2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ficciones
I'll put it as bluntly as I can: Jorge Luis Borges is an absolute genius, a staggering mind of supreme proportions, and I thank the gods of literature that he was able to compress his ideas into these seventeen short stories for the betterment of anyone willing to read and learn from them.
As a writer, Borges is not particularly interested in the reader having empathy...
Published on April 20 2004 by Damian Kelleher
0 of 1 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The many themes of Borges.
One of the best works of literature I have encountered. Borges explores alternate worlds with his exploration of dreams and the theme of time. Time in his stories can be either circular, labryth or linear. It can, and often is, more than just one. His dream stories make it such that it is difficult to determine what is a dream and what is reality. Borges'...
Published on Dec 3 1998
Most Helpful First | Newest First
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ficciones,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)I'll put it as bluntly as I can: Jorge Luis Borges is an absolute genius, a staggering mind of supreme proportions, and I thank the gods of literature that he was able to compress his ideas into these seventeen short stories for the betterment of anyone willing to read and learn from them.
As a writer, Borges is not particularly interested in the reader having empathy with the characters, he doesn't really set the scene, and the storylines - when there are one - are generally fairly weak. His strength lies in the depth of thought placed within the short pages, and the general mysteries of the infinite and reality.
I'll admit, the first few stories I didn't really 'get'. I read 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius', a story of an encyclopedic entry about a fictional world, and while it was enjoyable, seemed a mere flight of fancy. The second story, 'The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim' seemed to be a short variation on the theme, and by the time that one was finished, I wasn't particularly impressed. But then I read 'Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote', a treatise on why the 20th century scholar and writer Pierre Menard has written a better version of Don Quixote than Cervantes, even though the two versions are identical, and everything clicked. I realised that Borges was not trying to entertain me - and the language used and obscure literary/historical references thrown about certainly don't aid casual enjoyment - rather he was exercising my mind. By considering the ideas he presents about reality and infinity under the careful tutelage of his examples, I was, by the end of the book, struggling with concepts that I perhaps previously wouldn't have considered.
The seventh story, 'The Library of Babel', was perhaps my favourite, dealing with a library that had the every single possible combination of letters within its hallowed halls. The story was an essay on life in the Library, but in actuality it was about the nature of infinity and what it means when it is applied to something tangible, like a library, or a garden.
The second part of the novel, Artifices, had more of a story-telling flavour, but generally these fictional setups were used mainly to get two characters talking to one another so that they could discuss reality. While they were all amazing and essential reads, I enjoyed the more abstract pieces in the first part, 'The Garden of Forking Paths'.
Borges is a difficult writer. He has an extensive vocabulary and enormous literary and historical knowledge to draw from, and he uses both without hesitation. The ideas he presents are deep, the fact that he is willing to share them in the way that he has suggests to me that he is aware that his readers are intelligent people capable of greater thought. Don't let the dry tone fool you though, while this book can't be said to be enjoyable in a swashbuckling, rolicking sense, Ficciones is a phenomenal, mind-blowing, absolutely essential read, I recommend it to everyone.
2 of 2 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars A sly milestone of 20th century literature,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)While only a slim volume of about 100 pages, Jorge Luis Borges' FICCIONES is one of the 20th century's most original and influential works. A set of two collections of short stories, ''The Garden of Forking Paths" and ''Artifices", FICCIONES was the world's first exposure to the Argentinian writer and Borges' all-around best work.
The nature of the stories which Borges crafted is so unique and subtle that it defies description. He portrayed unusual occurrences, and peppered his stories, narrated in a faux-scholastic style, with references to colourful sources that, while sounding plausible, are of Borges' own invention and can be found in no library. In the first story of FICCIONES, ''Tlon, Uqbar, Orbius Tertius," he imagines an encyclopedia mysteriously containing a entry for a country that is not to be found - at least not in our reality. ''The Approach to Al-Mutasim" is a review of a book which doesn't exist; here, in a reversal of the usual order, the review brings the book into being. ''The Babylon Lottery" and ''The Library of Babel" are both clever metaphors for the human world. In the first, Borges describes an ancient society which lets all things be decided by chance. In the second, which introduced the concept of the infinite library, the story's setting is an unimaginably vast archive whose librarians from birth to death care for books whose meanings cannot be deciphered.
Jorge Luis Borges often used several key motifs in his books, such as mirrors and labyrinths, and it is this reuse of symbols which has created the ''Borgesian" genre. These symbols and the offbeat constructions which Borges almost singlehandedly invented went on to inspire legions of writers, including Gene Wolfe and Salman Rushdie.
The translation of FICCIONES has long been a divisive issue. While some, such as myself, believe that this versions of FICCIONES follows the original Spanish closely and, in any event, Borges' genius is found not as much in his language as in his concepts, others detest this 1962 version. Andrew Hurley has recently translated all of Borges fictional stories, including FICCIONES, in COLLECTED FICTIONS published by Penguin, but even his translation has sparked new battles. Should one wish to read FICCIONES in English, however, I'd suggest getting this translation. It is less expensive than COLLECTED FICTIONS and contains only Borges' finest work. For those who can read Spanish decently, I'd recommend even obtaining the original language, as Borges' stories do not use vocabulary much outside what one gets after four-years of high school Spanish.
