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Selected Non-Fictions

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It will come as a surprise to some readers that the greater part of Jorge Luis Borges's extraordinary writing was not in the genres of fiction or poetry, but in the various forms of non-fiction prose. His thousands of pages of essays, reviews, prologues, lectures, and notes on politics and culture—though revered in Latin America and Europe as among his finest work—have sca It will come as a surprise to some readers that the greater part of Jorge Luis Borges's extraordinary writing was not in the genres of fiction or poetry, but in the various forms of non-fiction prose. His thousands of pages of essays, reviews, prologues, lectures, and notes on politics and culture—though revered in Latin America and Europe as among his finest work—have scarcely been translated into English. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.


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It will come as a surprise to some readers that the greater part of Jorge Luis Borges's extraordinary writing was not in the genres of fiction or poetry, but in the various forms of non-fiction prose. His thousands of pages of essays, reviews, prologues, lectures, and notes on politics and culture—though revered in Latin America and Europe as among his finest work—have sca It will come as a surprise to some readers that the greater part of Jorge Luis Borges's extraordinary writing was not in the genres of fiction or poetry, but in the various forms of non-fiction prose. His thousands of pages of essays, reviews, prologues, lectures, and notes on politics and culture—though revered in Latin America and Europe as among his finest work—have scarcely been translated into English. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.

30 review for Selected Non-Fictions

  1. 5 out of 5

    Gwern

    "I owe to De Quincey (to whom my debt is so vast that to point out only one part of it may appear to repudiate or silence the others) my first notice of …" If at times I have appeared knowledgeable or worth reading to others, it is perhaps only because I have stood on the shoulders of Borges and Wikipedia. Borges the essayist is deeply underrated. (Borges’s poetry does not survive translation very well; and his fiction often, I feel, struggles to harmonize the divergence requirements of truth and "I owe to De Quincey (to whom my debt is so vast that to point out only one part of it may appear to repudiate or silence the others) my first notice of …" If at times I have appeared knowledgeable or worth reading to others, it is perhaps only because I have stood on the shoulders of Borges and Wikipedia. Borges the essayist is deeply underrated. (Borges’s poetry does not survive translation very well; and his fiction often, I feel, struggles to harmonize the divergence requirements of truth and falsity, while in his essays he needs not cloak his thoughts.) Of the 161 items translated in this volume, I would suggest as starting points these 22: 1929: “The Duration of Hell” (pg47-51) 1932: “A Defense of the Kabbalah” (pg83-86) 1932: “The Homeric Versions” (pg71-74) 1933: "The Art of Verbal Abuse" (pg 87-91) 1936: “A History of Eternity” (pg123-139) 1936: “The Doctrine of Cycles” (pg115-122) 1936: “The Translators of The Thousand and One Nights” (pg92-109) 1937: “Ramon Llull’s Thinking Machine” (pg155-159) 1938: "Richard Hull, Excellent Intentions" (pg184) 1939: “The Total Library” (pg214-216) 1947: “A New Refutation of Time” (pg317-332) 1948: “Biathanatos” (pg333-336) 1951: “Coleridge’s Dream” (pg369-372) 1951: “Pascal’s Sphere” (pg351-353) 1951: “The Argentine Writer and Tradition” 1951: “The Enigma of Edward Fitzgerald” (pg366-368) 1953: “The Dialogues of Ascetic and King” (pg382-385) 1953: “The Scandinavian Destiny” (pg377-381) 1961: “Edward Gibbon, Pages of History and Autobiography” (pg438-444) 1962: “The Concept of an Academy and the Celts” (pg458-463) 1964: “The Enigma of Shakespeare” (pg463-473) 1975: “Emanuel Swedenborg, Mystical Works” (pg449-457) 1977: “Blindness” (pg473-483) Borges, I think, died happy.

