thomas di Giovanni. First serial rights to the New Yorker, the New York Review of Books and Grand Street.
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
Borges, one of the giants of 20th-century world literature and a pioneer of Spanish American letters, is the master of the short tale he called ficcion. Not quite short stories, Borgesian narrations are metaphysical speculation, the elaborate working out of a hypothetical premise or philosophical concept. Published partly in commemoration of the centennial of his birth, this collection marks the first time that all his narratives, stretching over 50 years, have been compiled in one volume in English. Except for Shakespeare''s Memory, which appears here in translation for the first time, the other seven books have appeared separately. The Reign of Labyrinths (1964), the staple anthology for years, will now more than likely be usurped by this more modern translation, which has useful notes about Argentine history and culture. What a thrill to find old favorites?"The Circular Ruins," "Pierre Menard," "The Library of Babel"?updated and boxed with lesser-known gems. An exciting publication event and an indispensable acquisition for all libraries; collected poetry and nonfiction are slated to follow next year.?Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Lib., Dublin, OH
Copyright 1998 Reed Business Information, Inc.
A Borges invention can start anywhere, hint at unlikely sources, and proceed by pseudo-banal routes to unprecedented goals; it always takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride into some previously unsuspected dimension. This collection of the great magician''s work is a new translation and includes one piece never before put into English. --
The Atlantic Monthly, Phoebe-Lou Adams
The erudition that enriches the fictions is certainly dazzling, as much at home with medieval Arabic science as with the classics of philosophy and literature, yet it embraced the folkish and popular as well.... This collection is a valuable contribution to the English-language bookshelf of world literature, long overdue. --
The Wall Street Journal, Jamie James
This ... collection of the complete imaginings of the Argentine writer ... is an event, and cause for celebration. --
The New York Times, Richard Bernstein
To discover the fictions at midcentury was stunning. There was no one like Borges. Everything else, for a short time, seemed predictable and beside the point. --
The New York Times Book Review, Mavis Gallant
One of the twentieth century''s greatest writers,
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) published numerous collections of poems, essays, and fiction, Director of the National Library of Buenos Aires from 1955 to 1973, Borges was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters,
honoris causa, from both Columbia and Oxford. He received various literary awards over the course of his career, including the International Publisher''s Prize (which he shared with Samuel Beckett in 1961), the Jerusalem Prize, and the Alfonso Reyes Prize.
Serious students of Borges must obviously still learn their Spanish, but the rest of us can be reasonably satisfied with Hurley''s Collected Fictions. Yet I wish it had been a fuller, more scholarly book, its versions more convincingly definitive and superior to earlier ones. That said, it nonetheless contains the major work of probably the most influential Latin American writer of the century...