While some readers may not "get" Borges (he can be compared to H.P. Lovecraft in possessing great influence on some but total obscurity to others), I'd certainly recommend trying FICCIONES.
1 of 1 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The labyrinth that consists of a single straight line,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)Jorge Luis Borges was one of those rare writers who can take even a bizarre, utterly unbelievable idea, and spin it into an exquisite little gem of prose.
And this classic writer was at the peak of his powers when he collected together "Ficciones," whose plain name belies the subtle power and exquisite beauty of Jorges' short stories. Even among Borges' many short stories, few of them can rival this little labyrinth of strange ancient cities, fictional histories, and the eerie depths of the human mind.
"I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia." An odd old saying from the Middle-East leads the narrator to seek out the long-lost heretical histories of a fictional world known as Tlon. Its beliefs, language, and metaphysical eccentricities increasingly fascinate the narrator, until it's almost a surprise to realize that Borges invented all of this.
The stories that follow are no less engrossing -- the recounting of a strange, haunting novel, a man who attempts to LIVE as Don Quixote, a man who tries to dream a new being into existence, a lottery that determines the way the people of Babylon are to live, an examination of a brilliant and underrated author, an exploration of the eternal Library of the universe, and a labyrinthine spy story.
The second round of short stories is a bit less enthralling, merely because it focuses more on "typical" Borges short stories. But they are still pretty enthralling pieces of work -- the remembrance of the brilliantly eccentric Ireneo Funes, the story of a scar, a series of murders linked to "the secret Name," a condemned man's begs God for a year to perfect his art, a forgotten heretic, a conversation leading to revenge, the Cult of the Phoenix, and a man entranced by the "Arabian Nights."
Mirrors and labyrinths fill Borges' work -- real and imagined, in word, metaphor and reality. You see them in an endless library, a guitar melody, a contradiction in religious faith, a complex plot, and in the mind of a man who loses himself to an obsession. The mirrors show you the sides of people that they would never see themselves, and the labyrinth twists the mind into new places where it would never normally go.
"Ficciones" explores places where normal fiction would never go -- such as a Babylonian lottery for different places in society, corrupted by greed -- even as it imbues its eulogies, metaphysical ponderings and explanations with the tinge of reality. The cults, deaths, and art that Borges describes seem so plausible, and are given such depth and detail, that it comes as a mild shock when you realize, "Hey, he made all of this up."
Part of that is due to his unique style, full of elegant wordcraft and gently luminous imagery ("a round yellow moon defined two leaf-clogged fountains in the dreary garden"). Even a stabbing is made brutally beautiful, and often dialogue is unnecessary -- the most beautiful and striking stories in here are the ones where Borges (aka the narrator) eagerly explores some invented facet of the world.
And woven through these stories are many of the things that fascinated Borges through his career -- a tragic hero, ancient heresies, an elusive God, and people whose lives he could somehow explore through his own imagination.
If you could criticize anything at all, it's that few of the characters -- aside from the Borges "narrator" -- are much more than walking symbols of a murky little message. But hey, you could simply see this entire book as an exploration of Borges' own imagination by himself. He happily recounts countries that are nonexistant, books that were never written, geniuses who never were.
"Ficciones" is about the dullest name you can possibly give to a work of genius -- an intricate little web that is all mirrors and mazes. Absolutely stunning.
5.0 out of 5 stars A Literary Masterpiece,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)I read "Ficciones" when I was younger and was blown away by it, but didn't actually understand anything in it. I have recently reread the entire work and am once again blown away. I still don't understand quite everything he says, but even getting past that the stories are incredible. My favorite is 'Theme of the Traitor and Hero,' but I also like 'The Library of Babel,' 'The Circular Ruins,' and 'Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius.' His style is so concise it amazes me- an idea that would take an enormously long novel to examine satisfactorily if given to another author takes Borges a mere four and a half pages (as in 'Theme'). This might sound detrimental to the work or discouraging to the reader, but that is not the case. It is discouraging, however, in the sense that you want to read more- you almost wish it was a 400-page novel (a novel that would probably be the opus for any other writer) and not a short story that the reader is through with in five minutes.
5.0 out of 5 stars The best euro-southamerican literature,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)People say that God sends to each nation a blind poet, which will let a trace that nobody will forget.
For Greeks, it was Homer; for Englishmen, it was Milton; for Argentinians, it was Jorge Luis Borges.
Argentinians are the Europeans of the end of the world. They are not latinos, but Europeans born overseas.
Only after understanding this duality can one understand why euro-southamerican literature is so particular, and definitely, not latin-american literature at all.
