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Borges

1borges

Wow, just wow. I’m in awe of Jorge Luis Borges, who is probably one of the most influential and important storytellers in 20th century. A review of Jorge Luis Borges: Collected Fictions on The Guardian noted, to my dismay, that “Borges’s genius will overcome Hurley’s version, as it has so many others, and English-speaking readers, while waiting for the inspired translator of Borges, may have to resign themselves to the not impossible task of learning Spanish.”

We are all aware of imperfection of translated literature in which some intrinsic meaning is inevitably lost in translation. It’s a general consensus among literary scholars that in the Andrew Hurley edition a number of stories have been decently translated and are as readable as the best among the earlier versions, but mere readability is not good enough.

That said, this volume of collected fictions is worth the anticipation. It’s a book that requires utter concentration in a distraction-free environment. Vladimir Nabokov said that on first reading Borges he thought he had come upon a new and marvelous portico, but that behind the facade he found nothing. Poor Nabokov! What he took to be nothing is, in fact, everything or the possibility of everything: every story, every reflection, every thought and every event are all contained in what Borges called, in one of his best stories, The Library of Babel, the recipient of every book, past, present and future.

What Borges offered his readers was a philosophy, an ethical system, a method (but these words are too mechanical) for the art of reading that is to say, for the craft of following a revelatory thread through the labyrinth of the universe. In university, I seemed to be assigned one or two Borges stories every semester, and they inevitably proved to be my favorite parts. From that tip of an iceberg that I have read of his, I sense the contagious love of literature, which also seeped into every story he ever wrote. This is a big reason why Borges’s influence has only grown since his death in 1986. But my ultimate goal now, as a reader who is no longer bound by the syllabus, is to be able to understand Borges’s work in widescreen—at least starting from fiction.

2 Responses

  1. I read The Aleph many years ago, in French, and enjoyed it a lot

  2. I’m a bit intimidated. Read a couple stories in college. I’m going to start with A Universal History of Iniquity tomorrow.

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