  2. 4 out of 5

    Matt

    Another Borges book. Another 5 stars. I mean this man is so brilliant I'm starting to turn into a dithering fanboy when reading his books. Now, I've only actually owned this book for a couple of days, and to be honest I've only read a few of the hundred plus essays in here, but this isn't exactly a book to be read from beginning to end. In fact that seems like a pretty pointless exercise. You can gain so much from reading so little of Borges' writing that it seems like I may as well write a revi Another Borges book. Another 5 stars. I mean this man is so brilliant I'm starting to turn into a dithering fanboy when reading his books. Now, I've only actually owned this book for a couple of days, and to be honest I've only read a few of the hundred plus essays in here, but this isn't exactly a book to be read from beginning to end. In fact that seems like a pretty pointless exercise. You can gain so much from reading so little of Borges' writing that it seems like I may as well write a review now. To get an idea of the spectacular diversity of his interests let me give you a quick list of some of the most intriguing essay titles: A History of Angels The Duration of Hell Narrative Art and Magic A Defense of the Kabbalah A History of Eternity On the Cult of Books Personality and the Buddha And if that seems a bit heavy for some people there's also things along the lines of: The Art of Verbal Abuse and A History of Tango But of course, essays make up only a part of this collection, there are also book reviews, film reviews, biographies, prologues and lectures - my favourite being simply titled 'Immortality' (I mean how can you not love this guy? It requires some serious audacity for an 80 year old man to give a lecture on the art of living forever...) I think the reason why I immediately fell in love with this book was because of the way Borges manages to analyse a huge variety of infinitely complex themes using his trademark short, concise style. The minimalism of his fiction writing translates excellently into his non-fiction. In fact, many of these are essentially pieces of writing you can pick up and read in the space of 5 minutes, yet you could probably read the same piece a hundred times and still gain something from it. Borges will always find a way to surprise you. Another reason for the 5 star rating is that from reading it you really get a sense of getting to know the author, from his wicked sense of humour to his (almost) overly critical view on the role of literature and film. You find out, for example: 1. He doesn't like King Kong. 'his only virtue, his height, did not impress the cinematographer, who persisted on photographing him from above rather than from below'. 2. He thinks Aldous Huxley, although writing with 'almost intolerable lucidity' is highly overrated. His Stories, Essays and Poems being dubbed 'not unskillful, ... not stupid, ... not extraordinarily boring, they are, simply, worthless'. 3. He loves Kafka. He argues Kafka's work shows us that 'each writer creates his precursors. His work modifies our conception of the past, as it will modify the future.' 4. And from a young age he was a huge fan of James Joyce. 'I will always esteem and adore the divine genius of this Gentleman, taking from him what I understand with humility and admiring with veneration what I am unable to understand'. That last quote pretty much sums up my Borges fanboyism. I'll never claim to fully understand, down the last details, every aspect of Borges work, yet at the same time I take huge enjoyment in trying to figure out the labyrinthine puzzles of his fiction and get to grips with the mystifying depth of his non-fiction. In short, if you're a Borges fan, or have any interest in some of the things mentioned above, buy this book. Considering the length of the majority of the essays it will keep you entertained for hours just skimming through the pages and finding something that grabs your fancy. I may change my mind on it after reading through it a bit more but somehow I find that pretty unlikely!

  3. 4 out of 5

    Nick Tramdack

    Borges is brilliant, though he does tend to repeat himself. So rather than try to review this collection, I'll use this box to give instructions for the game of "BORGES BINGO", usable not only on nonfiction but also his fiction and poetry. The grid is 5X5. Of course, the center box is "LABYRINTH" (free space). Fill the 24 boxes around it with the following motifs/moves/topics, in random order. Whenever a topic gets mentioned in the book you're reading, check it off. First to 5 wins! MINOTAUR LIBRAR Borges is brilliant, though he does tend to repeat himself. So rather than try to review this collection, I'll use this box to give instructions for the game of "BORGES BINGO", usable not only on nonfiction but also his fiction and poetry. The grid is 5X5. Of course, the center box is "LABYRINTH" (free space). Fill the 24 boxes around it with the following motifs/moves/topics, in random order. Whenever a topic gets mentioned in the book you're reading, check it off. First to 5 wins! MINOTAUR LIBRARY KIERKEGAARD SWEDENBORG SHAKESPEARE INFINITY GAUCHO DANTE/DIVINE COMEDY TIGER REVIEW OF NONEXISTENT BOOK MIRRORS SCHOPENHAUER TANGO BUENOS AIRES EL QUIJOTE ZENO'S PARADOX JAMES JOYCE/ULYSSES ADOLFO BIOY CASARES ANGLO-SAXON ENGLAND DETECTIVE MARTIN FIERRO THE QUR'AN WILLIAM JAMES BLINDNESS And that's it! Share it with your friends.

  4. 4 out of 5

    Andrew

    I've been a Borges fan for as long as I can remember. We like to imagine Borges as this sort of hermetically sealed creature, but these nonfiction pieces totally demystified him for me. Turns out he loved crummy Westerns and detective movies, for instance. You also get to see his whole process, and you see in some of these pieces the ideas that would eventually coalesce into The Library of Babel, The Aleph, and all the other stories for which he would become known. While I'd previously imagined I've been a Borges fan for as long as I can remember. We like to imagine Borges as this sort of hermetically sealed creature, but these nonfiction pieces totally demystified him for me. Turns out he loved crummy Westerns and detective movies, for instance. You also get to see his whole process, and you see in some of these pieces the ideas that would eventually coalesce into The Library of Babel, The Aleph, and all the other stories for which he would become known. While I'd previously imagined Borges frowning in a darkened study (the labyrinth! the labyrinth!), I now imagine him laughing in the streets of Buenos Aires.

