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1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars The grammar of the fantastic, a formidable achievement
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...
Published on Sept. 13 2000 by Paco Aramburu

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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Andrew Hurley's translations are a travesty
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...
Published on June 11 2004 by C. G. Buttimer


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13 of 15 people found the following review helpful
1.0 out of 5 stars Andrew Hurley's translations are a travesty, June 11 2004
By 
C. G. Buttimer (London) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
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..."
and
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.
Avoid.
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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
By 
Edward W. Jawer (WYNCOTE, PA USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
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
This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
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
4.0 out of 5 stars The grammar of the fantastic, a formidable achievement, Sept. 13 2000
By 
Paco Aramburu (Chicago, IL USA) - See all my reviews
This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
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 Masks and mirrors, June 26 2008
By 
E. A Solinas "ea_solinas" (MD USA) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
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.

And this classic writer's brilliant, surreally exquisite works are on best display in "Borges: Collected Fictions," whose plain name belies the subtle power and exquisite beauty of Jorges' short stories. His intricate and atmospheric narratives are magical, rich in language, and lets us glimpse the minds of anything and anyone he can conjure up.

Interestingly, the first of these "Fictions" is a series of fictionalized stories about real people -- veiled prophets, Chinese pirates, silver-tongued outlaws, Swedenborg, a Japanese courtier and a legendary American outlaw. Only Borges' vivid writing gives these stories a larger-than-life quality, as if he had spun them out of his imagination.

But the completely fictional stories he created don't take long to appear. Among them are more gritty narratives -- a pair of brothers torn by their mutual love for a woman, a girl coldly calculating her revenge, a labyrinthine story of espionage during World War II, and a woman whose obsession with her dead, dashing husband leads her down into madness.

But these are far outweighed by Borges' magical realism, which soaks the book from start to finish -- encounters with past and future selves, brilliant books and authors that never existed, the mystical Aleph and Zahir which show everything and nothing, a hunt for blue tigers that leads to strangely fascinating stones, an alchemist's rose, a poet telling a king of pure beauty and wonder, and receiving the hazy memories of Shakespeare.

And then some of his stories cross the border into pure wonder and fantasy. Borges explores the concept of the Eternal Library that catalogues reality, masks, Minotaurs, a man who tries to dream a new being into existence, a search for a city of ancient immortals, and the exploration of ancient heresies, cities, endless books and cults that never existed at all, except in the confines of Borges' mind.

If this collection has any flaw at all, it's that Borges isn't at his best when he tells gritty realistic stories, about knifings, mobs and barroom murders. While these stories are powerful, they feel vaguely restrained, as if he's holding back his writing skill from its fullest.

The rest of the time, Borges' writing is exquisitely detailed and atmospheric, and densely packed with philosophical pockets. And these stories are magical realism in the purest sense, with a slight, almost mystical twist to the everyday events that we take for granted. Being mistaken for someone else, being sold a book, and visiting a relative all take on deep significance.

And Borges wraps these stories in lush, digified prose that takes a little while to wade through, but the richness of the words he uses is worth it ("A landscape dazzlingly underlain with gold and silver, a windblown, dizzying landscape of monumental mesas and delicate colouration..."). He's even able to alter his style drastically -- one story has the flavor of an Irish legend, while another is a Lovecraftian sci-fi horror story about aliens in a farmhouse. And his writing takes on many different people's selves -- he even makes readers squirm by taking us into the mind of a loyal Nazi.

It's almost like another world, Borgeworld, which is almost like ours, but where magical items are hidden in the cellars, houses are built by angels, the Minotaur plays in his maze, and God dreams of mortal lives. The most entrancing foray into Borgeworld is "The Immortal," about a Roman soldier who goes searching for a city of immortals, and finds an ancient poet who seems very familiar.

