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Fictions (Calderbook) by Jorge Luis Borges

Fictions (Calderbook) (original 1944; edition 1991)

by Jorge Luis Borges, Anthony Kerrigan

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4,444661,103 (4.4)160
Title:Fictions (Calderbook)
Authors:Jorge Luis Borges
Other authors:Anthony Kerrigan
Info:Calder Publications (1991), Paperback, 159 pages
Collections:Your library

Work details

Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges (1944)

  1. 70
    Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (Carnophile)
    Carnophile: While Ficciones is a subset of Collected Fictions, it is nice to have two translations of the same material. Each translator captures nuances the other misses.
  2. 60
    The Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis Borges (VanishedOne)
  3. 51
    Invisible Cities by Italo Calvino (Carnophile)
    Carnophile: Both books are liesurely contemplations of fantastical situations, not plot- or character-driven, but conceptual.
  4. 00
    House of Leaves by Mark Z. Danielewski (fundevogel)
  5. 00
    The Periodic Table by Primo Levi (Eustrabirbeonne)
  6. 00
    The Martian Chronicles by Ray Bradbury (lewbs)
    lewbs: Borges admired The Martian Chronicles. The two books have much in common.
  7. 01
    Des Anges Mineurs by Antoine Volodine (Eustrabirbeonne)

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English (51)  Spanish (6)  French (3)  Italian (2)  Swedish (1)  Catalan (1)  Portuguese (1)  Portuguese (Portugal) (1)  All languages (66)
Showing 1-5 of 51 (next | show all)
Carefully crafted, this series of short stories demands a readers attention. Borges is clearly a genius, and his wide-ranging mind is difficult for even the most well-read reader to follow. This is a book that I read over a decade ago in a university course on Latin American literature, and have now reread, hoping to further decipher what it is all about. There is a lot here, from magical realism to occultism, and making sense of it all is hard work. Of the stories here, my favourites are "The Library of Babel", "Funes, the Memorious", and "The South". All that said however, this is a book that I respect for its craftsmanship more than for how much I enjoyed it. Often it provoked a reaction akin to "huh, that's interesting", but never did it tingle my senses or stir my soul. Perhaps I'll try it again in another decade, and see if the added life experience makes a difference in my impression. ( )
  mmcdwl | Oct 11, 2015 |

As I was reading these stories, these ficciones, I was wondering where I might have heard this Borges voice before. And as I read it seemed to me that each story was important in its own rank as if derived from a serious study of an ancient text or the pouring over of history books detailing in no small measure the accounts that made up the results of whatever was being set forth. Of course, because the original Ficciones were written in Spanish and then translated to English, the stories additionally allowed me to consider that some of the numerous facts and details presented were possibly “made-up” and mingled together with others which obviously were not. The entire practice of a Borges composition was basically lost to a reader like me who is not “up” on his ancient history and could no more in these given instances discern a truth from a bald-faced lie. Nonetheless, the stories were written and translated with such abundant grace and were so well-crafted their meaning mattered little to me as I was obviously in the presence of genius, which is such a joy to behold when it actually occurs to me. Still, it bothered me incessantly as each story ended with the same result of my not understanding what I had just read but enjoying it nonetheless. I am apt to want to quit on something I do not understand, but the words were too powerful and crafted for me to end our affair.

Throughout my reading there wasn’t one story that made more of an impact on me than another, but taken as whole it reminded me by the end that another writer, a contemporary, whose voice I realized sounds just like Borges, or at least sounds like the translation of Ficciones that I am reviewing here. It felt a bit uncanny for me to think of my writer-friend Jason in light of reading a book written so long ago. I know Borges died blind in 1986 and was born in 1899. I know he originally published the first edition of this book in 1944 or thereabouts. Besides this unique voice I heard on every page, what made me think of my contemporary as I read Borges was that confident, loving tone of a very good teacher, a scholar relating something he found so interesting that he wants to excite us with his discovery too. The tone comes from a very nice man, a gentle soul who is humble and totally unpretentious even though his gifted presentation flies way over my head and is so far out of my league of understanding. Perhaps, for some readers of this text, understanding is not so hard to come by. But for me it was nearly impossible. In order to not frustrate myself I began to read these stories much as I read [a:Gilles Deleuze|13009|Gilles Deleuze|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1377593399p2/13009.jpg] say, and of course [a:Jason Schwartz|653615|Jason Schwartz|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1370111512p2/653615.jpg], and attempt to glean what I might from their words and simply enjoy the rest. I doubt there will ever come a time when I know enough history to connect more to these short stories, but I do know I expect I will not derive more pleasure in my newfound understanding than was my first exposure and initiation into this world.