  5. 5 out of 5

    Eric

    Man I love this! I read Borges for the same reason I read Valery: for straight talk about the essential questions, the "modest mysteries," of reading and writing.

  6. 5 out of 5

    Randolph

    Whatever words he put his mind to he mastered. As a child he read the Encyclopedia Britannica while his father studied in the library. A curiosity and fascination with all things makes his non-fiction as interesting and wondrous as his fiction and poetry. Reading this you will learn more than a little and be entranced at the same time. Oh, and feel like you've spent time with a wise friend.

  7. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    Dear editors of 'selected' editions, no, you don't need to include that. I recognize that you're fascinated by the idea that someone opposed fascism, but by and large, that's only worth a footnote. You also don't have to include this. Sure, it's interesting every now and then to see what a favorite author thinks about a book, but not *every* book. Don't you see, editor, what a disservice you're doing to these people? Just choose the very best, and leave the rest for later volumes. On the other h Dear editors of 'selected' editions, no, you don't need to include that. I recognize that you're fascinated by the idea that someone opposed fascism, but by and large, that's only worth a footnote. You also don't have to include this. Sure, it's interesting every now and then to see what a favorite author thinks about a book, but not *every* book. Don't you see, editor, what a disservice you're doing to these people? Just choose the very best, and leave the rest for later volumes. On the other hand, who am I to complain? This is a lovely looking volume, despite the horrid ruffled pages (did all the book-cutting machines in the world break at the same time? Why do so many books come with this rubbish? How do you expect me to flick forward and back?), and contains wonders and wealth. The downside to including so much is that Borges' world starts to look a little more restricted and a little less fascinating. There are only so many times you can go over the same themes, many of which are treated more effectively and more entertainingly in the fiction. There are a number of absolute must reads, particularly the Dante essays, and the writings brought together in section II. One solution to my problem, of course, would just be to read what looks fascinating to you. But I like to finish books, so here I am: fascinated at times, but ultimately a bit disappointed that Borges wasn't treated better by Weinberger.

  8. 4 out of 5

    Spencer Rich

    As this collection is chronological, it starts off with some typical problems of young writers--wanting to show off their linguistic expertise and stating opinion as fact. However, as he matures, he reaches the same kind of dizzying heights that he achieves with his fiction.

  9. 4 out of 5

    Roger DeBlanck

    The knowledge Borges brings to his non-fiction writings draws upon sources vast and obscure. His scope makes parallels between the ancient past and dreams of the future. He charts such subjects as the histories of angels, dreams, archetypes, languages, and ideas, these among many epistemological topics. He presents coincidence and irony as governed by forces beyond the human sphere, yet Borges rejects transcendent order. He chooses instead to be captivated with the human origin of immortality. H The knowledge Borges brings to his non-fiction writings draws upon sources vast and obscure. His scope makes parallels between the ancient past and dreams of the future. He charts such subjects as the histories of angels, dreams, archetypes, languages, and ideas, these among many epistemological topics. He presents coincidence and irony as governed by forces beyond the human sphere, yet Borges rejects transcendent order. He chooses instead to be captivated with the human origin of immortality. He deciphers the needs of the human mind in a way that reveals how every act and thought is a result of the human will to control things. In essence, his essays journey to the marrow of his own thinking. He presents the idea that illusion is realistic, that the obverse of something is equally true. The writings want to affirm how feelings are concrete and how art is representative of reality. Borges’s depth of imagination has him pursuing nothing short of trying to encompass the cosmos as he attempts to give meaning and significance to life’s gamut of mysteries. He makes readers consider the fascination of dreams. He sees life as an act of something greater than we can know. For Borges, the infinite and the idea of immortality are a product of memory, of passing something on, of leaving something behind. And to him the human mind is more numinous than anything we can possibly fathom. His visions and beliefs have survived with great renown, and his non-fiction writings capture the complexity of his thinking.

