Book Review by Sergio Angulo Bujanda
2015-09-01 16:36:32 -

Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (Penguin Classics)


Jorge Luis Borges is considered by many one of the greatest masters of 20th-century literature, and this remarkable volume of short stories contains some of this most endurable work.


A Borges story usually includes a complex idea, a quest involving a literary text, a mystery of reading or rereading, an imaginary mixing of different kinds of worlds, speculations on the meaning of personal identity and selfhood and certain recurrent objects like the mirror, the labyrinth or the knife.


The Argentinean author, who was a voracious reader of Kafka as well as of the more conventional and easy-to-read Chesterton, Stevenson and Kipling, writes each sentence as if it were a kind of miniature labyrinth where the reader must find their way out.


Borges, perhaps more than any other writer, built stories around ideas, which in them contain a story – not in vain, as he was considered by many as a storyteller’s storyteller. One of the most famous involves the revelation of the ‘Aleph’, the mystical letter through which is possible to see the whole universe. In the ‘Aleph’ the total of the spatial universe can be found in a tiny sphere barely an inch long.


Another of these stories around a complex idea is ‘Pierre Menard’, about a man whose aim is to rewrite word-by-word the masterpiece Don Quixote. One other story involves the paralysed Funes having a perfect memory, which enables him the ability to have “more memories than all mankind since the world began”.


Although this collection is superbly translated by Andrew Hurley, it is necessary to point out that Borges works better in Spanish; he can best be understood as profoundly Argentinean, and many of his stories are parables of Argentinean life. Still, for native English speakers, reading this magnificent collection of stories by the most universal Argentinean author in translation is and enjoyable way to be introduced to the vast, sometimes unknown, 20th-century Spanish-speaking literary world.

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