But lo and behold miracles do occur and the last story filled my void. The understanding that had been missing over the last days spent with all these Borges pages came headlong to me, and not delivered as I was present in my trance as I had been in while reading the stories prior to this last one titled The South. No, for this one, the last one, I was fully alive and awake for his scrumptious ending of the way life goes sometimes. But instead of topping my already generous day I was directed by a Borges order to press on, that silly, my time had not come, as neither the hero’s had nor his aggressor’s, and that a knife fight must and will ensue, and the results are not a given though perhaps it could be perceived as somewhat predictable. ( )
  MSarki | Jan 24, 2015 |
I got along with Fictions a lot better than with The Book of Imaginary Beings; while it's still composed of various short pieces, each one has a plot and a purpose. The writing is beautiful; if the translation does any justice to the original, it must be gorgeous in its simplicity, while describing plots and settings that are anything but simple. I could almost go learn Spanish just to read Borges' own words -- though this Penguin translation by Andrew Hurley is a good one, and makes the stories accessible and clear.

Can you even pick a favourite from this volume? I suppose maybe I can -- 'The Library of Babel', maybe, or 'The Lottery in Babylon'. I'm going to keep this book around and reread it sometime, slower, in a different order, whatever. Just dip in and out see what else I find in these stories that I didn't see this time. And it's high praise for me to say that I am sure there's a lot I didn't see. ( )
  shanaqui | Nov 23, 2014 |
Pocas veces me ha costado tanto terminar un libro. Ficciones es una de esas obras. Me obligué a leerlo de todos modos, esperando encontrar en algún lado la magia, eso que lo hizo tan famoso, y que tanta gente elogia y admira.

No lo encontré. Al menos no en Ficciones. La mitad de los cuentos siento que no los entendí. Y eso que soy una persona que lee mucho... pero que se yo, a lo mejor no estoy a la altura de Borges, vaya uno a saber. Y los cuentos que sí entendí, sinceramente no me gustaron.

Leer este libro fue, desde más o menos la tercer o cuarta página, un continuo "uffff... ¿cuánto me falta para temrinar este bodrio?". Supongo que ese estado mental no ayuda.

Algunos de los cuentos que no me disgustaron del todo, o que me produjeron alguna reacción positiva, o me parecieron interesantes desde algún punto de vista: "La biblioteca de Babel", "Las ruinas circulares", "Tema del traidor y del héroe", "Funes el memorioso", "El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan".

Artificios, la segunda parte, me resultó un poco más llevadera/entretenida que la primera.

"Ficciones" está considerada como una muy buena introducción a la obra de Borges... evidentemente, BOrges entonces no es para mi. ( )
  chaghi | Jun 1, 2014 |
Ficciones is comprised of two anthologies, the Garden of Forking Paths and Artifices. The first is absolutely brilliant, the second more conventional but still good. Borges had a talent for transforming reality within the context of his stories, then exploring its boundaries and horizons. Every story is the pursuit of an idea, the characters and plot - when there is a plot - merely tools to do so. Some stories appear more straightforward but feature some detail, a trick ending or final sentence that changes how the rest is viewed. Borges' style is largely telling rather than showing, but it is such very good telling that it works without a hitch.

Here are the stories in this volume. The attached ratings are purely a reflection of my subjective enjoyment. My rating system is even more questionable when considering that at least some of the stories inform one another and often explore different facets of similar ideas (e.g. shared identities, labyrinths, etc.) The introduction to my 1993 Everyman's Library edition (by John Sturrock) is brilliant, shedding light on the author and providing insight into nearly every piece. It's well worth reading in advance of jumping in. I also recommend the Wikipedia entries.

* Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius - rare books are discovered which prove to have a very unusual relationship, and foreshadow the world's future. Love how mysteries unfold in this one, it's a great introduction to this master stylist. Note, 1947 was a future setting at the time of this story's writing. (5/5)

* The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim - Borges never wrote a novel ("laborious and impoverishing extravagance", he called them) and he gets around it here in a short story disguised as the review of a (fictional) novel. (4/5)

* Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote - literature is interpreted according to the time, place and by whom it was written. So much for objectivity. (4/5)

* The Circular Ruins - a man dreams another into existence. Later stories will have you circling back. (4/5)

* The Babylon Lottery - a story about A, where I thought he should have taken it to B. Turns out he'd thought of B, and this was actually about C. Got me there. (5/5)

* An Examination of the Works of Herbert Quain - interesting look at unusual story structures for novels, the flaws and pluses. The ending reveals its relevance. (3/5)

* The Library of Babel - this is all about the concept; an infinite (maybe) library with volumes containing every permutation of the alphabet. Incidentally there are experimental (fan?) web sites that simulate samples of this library's contents. (4/5)

* The Garden of Forking Paths - a German spy must somehow get a message to his superiors, with an agent close on his tail. (5/5)

