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Collected Fictions [Paperback]

Jorge Luis Borges , Andrew Hurley
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (50 customer reviews)
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Book Description

Aug. 9 1999
Jorge Luis Borges has been called the greatest Spanish-language writer of our century. Now for the first time in English, all of Borges' dazzling fictions are gathered into a single volume, brilliantly translated by Andrew Hurley. From his 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity, through his immensely influential collections Ficciones and The Aleph, these enigmatic, elaborate, imaginative inventions display Borges' talent for turning fiction on its head by playing with form and genre and toying with language. Together these incomparable works comprise the perfect one-volume compendium for all those who have long loved Borges, and a superb introduction to the master's work for those who have yet to discover this singular genius.

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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-Auster 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 --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

From Publishers Weekly

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. --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.

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In 1517, Fray Bartolome de las Casas, feeling great pity for the Indians who grew worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines, proposed to Emperor Charles V that Negroes be brought to the isles of the Caribbean, so that they might grow worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most helpful customer reviews
12 of 14 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Andrew Hurley's translations are a travesty June 11 2004
I regrettably have to concur with the readers from Portland and Panama - as they indicate this collection is a tragedy, as well as a travesty. Here are a couple of examples from my desert island short story, Tlon Uqbar, Orbius Tertius:
- Andrew Hurley has: "The mirror troubled the far end of a hallway in a large country house..."
- James E. Irby (in the Penguin Modern Classic edition of Labyrinths) has: "The mirror troubled the depths of a corridor in a country house..."
AH: "... A literal (though also laggardly) reprint..."
JEI: "... a literal but delinquent reprint..."
He doesn't seem to have any respect for Borges' style of writing. Really disappointing. And Carlos Fuentes, a notable admirer of Borges, shared this view on reviewing the Hurley edition.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars If Not badly translated, surely differently so. Oct. 21 1999
To be finally faced with this monumental work cannot be anything but a joy and privledge to anyone who reveres the work of Jorge Luis Borges. To one whose English contact with his work has been represented by others than Andrew Hurley however, his work can be abruptly disconcerting. Consider and compare one spare example: Read side by side from "The Book Of Sand", the two versions of "The Other", both by Andrew Hurley and that of Norman Thomas Di Giovanni, and you may recall the fable of the blind men describing an elephant; each by feeling a different part of the anatomy. They tell the identical tale, but the resultant effect is completely dipolar. Di Giovanni recreates for us in English, the essential magical realism with which Borges spoke, while retaining the essence and cadence that fill this short tale with it's dreamlike structure. It is carefully and lovingly crafted, with respect and methodic attention to the original Spanish cadre. The hypnotic illusion it creates puts the reader in it's spell fully, from the first sentence. Hurley's version, relies soley upon his perception of how best to explain to the reader, what it is he thinks the author had in mind.. It is as if though he sought to put the lines onto paper as quickly as possible, while recreating a contemporary English version of Borges plan. For the reader new to Borges' majestic presence, there is an unwarranted intrusion into the translation concept, as if the project was rushed to completion. How long and hard Hurley has worked on this enormous procect deserves utmost admiration. How new readers of Borges will interpret what they read is troubling, in comparison to those who have come before him.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Good collection, bad translation Feb. 5 2000
By A Customer
These stories read like they are translated verbatim without any consideration of how enjoyable the end product will be. Hurley's sentences are frigid and mechanical, lacking much of the simplicity and brevity that makes Borges great. Only some of Borges's stories are supposed to read like encyclopedia entries.
Di Giovanni's translations are far more readable. After all, Di Giovanni worked closely with Borges during translation, and Borges himself had a pretty good understanding of the English language.
