Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges

“… On the occasion of the centenary of his birth Viking/Penguin published three fat volumes of Borges’ fiction, poetry, and non-fiction (collected, selected, and selected, respectively) — an admirable attempt that still falls far short of the comprehensive presentation of Borges that so many clamour for. At least the Collected Fictions are translated by a single hand — Andrew Hurley’s — (unlike the Selected Poems, with its mishmash of approaches). Unfortunately, it does not quite collect all the fiction, ignoring as it does Borges’ collaborative efforts with Adolfo Bioy Casares — an omission that can be accepted, but should be more fully explained (or at least made note of). Almost all of Borges’ fiction has long been available in English, but scattered over many volumes, translated by any number of writers (Hurley counts some seventeen). The Collected Fiction finally places all the stories between the covers of a single book, a welcome though perhaps overwhelming trove. Borges’ finely hewn short stories are dense, and often learned and allusive. They warrant closer reading and consideration, and to have so many of them side by side can detract from the individual pleasures almost each one affords. Borges’ stories often share certain ideas and narrative tricks. A large number are tales within tales, the narrator relating how he found some lost story or piece of writing (generally only a fragment) and then quoting it verbatim, or recounting a tale he himself was told. Borges is often preoccupied with, among other things: infinity, mirrors, doubles, fate, libraries, and books. He imagines worlds and universes — but he is also an Argentinian author, fascinated by the macho culture of that nation and describing scenes (often including knife fights) from it. Among his fictions are a number of brilliant ideas. There is Pierre Menard, the author who sets out to rewrite Don Quixote. There is the infinite library of The Library of Babel, the infinite book of The Book of Sand, the visions of the universe in its entirety in The Aleph. Shakespeare’s Memory and Funes, His Memory brilliantly explore memory, and in Borges and I — a single page — the author examines identity and himself. There is a great deal of cleverness in his inventions, but it is the presentation that makes these stories true marvels. Often cloaked in some sort of scholarship, the stories are nevertheless accessible even if none of the references are familiar. Borges also writes a number of stories that are more realistic (or are at least less intellectual in their foundations). … There is a staggering wealth of material here, with a considerable number of stories that could have a place in any anthology of the best stories written in the twentieth century. Borges is a fascinating writer, and familiarity with his work is essential. A master of his craft, almost all of his work is worth reading. …”
Complete Review
Jorge Luis Borges: Selected Study Materials on the Web

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