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Collected Fictions (1999)

Collected Fictions (1999)

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4.59 of 5 Votes: 5
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0140286802 (ISBN13: 9780140286809)
penguin books ltd

About book Collected Fictions (1999)

You who read me—are you certain you understand my language?Imagine you are watching a highly recommended, multiple awards winning, foreign-language film- it's everything you expected it to be, then, suddenly, the subtitles stop working- how annoying! But you are hooked; you can't stop watching– welcome to the Borgesian Labyrinth!The 'Collected Fictions' consists of the following nine collections- 'A Universal History of Iniquity', 'Fictions', 'Artifices', 'The Aleph', 'The Maker', 'In Praise of Darkness', 'Brodie's Report' , 'The Book of Sand', and finally 'Shakespeare's Memory', totaling around 103 stories.'A Universal History of Iniquity', describing villainous characters from all over the world, reveals two characteristic features of Borges' fiction- as translator Andrew Hurley writes in the introduction:This volume is purportedly a series of biographies of reprehensible evildoers, and as biography, the book might be expected to rely greatly upon "sources" of one sort or another—as indeed Borges' 'Index of Sources" seems to imply. In his preface to the 1954 reprinting of the volume, however, Borges acknowledges the "fictive" nature of his stories... This sui generis use of sources, most of which were in English, presents the translator with something of a challenge: to translate Borges even while Borges is cribbing from, translating, and "changing and distorting" other writers' stories. Another is the geographical and historical diversity of Borges' fictional universe: from Southern slave traders, New York gangsters, to Chinese pirates, Japanese Ronins, Arabic false prophet..stories are short & easy to follow. The stand out ones are The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell (perhaps Tarantino read it for Django Unchained!), Hakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv, for the sheer horror of its ending but the pièce de résistance is The Man on Pink Corner–a Hemingwayesque homage to the culture of Machismo.The stories in 'Fictions' (1944), are the ones Borges is most reputed for–Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim, Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote, The Circular Ruins, The Library of Babel, & The Garden of Forking Paths, are the ever shining gems of his oeuvre. Borges' style, as seen here, is deceptively simple–Quietness, subtlety, a laconic terseness—these are the marks of Borges' style. It is a style that has often been called intellectual, and indeed it is dense with allusion—to literature, to philosophy, to theology, to myth, to the culture and history of Buenos Aires and Argentina and the Southern Cone of South America. Add to that the Apocryphal nature of his writing– fake reviews of fake books, interpolations from known-fake sources– & his stories become forbidding mind-benders: as Borges remarks in his Paris Review interview– Most of those allusions and references are merely put there as a kind of private joke.Labyrinths, mirrors, dreams, doubles -- so many of the elements that appear over and over in Borges' fiction are symbols of the psyche turned inward– it's hard to escape solipsism and alter egos of Borges as blind librarians, diffident, celibate, middle-aged academics & writers people the stories– Borges and I, The Other, August 25,1983 are outstanding stories in this regard :Here's Borges having a laugh at his own expense in August 25, 1983: I realized that it was a masterpiece in the most overwhelming sense of the word. My good intentions hadn't lasted beyond the first pages; those that followed held the labyrinths, the knives, the man who thinks he's an image, the reflection that thinks it's real, the tiger that stalks in the night, the battles that are in one's blood, the blind and fatal Juan Murana, the voice of Macedoniel Fernández, the ship made with the fingernails of the dead, Old English repeated in the evening."That museum rings a bell," I remarked sarcastically. "Not to mention false recollections, the doubleness of symbols, the long catalogs, the skilled handling of prosaic reality, the imperfect symmetries that critics so jubilantly discover, the not always apocryphal quotations. The military background of Borges' family, his love of epic poetry, link him with "Argentine history and also with the idea of a man's having to be brave." This finds expression in stories like Man on Pink Corner,The South (Borges called it his best story!),The Dead Man,The Wait*,The Encounter, The Duel, Juan Muraña & The Elderly Lady.A character in the story Juan Muraña, asks him:Somebody lent me your book on Carriego," he said. "It's full of knife fighters and thugs and underworld types. Tell me, Borges," he said, looking at me as though stricken with holy terror, "what can you know about knife fighters and thugs and underworld types?" "I've read up on the subject," I replied.How can you not love this bookish writer! My favourite Borges stories are– The Aleph, Shakespeare's Memory, The Secret Miracle, Borges and I, August 25,1983, The Circular Ruins, Funes, His Memory, & The Gospel of St.Mark. The least liked was The Immortal.DFW, in his review, 'Borges on the Couch', emphasized the seminal importance of Borges in literature:Why Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) is an important enough fiction writer to deserve such a microscopic bio. The truth, briefly stated, is that Borges is arguably the great bridge between modernism and post-modernism in world literature. He is modernist in that his fiction shows a first-rate human mind stripped of all foundations in religious or ideological certainty -- a mind turned thus wholly in on itself. His stories are inbent and hermetic, with the oblique terror of a game whose rules are unknown and its stakes everything...And the mind of those stories is nearly always a mind that lives in and through books. This is because Borges the writer is, fundamentally, a reader. The dense, obscure allusiveness of his fiction is not a tic, or even really a style; and it is no accident that his best stories are often fake essays, or reviews of fictitious books, or have texts at their plots' centers, or have as protagonists Homer or Dante or Averroes. Whether for seminal artistic reasons or neurotic personal ones or both, Borges collapses reader and writer into a new kind of aesthetic agent, one who makes stories out of stories, one for whom reading is essentially -- consciously -- a creative act. This is not, however, because Borges is a metafictionist or a cleverly disguised critic. It is because he knows that there's finally no difference -- that murderer and victim, detective and fugitive, performer and audience are the same. Obviously, this has postmodern* implications, but Borges's is really a mystical insight, and a profound one. It's also frightening, since the line between monism and solipsism is thin and porous, more to do with spirit than with mind per se. And, as an artistic program, this kind of collapse/transcendence of individual identity is also paradoxical, requiring a grotesque self-obsession combined with an almost total effacement of self and personality. Tics and obsessions aside, what makes a Borges story Borgesian is the odd, ineluctable sense you get that no one and everyone did it.I dreamed that this review was already written so I wouldn't have to write it!Borges is a life-time reading project because he gets better with repeated readings.Don't let the perceived "difficulty" of Borges from reading him– as these inspiring lines from Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote proclaim:Thinking, meditating, imagining... are not anomalous acts—they are the normal respiration of the intelligence. To glorify the occasional exercise of that function, to treasure beyond price ancient and foreign thoughts, to recall with incredulous awe what some doctor universalis thought, is to confess our own languor, or our own barbarie. Every man should be capable of all ideas, and I believe that in the future he shall be. References:(*)The story is uncannily similar to Hemingway's famous story The Killers, but Borges doesn't mention him anywhere in the Foreword.Take a look at the long list of writers that Borges has inspired: Review - The Art of Fiction No. 39, Jorge Luis Borges's essay on Borges: Borges on the Couch.