  10. 4 out of 5

    Kiof

    I just spent my last review (slightly) bashing Borges's poetry, so I feel I should sing some of my praises for Borges the essayist. Has any man ever been more well-read! Borges appears to have a deep acquaintance with every major Western author of the last three thousand or so years. That he accomplished this feat while being blind for nearly half of his life, having to depend on others to read works aloud for him, is even more astonishing. I think Borges's most significant contribution to liter I just spent my last review (slightly) bashing Borges's poetry, so I feel I should sing some of my praises for Borges the essayist. Has any man ever been more well-read! Borges appears to have a deep acquaintance with every major Western author of the last three thousand or so years. That he accomplished this feat while being blind for nearly half of his life, having to depend on others to read works aloud for him, is even more astonishing. I think Borges's most significant contribution to literature may indeed be his essays. Like his beloved Emerson, Borges has a winning combination of a "happy spirit" (that's Borges on Emerson for you) and a near infinite knowledge of literature's collective wisdom. The contents of this collection are astounding in their variety and their similarly near infinite re-readbility. The dust jacket of said collection informs me, that as a North American, I have little knowledge of Borges the essayist, and that I think of Borges as mainly as a short story writer, a creator of fictions. This has never been the case. I have always thought of Borges the librarian, the reader of Gibbon, on the bus going to his job at Biblioteca Nacional in Buenos Aires, finishing the great works of literature with a special kind of joie de vivre. Reading these essays, this impression is even further confirmed. I think it is in the essays you best find the attribute that nearly all Latin American authors, from Mario Vargas Llosa to Bolaño, love Borges to death for -- his special kind of ineffable, humanistic, hyper-intelligence.

  11. 5 out of 5

    vi macdonald

    These essays are everything a collection of essays should be and then some. The indescribable beauty of Borges poetry and prose is combined with some absolutely brilliant essays that would have earned this book five stars even without the gorgeous writing. I didn't ever think I'd be able to say that an essay made me tear up because of the writing, but once again Borges has grabbed me by the hand and shown me that there's no point having any expectations when it comes to anything if he's involved. These essays are everything a collection of essays should be and then some. The indescribable beauty of Borges poetry and prose is combined with some absolutely brilliant essays that would have earned this book five stars even without the gorgeous writing. I didn't ever think I'd be able to say that an essay made me tear up because of the writing, but once again Borges has grabbed me by the hand and shown me that there's no point having any expectations when it comes to anything if he's involved. Jorge Luis Borges is a genius. There's not really anything else that can be said. After reading everything of his I can get my hands on I can now honestly say that he might just be one of the greatest writers to ever live. He wrote some of the greatest poetry in any language, his fiction puts pretty much any other writer to shame, and his essays are by far some of the greatest to ever be written. My hat goes off to you Borges, there's probably never going to be another writer who can ever steal your throne.

  12. 4 out of 5

    Harold Griffin

    A cornucopia of numerous wonderfully odd but interesting pieces of often very short fiction. I've been unable to read this cover-to-cover, because it takes too much effort and concentration. I also find that, like Updike, Borges sometimes confuses and annoys me by interjecting a little too much of his wide and obscure learning into his stories, so that many allusions are lost to me. While I perhaps know too little to appreciate them as they should be appreciated, I keep going back for more. The A cornucopia of numerous wonderfully odd but interesting pieces of often very short fiction. I've been unable to read this cover-to-cover, because it takes too much effort and concentration. I also find that, like Updike, Borges sometimes confuses and annoys me by interjecting a little too much of his wide and obscure learning into his stories, so that many allusions are lost to me. While I perhaps know too little to appreciate them as they should be appreciated, I keep going back for more. The pieces remind me of dreams which are not always fully comprehensible but which make indelible imprints upon the imagination.

  13. 4 out of 5

    S

    St. Thomas Aquinas referred to Averroes as "The Commentator." With respect to the style and intellectual scope of the modern and ancient worlds, I feel a similar awe towards Borges.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Natalia Mosashvili

    The source of fascination, captivating versatility of universe, rendering things in mysterious ways, the scope of the modern and ancient worlds is beyond description, gorgeously written, dazzling and illuminating!!!