Borges, a descendant of English, Spanish and Portuguese immigrants, is the best example of this literature. His humour, his impressive erudition, his eurocentric vision, his deep philosophical thoughts are very argentinian and they need readers as cultivated as the writer. A difficult task for us, Spanish university students.
Definitely, "Ficciones" is a must-have for any Spanish-speaking person claiming to be a cultivated one.
5.0 out of 5 stars A special Sixth Star for Borges...,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)No other writer I know of is more gifted at creating complete and consistent worlds - (complete with footnoted documentation, academic histories, philosophical disputes, secret societies etc) and then turning them inside out for us to view their architecture as a hall of mirrors. Borges plays skittles with ideas that most of us would labor our entire lives to get our heads around - if we were so inclined. The relationship between author and narrator in his first-person stories is beautifully crafted. This collection is a perfect introduction to this fantasic mind - and I only say "introduction" because you will want to read more.
5.0 out of 5 stars Borges, period.,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)"We are in the presence of an original Borges invention: the invention of an invention." Umberto Eco.
It is as simple as this: it does not get any better than Borges. Borges has always been disturbed by the idea that readers should always be 'active,' and not 'passive' as the great majority of readers are. Ficciones is just an example of that. Whenever you read anything written by Borges you must keep in mind that every single word is ther for a reason, any quotes must be double checked (he cites himself a lot), everything seems to be unreal. Erudition just flows in his stories and that is just great.
5.0 out of 5 stars The short story at its best,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)If you are lucky enough to read Spanish well, you might you want to try Borges in Spanish. That's not to say that this is a poor translation but rather there are so many minute details in Borges' prose that they are sometimes lost in the translation. Regardless, this collection of stories represents one of the greatest literary accomplishments in 20th century latin-american fiction and beyond. Borges is a writer of the mind, and that's where most of his stories live. You'll find yourself asking questions about what is real and what is not; what is a dream, what is a nightmare. Borges prose is flawless and his imagination is like no other's. Influenced by philosophy, history, and art, Borges captures a piece of humanity into a collection of stories and he only leaves you wanting more and more.
5.0 out of 5 stars THE MASTER OPENS A DOOR...,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)...and others have followed, thanks to the ground-breaking work of this Argentinian genius. Borges was right in not allowing these works to be classified as 'short stories' -- he manages to convey more in these brief pieces than most authors can cram into a 1000-page magnum opus.
The length of these works is extremely deceptive -- some of them are only 4-6 pages long. If you're unfamiliaar with Borges' work, don't expect to breeze through them as you would conventional short works. These gems are much more demanding and challenging -- and they reward the perseverence of the patient, attentive reader with results that can only be described as jaw-dropping mind expansion.
Many of the works have no 'plot' as such -- and as far as setting, most of them could be taking place anywhere. These things are not important -- Borges deals with concepts, thought and language itself. Philosophy is embracced and ridiculed simultaneously, as are pretense, lofty ideals and morality. At his most serious moments, Borges can be more thought-provoking that the 'deepest' philosophical giants -- and there is much gentle, intelligent humor to be found within these pages as well.
The work of Jorge Luis Borges is a treasure chest -- when you open it, you will have a lifetime of discovery and rediscovery available to you.
5.0 out of 5 stars Metaphysical Angst,
This review is from: Ficciones (Paperback)After years of running into this name, "Borges," I felt as though I were falling short of my expectations as a reader to ignore this man and his colossal reputation. Ficciones seemed to be his most widely read and critically acclaimed book, and so I inevitably found myself reading it.
To try to capture the essence of Borges in a handful of words is like trying to capture the Lochness Monster on film: impossible, but frequently attempted. With that understanding in mind, here's my assessment:
All of Borges's stories are very different, and yet they all share a common sensibility, one of understated but very deeply felt anguish. This is not the anguish of an ordinary writer feeling sorry for himself and his fate. This anguish is deep, metaphysical. You get the sense that Borges views life and his fellow human beings at a distance, and yet is able to see more and understand more from this distance. He does not attempt to explain; he simply wants to impart his sense of awe, wonder, and inevitability.
The subject matter varies widely: an infinite library, a scholarly review of the life's work of a fictional writer, a boy with a perfect memory. Some of his stories are Kafka-esqe in a nightmarish sense, while others have the intellectual playfulness of an M.C. Escher drawing: what you thought was 'up' is really 'down,' and yet once you see the big picture you realize that this is the only way it can be. The endings are as inevitable as death, and yet you rarely see them coming.
I'm not so sure that Borges wrote his stories with a specific point or message, although many of them seem to have one. I believe that most of these stories are simply meant to inspire thought and contemplation of the very issues that Borges had been thinking of when he wrote them. One could do a lot worse than to see things through the eyes of this great thinker.
My only complaint is that his stories are not as accessible as they could be, and his scholarly manner may be problematical for some. But the most effective pills are often the hardest to swallow...
Most Helpful First | Newest First
Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (Paperback - Feb 1 1994)
CDN$ 17.50 CDN$ 12.64