One of the most famous lines in Spanish literature is this: Nadie lo vio desembarcar an la unanime noche: “No-one saw him slip from the boat in the unanimous night...”(‘A Note on the Translation’, from Selected Stories, by Andrew Hurley)‘No-one saw him disembark in the unanimous night...’ (‘The Circular Ruins’, from Labyrinths, translated by James E. Irby)Now I’ll admit I don’t know much about translation , nor do I read Spanish, but I feel sure that Hurley’s translation is far from literal. Where is ‘the boat’ in the Spanish original? How is Hurley’s version (and yes, as Hurley and Borges both state, there are only ‘versions’) an improvement on Irby’s? Does it help clarify the sense? As the next clause of the sentence states ‘no-one saw the bamboo canoe as it sank into the sacred mud’ (Hurley), I think not. What use that ‘boat’? And ‘slip from’ for ‘desembarcar’? To me, these are adaptations. And while I accept the need for adaptation as an aspect of translation, in this case I don’t see the need. That Hurley then offers this far-from-literal, unhelpful and, to my mind, unpoetic adaptation without comment as an example (a prime example, given how little else he quotes in this brief note) of his work makes me suspicious. Where else has he adapted needlessly, without comment?Music producer Steve Albini has a term for this: ‘dogballing’. (‘Why does a dog lick its balls?’ ‘Because it can.’) For my part, I don’t want Borges dogballed. I’m happy with the translations in Labyrinths and would prefer present and future translators used them as a benchmark. Can they be improved? Then yes, go ahead. But when I compare all manner of recent translations, of all manner of authors, with their 50-100-200 year counterparts, too often all I see is reshuffling: synonyms, inverted sentence structure, minor changes which may or may not improve readability but which, I presume, must fulfill some clause of copyright law thus inventing a new income stream for their publishers – otherwise, why bother? There’s so much to be translated in all languages – why harp on and on the same few writers? Sometimes, as with ‘Man on Pink Corner’, Hurley stands for literalness, and I guess in these instances he’s right, in that literalness is needed/useful where none existed before. But me, I’m for ‘Streetcorner Man’; a footnote explaining those rose-coloured sidings in Buenos Aires is enough. And while I know it’s impossible to be ‘objective’, especially having read the earlier versions tens of times, my impression is that ‘Streetcorner Man’ is by far the more poetic/iconic title.But let’s leave that line of argument: ‘better/worse’. Let’s say it’s possible Hurley’s is the equivalent of the earlier versions. Even if so, Labyrinths is a masterpiece, both of translation and curation, and while I’m reassured it’s still being printed, I think the orange mass-market version is selling it short.Why did I buy Hurley’s tome after waiting so long? Knowing that after El Aleph (whose title-story, absent from Labyrinths, I still maintain is inessential) the master so rarely hit his mark? (Or let’s say he did, but he never aimed so high.) Sad to say, it was duty – I felt I owed it to the old man, though The Book of Sand had disgusted me (a pale imitation, I thought) and every other slim volume I’d picked up I’d abandoned; I would have been stunned to feel the old spirit-shock. So I read Doctor Brodie’s Report, again, dutifully, in the Hurley translation, not dipping in this time, holding on. It’s good, workmanlike, steady, unsurprising. It reaffirms my conviction: Borges burned briefly and brightly, like Poe, like Whitman. This – Hurley’s tome – is a reference book, to be taken down from year to year in a spirit of study, when my tattered copy of Labyrinths, the potboiler, raises too many questions it can’t answer. Those questions aren’t answered here – or rarely. But a brief survey of the landscape around the crater puts the bomb in perspective. Then we crawl back in and sift the ashes.