  15. 5 out of 5

    Sosen

    "The Nothingness of Personality" is the first essay in this collection, and it might also be the best. It's a calmly executed manifesto that suggests how Borges was able to conquer every form of literature thus far discovered by mankind: essay, fiction, and poetry. The first essay lays out Borges' intent to write anti-individualistic literature. Some of the strongest essays in this collection are original insight into language itself. Far from taking a reductive approach, Borges found completely "The Nothingness of Personality" is the first essay in this collection, and it might also be the best. It's a calmly executed manifesto that suggests how Borges was able to conquer every form of literature thus far discovered by mankind: essay, fiction, and poetry. The first essay lays out Borges' intent to write anti-individualistic literature. Some of the strongest essays in this collection are original insight into language itself. Far from taking a reductive approach, Borges found completely original ways to perceive, use, and glorify the Word. It's almost unfortunate that most of this book consists of outstanding literary criticism. Borges was stuck in the past, and proud of it. Only a small portion of this collection deals with modernity: essays on the Nazi regime, film reviews, and a few notes on the Argentian character - which Borges constantly struggles against. There are also a handful of personal essays, especially towards the end of the book / his life. But these only further strengthen the impression of a man obsessed with books, which becomes clear pretty quickly - if it wasn't already obvious from our interpretation of his fiction. (I want to say you HAVE to read his fiction before reading this; but to each their own.) Borges never seriously discusses his childhood, which leaves me to believe that it was simply unremarkable; he references books he read when he was young, or fondly recalls the silly impressions he had about the world, but I can't recall anything about his family or education. In the lit-crit portion of the essays, Borges pretty consistently finds himself trying to understand where authors' ideas come from. The central questions that seem to persist throughout the collection are how their lives were affected by the content of their work; and the reverse, how writers' lives are reflected IN their work, which wouldn't be unique if not for Borges' attraction to all of the most enigmatic literature he could find. These essays manage to get past easily-held assumptions about particular works or authors. There is compassion in tyranny, genius in ignorance, and humanity in everything. Borges wasn't just interested in fiction and poetry, but philosophy and theology. In these essays, he usually shows a more cynical side - but it's all a game; a way to uncover something hilarious in ourselves. In these essays, Borges isn't satisfied with merely refuting the most absurd ideas that Western thought has propagated - he mercilessly takes these arguments to their logical conclusions. These arguments seem to stem from an embarrassment on behalf of religion. (Borges was a modest Catholic). I love that Borges had esoteric taste and wasn't afraid to expound the qualities of these unheralded works. But, his disinterest in modernity is a problem for me. I would've loved to hear more of his opinions on how existentialism and capitalism were changing the world. In the World War II essays, the surface of the conflict is barely even approached - the war was an excuse for Borges to talk about German culture and history. Still, I'm given a view of Borges as somebody who was as capable of handling reality as any other great writer, but found it too boring and predictable and sluggish. Book lovers should be able to relate.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Marian

    I must confess I have always been under a misapprehension when it comes to reading Borges. His writing is said to be convoluted and it could be. However, I would not be able to be the judge of that since I have never read his stories or prose or essays in Spanish that is why I decided to read this translation, which has left me suitably impressed. The reason why I have embarked on reading him – in English at least – boils down to my curiosity being piqued by a friend. This friend of mine always I must confess I have always been under a misapprehension when it comes to reading Borges. His writing is said to be convoluted and it could be. However, I would not be able to be the judge of that since I have never read his stories or prose or essays in Spanish that is why I decided to read this translation, which has left me suitably impressed. The reason why I have embarked on reading him – in English at least – boils down to my curiosity being piqued by a friend. This friend of mine always quotes him and owing to the fact that he tends to mention Borges every now and again in passing, I thought why not read this writer? As I have come across this superb translation, which must have been academically challenging to work on, I can now say Borges was one in a million. This translation taught me one very important lesson: I have a lot of more reading to catch up on. Anyone who wishes to get to know Borges and whose Spanish needs a little brushing up, this is the book to read. And I promise you will learn beyond reason. I know I have.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Jennifer Jang