Having said that, I'm grateful that these stories are finally available in a single volume. But I feel the book would have been much better had Hurley only translated the stories for which a good translation does not already exist.
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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
True, the translation could be better. I found myself re-writing in my head alternative sentences. But that is exactly what Borges would have wanted his readers to do. A dream master, JLB guides us into worlds that guess at other worlds and leads us to our own discoveries. I can't count the times I had to put the book down to allow myself to ponder on what I was reading. Some of his stories border the essay, and that uncertainty makes the plot more believable and profound. Like with any book, recreate it in your mind, and be part of a Borges dream.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A glass bead game March 18 2003
Let us drink to another world!
Borges is often considered to be merely a writer. He is a writer, of course, but... he is at least as much of a philosopher - he plays with abstract ideas and concepts, creates possible, if not probable alternative realities and uses two unrelated ideas to create a third. And that is where he comes in as a writer - he doesn't leave the ideas to exist as abstract concepts, he brings them to reality (or, more accurately, he brings reality to them). Borges creates surreal worlds we cannot avoid living in; he breaks down all the barriers between the real and the unreal.
Being a postmodernist, he widely uses allusions, but mostly twists or turns around the original idea. His truly brilliant mysticism can be explained by his outstanding knowledge of religious and historical texts (many of which he has made up himself, of course; but does that make them less legitimate, really?). If one were to try to write a complete analysis of a story of his (which is, naturally, impossible; who would dare try to rewrite the history of Man?), it would mean going back to symbols and allegories Borges himself didn't know he was writing about, because an infinite amount of interpretations exist, and archetypes cannot be analysed at all...
Borges invented his own glass bead game, one that has no rules except to try and merge every kind of consciousness and subconsciousness one has - or more. If possible.
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Most recent customer reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Blow your mind
To have all of Borges' prose fiction in one volume is such a treat. I was lead to Borges by Umberto Eco and I have enjoyed every moment I have spent enthralled in Borges' short... Read more
Published on March 21 2011 by D Glover
5.0 out of 5 stars Masks and mirrors
Trying to full describe the writings of Jorge Luis Borges is like trying to explain exactly why Leonardo da Vinci's art still captivates. The man wrote works of art. Read more
Published on June 26 2008 by E. A Solinas
2.0 out of 5 stars And yet more elitist filth in print
I was recommended Borges' works by one of his innumerable over-educated sycophants and I will never forget the tremendous time I wasted attempting to grasp the supposed value of... Read more
Published on July 9 2004 by Songbird
1.0 out of 5 stars Terrible translation
Thank God! I was beginning to think I had gone mad. Someone else had the courage and the lucidity to point out that this is a terrible translation of Borges. Read more
Published on March 27 2004
1.0 out of 5 stars Who authorized this translation?
What a tragedy! Who could have possibly authorized this grievous translation? It is crucial for all readers to know that the very important works of Jorge Luis Borges are not in... Read more
Published on Feb. 14 2004
5.0 out of 5 stars finally
finally, a good - dare I say great? - translation of Borges into English... previous editions may seem to have stood the test of time, but Andrew Hurley has done a magnificent job... Read more
Published on Jan. 27 2004 by monica chavez
5.0 out of 5 stars Absolutely Dazzling!
My introduction to Borges came last year in a Intermediate College Writing course. My instructor used "Monk Eastman- Bringer of Iniquities" to demonstrate how elements... Read more
Published on Aug. 30 2003 by Andrew
4.0 out of 5 stars Too Much of a Good Thing
Jorges Luis Borges is undoubtedly one of the most inventive and important, if not necessarily influential, writers of the 20th century. Read more
Published on Aug. 14 2003 by Andrea H.
5.0 out of 5 stars Dazzling
When I read 100 years of solitude - how was I to know that Marquez had a master as well. On reading Borges, I often cursed my ignorance and more often loved the brilliance of the... Read more
Published on July 18 2003 by Sandeep Parekh
5.0 out of 5 stars Jorge Borges Literary Genius
Jorge Borges may have been the most well read individual in the 20th century. His range of knowledge is incredibly vast, as is the range of topics his short stories cover. Read more
Published on April 29 2003 by keanan mccabe
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