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Reading Jorge Luis Borges's Collected Fictions is like being thrown into the ring with a merciless prize fighter, getting the shit kicked out of you, and loving every minute of it.These pieces felt more like punches than short stories. Borges jabs to your head, jarring your brain with damning conversations with his future self, invented libraries of the Universe and stories that make you feel like a lost kid on your way to Algebra class but accidentally ending up in Trigonometry. Then he switches his stance and digs at your body with primal blows. Petty gangsters, simplistic machismo, knife fights, all with such savage bravado that you can taste the cheap liquor and cheaper blood.I said at the top, "loving every minute of it" and perhaps that needs to be tempered. There were times, in certain stories, where my head spun and I wanted to drop to the canvas and not get up. It seemed to be all too much. But I knew if I stayed on my feet and in the ring for the whole 12 rounds I would be rewarded richly. I was. Get in the ring and you will be too.
—Jason Koivu

There are no two ways about it, in my mind Jorge Luis Borges is the greatest short story writer to ever live. I have never read any of his longer works, but I have also never read short stories written by anyone else that can hold a candle to Borges' obvious talent with the medium. He can weave the patterns for a momentous revelation in the mind of the reader without them even knowing what her is doing. After reading his better stories you an do nothing but sit and marvel at what has just happened on that page in front of your eyes. He takes a pool of ink in a mans hand and turns it into an allegory about mercy, he creates magical worlds where each small piece reflects something significant and important in our real world. I think I simply lack the ability or talent to explain just how wonderful his stories can be, and so you simply must READ THEM AND THANK ME LATER.

There are few other writers whose work has lingered in my mind to the same degree as has Borges. His short stories are a metaphysical perfume whose aroma, so startling and heady upon the first inhalation, arises, unbidden, at certain points of thought or recollection, working its peculiar and powerful transformative and transfigurative memes upon the seemingly stolid principles that order our universe. The Library of Babel wrenches the brain like a sudden stop upon a dreamy hexagonal rollercoaster; The Immortal, with its revoltingly abnormal architecture and gibbon men of Homeric lineage, an inky nightmare asleep in the vast, scorched wastes of the desert, haunts tessellated thoughts and turns them to dusty interludes.They exist to be read and reread, magical literary beans that invite whatever Jack dares them to clamber up the stalk their taut text weaves. Andrew Hurley's translations are simply pitch perfect - Yates and Irby would be proud - and to have the entire compendium of icy and precise Escherian sorcery at hand in one tome is a godsend. The highest recommendation.

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