    Borges’ nonfictions are just as fantastical as his fictions. In this collection, I didn’t read the book reviews, prologues, Dantesque essays, nor film criticisms. Favorites: The translators of The One Thousand and One Nights p. 92 Ramón Llull’s Thinking Machine p. 155 A New Refutation of Time p. 317 The Scandinavian Destiny p. 377 A History of the Tango p. 394 “In this feat of Manco [One Hand] Wenceslao - as Suaréz is now known - certain mild or polite touches (his trade as rope maker, his scruples abo Borges’ nonfictions are just as fantastical as his fictions. In this collection, I didn’t read the book reviews, prologues, Dantesque essays, nor film criticisms. Favorites: The translators of The One Thousand and One Nights p. 92 Ramón Llull’s Thinking Machine p. 155 A New Refutation of Time p. 317 The Scandinavian Destiny p. 377 A History of the Tango p. 394 “In this feat of Manco [One Hand] Wenceslao - as Suaréz is now known - certain mild or polite touches (his trade as rope maker, his scruples about leaving his mother alone, the two flowery letter, the conversation, the lunch) happily tone down or amplify the barbarous tale, giving it an epic or even chivalrous dimension that we do not find (unless we are determined to find it) in the drunken brawls of Martín Fierro or in the similar but paltry version about Juan Muraña and the Southside man.” “We would seem to have, then, men who lived in utter poverty, gauchos and others from the banks of the River Plate and the Parana, creating, without realizing it, a religion that had its mythology and its martyrs - the hurt and blind religion of courage, of being ready to kill and to die. A religion as old as the world, but rediscovered in the American republics and lived by herders, stockyard workers, drovers, outlaws, and hoodlums whose music was the estilos, the milongas, the first tangos. I have written that this religion is an age-old cult; in a twelfth-century saga we read: “Tell me thy faith,” said the count. “I believe in my own strength,” said Sigmund. The Argentine Writer and Tradition p. 420 “Furthermore, I do not know if it needs to be said that the idea that a literature must define itself by the differential traits of the country that produces it is a relatively new one, and the idea that writers must seek out subjects local to their countries is also new and arbitrary. Without Going back any further, I think Racine would not have begun to understand anyone who would deny him his right to the title of French poet for having sought out Greek and Latin subjects. I think Shakespeare would have been astonished if anyone had tried to limit him to English subjects, and if anyone had told him that, as an Englishman, he had no right to write Hamlet, with its Scandinavian subject matter, or Macbeth, on a Scottish theme. The Argentine cult of local color is a recent European cult that nationalists should reject as a foreign import. A few days ago, I discovered a curious confirmation of the way in which what is truly native can and often does dispense with local color; I found this confirmation in Gibbon’s Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon observes that in the Arab book par excellence, the Koran, there are no camels; I believe that if there were any doubt as to the authenticity of the Koran, this lack of camels would suffice to prove that it is Arab. It was written by Mohammed, and Mohammed, as an Arab, had no reason to know that camels were particularly Arab; they were, for him, a part of reality, and he had no reason to single them out, while the first thing a forger, a tourist,or an Arab nationalist would do is bring on the camels, whole caravans of camels on every page; but Mohammed, as an Arab, was unconcerned; her knew he could be Arab without camels. I believe that we Argentines can be like Mohammed; we can believe in the possibility of being Argentine without abounding in local color.” Blindness p. 473 “A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end. This is even stronger in the case of the artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all has been given like clay, like material for one’s art. One must accept it. For this reason I speak in a poem of the ancient food of heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.” Immortality p. 483 (kind of parallel to “a new refutation of time”) “Our “I” is the least important thing for us. What does it mean for us to feel ourselves as an I? In what way can if I differ that I feel myself Borges than that you feel yourselves A, B, or C? Absolutely not at all. That I is what we share, it is what is present, in one form or another, in all creatures. We could say that immortality is necessary - not the personal, but this other immortality. For example, each time that someone loves an enemy, the immortality of Christ appears. At that moment he is Christ. Each time we repeat a like by Dante or Shakespeare, we are, in some way, that instant when Dante or Shakespeare created that line. Immortality is in the memory of others and in the work we leave behind. What does it matter if that work is forgotten? I have devoted the last twenty years to Anglo-Saxon poetry, and I know many Anglo-Saxon poems by heart. The only thing I don’t know is the name of the poets. What does it matter, as long as I, reciting the poems from the ninth century, am feeling something that someone felt back then? He is living in me at that moment, I am that dead man. Every one of us is, in someway, all the people who have died before us. And not only those of our blood. Of course, we inherit things in our blood. I know - my mother told me - that every time I recite English poems, I say them in the voice of my father, who died in 1938. When I recite Shakespeare, my father is living in me. The people who have heard me will live in my voice, which is a reflection of a voice that was, perhaps, a reflection of the voice of its elders. The same may be said of music and of language. Language is a creation, it becomes a kind of immortality. I am using the Castilian language. How many dead Castilians are living within me?”

  18. 4 out of 5

    Chris

    Brilliant, illuminating, but not, despite Maria Kodama's best efforts on the jacket, something for the casual Borges reader. A deep intimacy with not only the man himself, but also his idols and their work is required to get the most out of this volume. Carlyle, Kafka, and Dante I could manage; Bloy and the half-dozen translations of The Arabian Nights Borges could quote from memory, not so much. Borges' adoration of Faulkner and disdain for Joyce's "unreadable" later works will probably be the Brilliant, illuminating, but not, despite Maria Kodama's best efforts on the jacket, something for the casual Borges reader. A deep intimacy with not only the man himself, but also his idols and their work is required to get the most out of this volume. Carlyle, Kafka, and Dante I could manage; Bloy and the half-dozen translations of The Arabian Nights Borges could quote from memory, not so much. Borges' adoration of Faulkner and disdain for Joyce's "unreadable" later works will probably be the highlight for many like myself, but his opinions on a myriad of other obscure subjects arise throughout the collection, everything from King Kong to Akutagawa.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Vinay Ayilavarapu