"Borges: Collected Fictions" is a very dull name for the collected works of a literary genius, full of shadows, mirrors, masks and the expanses of the human mind. Definitely a must-have.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A glass bead game, March 18 2003
This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
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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5.0 out of 5 stars you are dumb, March 18 2002
By 
Michael A. Kopp (L-5) - See all my reviews
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This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
And Borges is not. Get used to it. I don't care if you went to Harvard. Big deal, ivy pants. Maybe you should read Plato again if you think you are so smart. Borges read Plato. He read a lot; philosophy, literature, history, fiction, comic books. Comic books? Did they have those in Argentina in the '40s and '50s? Not that I'm aware of, but Borges could read the future, too. He was good.
Borges took "subliterary" genres and applied his razor-sharp wit and keen insight to them, producing a body of literature that rivals and, in my opinion, surpasses that of nearly every other 20th century author. His fiction is fantastic, romantic, historical, magical, and unlike anything you'll ever read. It's amazing. I can't believe this man didn't win a Nobel prize. I'll bet your college professors told you science fiction was for tasteless geeks, too.
This book combines all of Borges' published fiction into one volume, which is amazingly convenient. Though some other reviewers have remarked on the quality of the translation, I have no problem with it. It is not quite as poetic as some translations I have seen, but I still think it is very good. Perhaps it is closer to the Spanish; I cannot say. If I could read Spanish, I would not have purchased this book.
Stop reading this review. If you like Borges, or are merely curious about him, buy this book and read it instead. You won't be disappointed. If you are disappointed, what are you doing trying to read literary authors, anyway? Open your mind; it needs to be quite open, indeed, for Borges' intellectual firestorm to get in.
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5.0 out of 5 stars A wealth of literary labyrinths, Oct. 16 2001
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This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
What a treasure this book is! The Argentinian Jorge Luis Borges's fictional works are the ultimate celebration of the power of the imagination, each story a unique, glittering gem worthy of careful and repeated inspection. Combining abstract concepts with familiar elements of the real world, Borges works in a genre that could be called philosophical fantasy -- an exploration of the myriad ways of interpreting and portraying reality and unreality.
I have encountered no writer more eclectic than Borges; there is no place on earth and no time in history in which he is uninterested or unwilling to take inspiration. He writes about sorcerors, pirates, impostors, hoodlums, samurai, detectives, troglodytes, gauchos, kings, primitive tribes, artifacts, fantastic libraries, imaginary worlds, imaginary books, lost civilizations, and alternate realities with astonishingly equal aplomb. Much of the writing is immersed in cultural mysticism (the Kabbalah), traditional religions (the Koran, the Talmud, the Bible), mythology (Greek, Arabian, Oriental), philosophy (particularly Schopenhauer), world history, and lore of Borges's own invention. Motifs of knives, mirrors, and especially labyrinths -- both physical and metaphysical -- recur throughout many of the stories.
The titles alone invoke immediate intrigue: "The Garden of Forking Paths," "The Library of Babel," "The Cult of the Phoenix," "The Immortal," "The Sect of the Thirty," "The Mirror and the Mask," "Toenails," et cetera. Borges takes the typical detective story and elevates it to lofty levels of erudition -- one can see how he influenced Umberto Eco. "Death and the Compass" is a mystery with a geometrical solution, "Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth" embellishes its clever plot by merging two disparate cultures, while the eerie "There Are More Things" takes its inspiration from H.P. Lovecraft. Some stories, like "The House of Asterion" and "Everything and Nothing," are like riddles, while others are rich romantic tales of the tough barrios of Buenos Aires.
This collection is a marvel -- perfect for engaging your intellect and purging yourself of the mundane.
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4.0 out of 5 stars Of mirrors, religion, and other labyrinths, Oct. 10 2001
This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
I was grateful when a friend gave me this book, which contains the collected short stories of Borges. No longer did I have to sort through my various paperbacks to find a story I wished to reread. The convenience of having this material in one volume is a compelling reason to own this text.
Borges familiar themes of life, death, labyrinths, religion and mythology, mirrors, knife fights, South American revolutionary events and characters, libraries and art, epiphanies versus ignorance wind their way throughout these stories. Often you will begin in media res, which is well enough, but Borges will just as often end a story without resolving matters. His tribute to H.P. Lovecraft, "There Are Many Things," leaves you wondering, for example.
Borges uses detail precisely, not excessively, and if, to borrow from Ezra Pound's comment on what makes for good poetry, the pace of these works is sometimes slow their density is undisputed. (If you want details, lots of details, then try Cormac McCarthy's novels. At times, they are exhausting to read-like running through knee-deep water.)