I found the second portion "Artifices" to be not as strong. The stories in this half largely steer away from the thought experiments pattern:

* Funes, the Memorious - a man suffers from remembering every detail of his life. (4/5)

* The Form of the Sword - a Uruguayan immigrant explains the enormous scar on his face. (4/5)

* Theme of the Traitor and Hero - the details of a man's death find mysterious echoes in history and literature. (4/5)

* Death and the Compass - a Poirot-like sleuth follows the clues from three murders to anticipate a fourth. (5/5)

* The Secret Miracle - a man facing a firing squad makes one final request of God. (4/5)

* Three Versions of Judas - explores a theological idea involving Judas Iscariot of the Bible, and the fate of that idea's perpetrator. (3/5)

* The End - this was not a story I can fully appreciate, not having read the poem "Martin Fierro" that it is based upon and offers insight into. (3/5)

* The Sect of the Phoenix - an exercise demonstrating that virtually anything can be made mysterious if presented so. We see this all the time today on the Internet. (4/5)

* The South - as the author notes in his preface, this can be read as a straightforward story or in another way. You know if Borges puts a character in a sanatorium, things are going to get interesting. (4/5)

With few exceptions, these stories have made a lasting impression and their imagery will stick with me for a long time to come. That's not something I say after every short story collection I read. Read him for his influence on other artists, which has been far-reaching and pervasive. ( )
1 vote Cecrow | Mar 17, 2014 |
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» Add other authors (61 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Jorge Luis Borgesprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Bonner, AnthonyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Håkansson, GabriellaForewordsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kerrigan, AnthonyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lucentini, F.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Lucentini, FrancoTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Reid, AlastairTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Sturrock, JohnIntroductionsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Temple, HelenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Todd, RuthvenTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
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I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia.
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0802130305, Paperback)

Reading Jorge Luis Borges is an experience akin to having the top of one's head removed for repairs. First comes the unfamiliar breeze tickling your cerebral cortex; then disorientation, even mild discomfort; and finally, the sense that the world has been irrevocably altered--and in this case, rendered infinitely more complex. First published in 1945, his Ficciones compressed several centuries' worth of philosophy and poetry into 17 tiny, unclassifiable pieces of prose. He offered up diabolical tigers, imaginary encyclopedias, ontological detective stories, and scholarly commentaries on nonexistent books, and in the process exploded all previous notions of genre. Would any of David Foster Wallace's famous footnotes be possible without Borges? Or, for that matter, the syntactical games of Perec, the metafictional pastiche of Calvino? For good or for ill, the blind Argentinian paved the way for a generation's worth of postmodern monkey business--and fiction will never be simply "fiction" again.

Its enormous influence on writers aside, Ficciones has also--perhaps more importantly--changed the way that we read. Borges's Pierre Menard, for instance, undertakes the most audacious project imaginable: to create not a contemporary version of Cervantes's most famous work but the Quixote itself, word for word. This second text is "verbally identical" to the original, yet, because of its new associations, "infinitely richer"; every time we read, he suggests, we are in effect creating an entirely new text, simply by viewing it through the distorting lens of history. "A book is not an isolated being: it is a relationship, an axis of innumerable relationships," Borges once wrote in an essay about George Bernard Shaw. "All men who repeat one line of Shakespeare are William Shakespeare," he tells us in "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius." In this spirit, Borges is not above impersonating, even quoting, himself.

It is hard, exactly, to say what all of this means, at least in any of the usual ways. Borges wrote not with an ideological agenda, but with a kind of radical philosophical playfulness. Labyrinths, libraries, lotteries, doubles, dreams, mirrors, heresiarchs: these are the tokens with which he plays his ontological games. In the end, ideas themselves are less important to him than their aesthetic and imaginative possibilities. Like the idealist philosophers of Tlön, Borges does not "seek for the truth or even for verisimilitude, but rather for the astounding"; for him as for them, "metaphysics is a branch of fantastic literature." --Mary Park

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:12:01 -0400)

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The seventeen pieces in Ficciones demonstrate the gargantuan powers of imagination, intelligence, and style of one of the greatest writers of this or any other century. Borges sends us on a journey into a compelling, bizarre, and profoundly resonant realm; we enter the fearful sphere of Pascal's abyss, the surreal and literal labyrinth of books, and the iconography of eternal return. More playful and approachable than the fictions themselves are Borges's Prologues, brief elucidations that offer the uninitiated a passageway into the whirlwind of Borges's genius and mirror the precision and potency of his intellect and inventiveness, his piercing irony, his skepticism, and his obsession with fantasy. To enter the worlds in Ficciones is to enter the mind of Jorge Luis Borges, wherein lies Heaven, Hell, and everything in between.… (more)

(summary from another edition)

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