    Kafka and his precursors - 5 Stars Verbiage for Poems - 4 Stars An Overwhelming Film (Citizen Kane) - 5 Stars The Enigma of Shakespeare - 5 Stars Our Poor Individualism - 4 Stars Pascal's Sphere - 5 Stars

  20. 5 out of 5

    P

    Borges is playful, erudite, and brilliant, but this collection lacks the vitality of his fiction.

  21. 5 out of 5

    Mitchell McInnis

    It's perhaps obscene to give a brilliant writer like Borges a three-star rating, but upon closer inspection, I didn't feel that much of his nonfiction stands the test of time. The whole perspective-from-a-distant-shore. Most of it has that precocious non-polish to it that plays well in magazines, then is best used to wrap fish and chips.

  22. 4 out of 5

    Betawolf

    I was brought to this collection by recommendation, and, with no particular topical interest, started reading chronologically. This was probably a mistake. I found the earlier essays, while sometimes carrying an interesting idea, to be somewhat ponderous, with the feeling that the author was self-conscious and a little bombastic. Probably for this reason, I set the book aside for a good while, only occasionally picking it up, to read an essay perhaps every few weeks. Eventually, however, the mat I was brought to this collection by recommendation, and, with no particular topical interest, started reading chronologically. This was probably a mistake. I found the earlier essays, while sometimes carrying an interesting idea, to be somewhat ponderous, with the feeling that the author was self-conscious and a little bombastic. Probably for this reason, I set the book aside for a good while, only occasionally picking it up, to read an essay perhaps every few weeks. Eventually, however, the material seemed to improve. I think it was around the 'El Hogar' sections -- much lighter and notably carefree -- that I started reading the essays more seriously again. Perhaps this was at first because I was just getting through them faster, but I was certainly far more hooked by the essays during the war years, and I later found I read the nine fairly heavy Dantean essays quite devotedly in two sittings. I'm not sure I can provide meaningful comment on the content of the collected works in this volume. Borges talks primarily about literature and philosophy. Of his philosophy, I found it highly variable. Of his literature, I have read an embarrassingly small amount, but his various discussions and analyses seem to demonstrate some of the best of what literary criticism might have to offer, and the notes suggest that he was often ahead of contemporary opinion. He has some clear recurrent themes and favourite topics (the Divine Comedy, Poe, Carlyle, 'universal history', infinities), but is generally quite broad. His personal library would make for quite a good suggested reading list. Perhaps my first stop will be to try some of the detective fiction he evidently enjoyed so much.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Michael

    Borges' most overlooked quality as a writer was his exceedingly sharp bullshit detector.

  24. 5 out of 5

    Tony de Kok

    Reading a Borges essay isn't always the direct route to clarity and exegesis. The miracle of it is that one rarely cares.

  25. 5 out of 5

    Luke Frank

    The self does not exist.

  26. 4 out of 5

    Mark

    A wonderful look into an intellectual, sensitive, author, poet, film critic and much more. I'm off to read Collected Fictions. What a find for my reading.

  27. 5 out of 5

    Jim Higgins

    3.5 stars. I’m a 5-star fans of Borges’ essayistic fiction, but this selection of essays and other NF was sometimes a slog.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Aduren