I find that reading two or three stories at a time (excepting, of course, the extremely brief sketches) suffices, for you need time to linger, to ponder, and, if time allows, to reread passages, if not entire stories.
The excellent footnotes Andrew Hurley provides are, to me, another reason to own this work. This body of contextual, historical, and biographical information was elucidating, even fun, to read. (I used two bookmarks, one for the stories, one for the footnotes.)
Many reviewers quibble with the translation, and I leave that debate to those with much more knowledge about the merits of original Spanish version of these stories than I possess. I do, however, still wonder how the Nobel committees that snubbed Borges were able to rationalize their oversight.
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5.0 out of 5 stars Borges in wonderland, June 14 2001
This review is from: Collected Fictions (Paperback)
ÒEvery author creates his own pedigreeÓ says Borges, and it would not be entirely unfair to say that Borges had spent the better part of his life in establishing this pedigree. I think, I have read every single line Borges ever had put to print. Some time in my mid-twenties I got hooked when I read for the first time a tale entitled ÒThe ZahirÓ and I didnŐt let go ever after. To my mind especially this story gives the whole Borges in a nutshell. It defies a straightforward explanation and suggests a facetted reflection of different perspectives, but packaged in a deceptively lucid and straightforward narrative. What are those objects which dispense such mysterious power to possess our imagination from the moment we catch sight of them? IsnŐt it actually just one object that reincarnates through the centuries in all kinds of shapes? Or could it be just a figment of paranoia in a mentally troubled mind with no actual referent in the real world? Nabokov in one of his (ma!ny) grumpier moments complained about Borges art as being Òall porch and no house behind.Ó Nabokov has a point. But letŐs be honest. Instead of churning out a so-so novel and make the reader waste days and weeks over it, it is so much snappier and more interesting to write a mouth-watering review on ÒThe Approach to Al-MuŐtasim.Ó Yes, I confess. I fell for it, and searched the central catalogue of the British Library for this book, and of course I didnŐt find it. BorgesŐs fictional review was a hoax, but it spurned a new direction in his own production. In a sense all of Borges short stories are sketches for much larger novels, and yet manage to say it all in fewer words. The trick is to leave a characterŐs psychology utterly to the readerŐs intuition and be strictly matter of fact and without frills. Only recently, when I looked into the old Icelandic sagas it occurred to me how much BorgesŐ craft actually owes to the Norse storytellers, a fact Borges himself had never hidden!, but one has to see it with oneŐs own eyes to appreciate the similarities. The Norse sagas appear to be all surface. As an advance on his inheritance, a son steals a few implements from his fatherŐs cottage, moves away and starts an enterprise of his own, he succeeds beyond expectation, branches out, takes in an apprentice, promotes him as his steward, but disappoints the fellow, because he doesnŐt offer him a full partnership. Tension develops, the steward decides ... we get the picture. Borges initially looked to Kafka as his most important influence, but then he discovered for himself the potential of the saga style and found ways to load the text with a world of allusions and suggestions underneath of a deceptively straightforward surface. I guess Borges is the opposite extreme to Marcel Proust, and the difference between the two represents a fundamental polarity in the narrative universe. A polarity which had always been there, we can follow it back to the Norse sagas !and their Japanese counterpart, MurasakiŐs ÒPrince Genji,Ó or to ApuleiusŐ ribald tale and the sometimes tantalizing glimpses on the rich and minute structure of omniscient realism suggested by the extant fragments of PetronŐs ÒSatyricon.Ó It is not so much a difference in subtlety, but more of the narratorŐs temperament. You either seek completeness and offer life to be swallowed whole, or you prefer to be selective with your effects and to create a mirror cabinet of perspectives as the actual object of your narrative. Both is a legitimate way of storytelling, the difference lays in the narratorŐs concept of truth, whether the accent is put on omniscient totality, the whole truth and nothing but the truth, and to the full extent of the artistŐs capacity to cope and let things permeate his temperament, or whether a more opaque, a more sceptical mentality is making choices and opens room to consider plausible alternatives and surprising spectres in a slimmer but more suggesti!ve texture. The former appeals more to the readers whole spectrum of sensuality, the latter highlights sensual events for the intellect. It is a bit like lovemaking - some people are quite happy just to rub the partnerŐs skin and take it all in, hair smell and smile; others need to get their fantasy going, for them, sex is primarily an event in their imagination, even during the act. In this sense, James Joyce could never make up his mind which way he wanted to go, but apparently you canŐt have it both ways. And since it affects the artistŐs entire personality this is more than a matter of capriciously deciding how to tell my next tale. It is one of the crossroads in life one has to take, and no possibility to retract your steps. Borges of course had not much of a choice. No matter how much talent one has, impaired eyesight and eventual blindness dictate the direction. Degas in his old age turned to sculpture - what else could he do? In Borges case, the handicap has as much !to do with his artistic choices, as has his private discovery of the Icelandic Sagas. Every sensual moment becomes precious and treasured in ways that could never occur to a Tolstoy or Proust. As a reader I am not sure whether I want to choose between these people. I like them all. At least thatŐs what I tell myself. But my clock knows better. I simply spend more time with the likes of Borges, who demand so little of my time, than the much more expansive ladies and gentlemen with their 3 decker tomes. Tolstoy feeds to my appetites but over Borges I can dream.
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Collected Fictions
Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (Paperback - Aug. 9 1999)
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