    Well I used t have all the book from Borges in Spanish, that was, until one of my boxes was lost when moving apartments. To my dismay the box that contain his books were lost. Alas the Aleph and other Stories managed to sneak to another box, but Labyrinths was lost forever and I can only hope it’s somewhere where the book can be read and not in a dumpster. The later faith would be a tragedy, the first an act of a comedic destiny. I’ve read all of his publications in Spanish, and I am sure there Well I used t have all the book from Borges in Spanish, that was, until one of my boxes was lost when moving apartments. To my dismay the box that contain his books were lost. Alas the Aleph and other Stories managed to sneak to another box, but Labyrinths was lost forever and I can only hope it’s somewhere where the book can be read and not in a dumpster. The later faith would be a tragedy, the first an act of a comedic destiny. I’ve read all of his publications in Spanish, and I am sure there are great translators out there but there are few writers that share the same knowledge of words and writing like Borges. Part of Borges depth lies in his ability to pick apart sentences. In his later days when he went blind friends use to read him what he wanted to read. His friends recalled it was very difficult to read him because “He would interrupt very often to make notes about the writing, he would say ‘Ha if he would have use this word instead of this one the whole meaning would have change. If he would have use this one the meaning would be have been better’ of course when he would interrupt us he was always right.” Borges built labyrinths with his writing to the point that one single word can change or decrease the depth of the poem or story. This to me is very risky for every translator. I was blessed with the ability to have Spanish has my first language and reading Borges was an ordeal. I recall drowning myself on etymology books, cartography, Argentinean culture, and mathematics in order to be at part (to a minimal extent) with Borges, and all of this in Spanish. Having lost all books I was given three collection books in English of his work. I though, “Great!” but after reading the aleph and other stories in Fictions I discovered his translation though flowing lack the verisimilitude of the original. I doubt myself thinking it could have been the time I have not read Borges that was playing games, but when I read his poems and compared the English translations I understood the word choice was distant to the one of Borges. These collected books of Borges poems, fictions and non fictions are I guess a good reference on his works to have if you have none, but I highly recommend other translations or even better learning Spanish in order to know Borges depth to an even deeper level just like I had to read Dante’s Inferno in Italian to truly appreciate it. Give this a try, and if you like Borges get other translations you will understand why.

  29. 4 out of 5

    Marc

    Know that it pains me to give such a low rating to one of my favorite authors, but this became more of an obligation to finish and the lows outweighed the highs for me personally. Borges' knowledge and ability to draw what seem like instant references and examples from the whole of literature is breathtaking. His subject matter holds multitudes--from reviews of popular movies to delighting in Dante's The Divine Comedy (the epitome of literature in his opinion). The collection itself gathers essa Know that it pains me to give such a low rating to one of my favorite authors, but this became more of an obligation to finish and the lows outweighed the highs for me personally. Borges' knowledge and ability to draw what seem like instant references and examples from the whole of literature is breathtaking. His subject matter holds multitudes--from reviews of popular movies to delighting in Dante's The Divine Comedy (the epitome of literature in his opinion). The collection itself gathers essays, lectures, book/movie reviews, and all matter of other nonfiction pieces grouped mostly chronologically and ending with dictations (presumably, the pieces he could no longer write himself due to his increasing blindness). But the very things I adore in his fiction (the erudite certainty which creates such immediate fictional universes) feels merely pedantic in nonfiction form as if one is merely being talked to about magic instead of experiencing it. And, whereas, his brevity works wonders in fiction, it leaves you feeling you unsatisfied in nonfiction. Probably unfair to make this comparison, but there are other writers whose nonfiction I enjoy far more than their fiction. The pieces on Argentine and German culture, nationalism, hatred and Nazism, as well as The Arabian Nights, Don Quixote, and The Divine Comedy stood out, but overall, I personally would have enjoyed a much slimmer collection consisting of only the finest of his work. What does delight is the sheer joy and pleasure Borges takes in literature and how he identifies himself as a reader. His favorite books are not so much the best of literature as they are the ones he has enjoyed the most.

  30. 5 out of 5

    James

    Borges is a reader's writer and he is a writer who reads; but unlike the many other writers who read he writes about reading as both an intellectual challenge and an inspiration (some might find that redundant). The connections he makes with writers from Plato to Cervantes, from Bacon to Mallarme, are made fascinating by his ability to be comprehensible while demonstrating an erudition that is almost beyond description. That his erudition does not obscure his attempt to share his ideas is one of Borges is a reader's writer and he is a writer who reads; but unlike the many other writers who read he writes about reading as both an intellectual challenge and an inspiration (some might find that redundant). The connections he makes with writers from Plato to Cervantes, from Bacon to Mallarme, are made fascinating by his ability to be comprehensible while demonstrating an erudition that is almost beyond description. That his erudition does not obscure his attempt to share his ideas is one of his many charms. This collection displays his writing skill in the essay, the prologue, the review, the lecture and the dictation of literary miscellany, all of which have their unique appeal. He reveals the mind of an omnivorous reader who is incapable of writing uninteresting pieces about what he has read and the surprising ideas and connections to which he is led by his reading. He shares his personal library; while elsewhere you learn about the synergy between Swedenborg and the Kaballah! The "Library of Babel" is represented and his comments make you suddenly want to go back and reread that wonderful story. One aspect of all of this is to provide some little insight into the mind of the writer who created the stories of Babel and Menard and the wonderful Ficciones that entrance your reader's mind. I return to Borges to remind myself why I read and to find out more about the process, the act of reading, the humanity of it all -- the magic he performs is spiritual food for my soul.

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