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Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
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Labyrinths (1962)

by Jorge Luis Borges

Other authors: See the other authors section.

MembersReviewsPopularityAverage ratingMentions
5,376641,240 (4.44)197
  1. 61
    Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges (BGP)
  2. 40
    The Trial by Franz Kafka (johnxlibris)
  3. 10
    Blow Up by Julio Cortázar (S_Meyerson)
  4. 00
    North Station by Suah Bae (emydid)
  5. 11
    The Logogryph: A Bibliography Of Imaginary Books by Thomas Wharton (deepthi)
  6. 00
    The Collected Poems of Octavio Paz, 1957–1987 by Octavio Paz (S_Meyerson)
  7. 02
    Sword & Citadel: The Second Half of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: "The composition of a novel in the first person, whose narrator would omit or disfigure the facts and indulge in various contradictions which would permit a few readers - very few readers - to perceive an atrocious or banal reality."
  8. 02
    Shadow & Claw: The First Half of The Book of the New Sun by Gene Wolfe (LamontCranston)
    LamontCranston: "The composition of a novel in the first person, whose narrator would omit or disfigure the facts and indulge in various contradictions which would permit a few readers - very few readers - to perceive an atrocious or banal reality."
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» See also 197 mentions

English (63)  Danish (1)  All languages (64)
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
"Music, states of happiness, mythology, faces belabored by time, certain twilights and certain places try to tell us something, or have said something we should not have missed, or are about to say something; this imminence of a revelation which does not occur is, perhaps, the aesthetic phenomenon."

I picked this up a couple years ago, read two or three stories, then relegated it to my bookshelf. On this second encounter I'm much more impressed. I came with the wrong mindset before; you can’t expect a great deal of plot or characterization from Borges, but you will find fascinating ideas and elegant, sometimes haunting prose.

My favorite entry is “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” which explores a society that has internalized idealist philosophy (the belief that the external world does not exist independently of minds). I’m fascinated by Berkeyelan idealism, so it was fun to find it as a recurring theme in this collection.

The implications of possible and actual infinities are another recurring theme. The famous story “The Library of Babel” considers what you might find in a library whose books contained all possible permutations of letters; hidden amongst the gibberish there could be, for example, "Vindications: books of apology and prophecy which vindicated for all time the acts of every man in the universe and retained prodigious arcana for his future.” ( )
  brokensandals | Feb 7, 2019 |


The stories, essays and parables in this Borges collection, with all their esoteric references to multiple histories, cultures and literatures, are no more likely to appeal to a casual reader then a textbook on cognitive psychology. To extract literary gold from highly intricate, complex works like The Garden of Forking Paths, Emma Zunz, The Library of Babel or The Zahir requires careful multiple readings as well as a willingness to occasionally investigate terms and references, for example here are several from The Zahir: The Book of Rites, Isaac Laquendem, The Nibelungen, the novel Confessions of a Thug, The Book of Things Unknown.

And, speaking of The Zahir, if I were to move from referring to the tale itself to the ideas which lie behind it, how would my review read? What does it mean for a narrator to dissolve the universe into a single coin? Why does Borges describe, right at the outset, how at different times in the past the Zahir, a coin he was handed in a bar, morphed into a tiger, a blind man, a small compass, a vein in the marble of a pillar, the bottom of a well? How does one compress all time into this one sentence I am now writing? And what of the philosophical and cultural context in which Borges wrote this tale? Could a first-person short-story like The Zahir have been written in Ancient China? Medieval Persia? Colonial America? These are questions that lie outside the framework of this Borges tale. Or do they?

Philosophical musing on the reality of the Zahir propels Borges (and us as readers) to multiple worlds: of a woman who seeks to makes every one of her actions correct to the point where she desires the absolute in the momentary; the dark light of the Gnostics; a dream where he, Borges the narrarator, becomes a pile of coins guarded by a gryphon. Then, after Borges’ fascination with the Zahir slides into obsession, driving him to seek out a psychiatrist, he writes, “Time, which softens memories, only makes the memory of the Zahir sharper. First I could see the face of it, then the reverse; now I can see both sides at once. It is not as though the Zahir were made of glass, since one side is not superimposed upon the other; rather it is as though the vision were spherical and the Zahir flutters in the center.”

Such refection bring to mind Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, where the beads are, in fact, made of glass and can represent, in turn, cosmic topology, a fugue of celestial spheres, variations on relational placement as in the colors and lines of a Mondrian or circles with plasticity in Vasarely; only the Zahir has about it more unity then plurality, and thus one Möbius strip, one musical note, one painting, one print. Toward the very end we read: “Others will dream that I am mad, while I dream of the Zahir. When every person on earth thinks, day and night of the Zahir, which will be dream and which reality, the earth or the Zahir?”

Regarding the essays, Partial Magic in the Quixote opens us to a least a dozen unique angles in our approach to this Spanish classic; Kafka and His Precursors explores the connection of writers like Kierkegaard and Browning along with Zeno’s paradox to the famous author of The Metamorphosis; The Mirror of Enigmas delves into conundrums such as the symbolic significance of Sacred Scriptures and various forms of metaphysical writings as reflected on by, among others, Philo of Alexandria. Seven more essays will bend and stretch you mind in ways you never thought possible.

In the parable, Borges and I, the author conducts a dialogue with himself as well as, take your pick - author, public persona, alter ego, younger self, older self, second self – and is uncertain as he concludes his parable who exactly is the author of the lines he has just written. Everything and Nothing is a parable featuring Shakespeare with a multiple identity crisis; another parable, The Witness, has the narrator brooding over memory and death and yet in another parable, Inferno 1,32, we encounter a leopard, Dante, and God in what could be viewed as a dreamscape.

Reading Labyrinths years ago, I was inspired to write this micro-fiction as a tribute to Jorge Luis Borges:

LIFE STORY

The bold letters on the cover read: Harold Blackman – Life Story. The book looks quite ordinary. One is required to make a special inspection to see a queer spring-like device along the spine. Harold Blackman opens the book before him. The title page is completely blank as are all the pages. He runs gnarled fingers, tips calloused and slightly trembling, lightly over this ghost of a title page and reflects on the long agonizing nights when he tried to pen the fire of his youth and the spume of his manhood without success. What he saw when the ink dried always left him feeling flat, unsettled. Closing his eyes, he repeats an incantation learned from a half-crazed Argentine, then opens them slowly, very slowly. Harold Blackman, weary adventurer, is now standing on the writing table, shrunken to the size of the book. Lying down on the title page, the back of his legs, buttocks and backbone relax to the paper’s slight give. He released a catch on the spine, the leather cover snapping shut with the vengeance of a mousetrap. But for a muffled groan all is silence. Over time, the blood seeps through the pages, forming, words, sentences, paragraphs.
( )
  Glenn_Russell | Nov 13, 2018 |
If you like stories with fun philosophical twists to them, then this is your book. If you like stories with human substance, not so much. I think reading a synopsis of these stories is pretty much the same thing, or sometimes better. ( )
  weberam2 | Nov 24, 2017 |
"Years of solitude had taught him that, in one's memory, all days tend to be the same, but that there is not a day, not even in jail or in the hospital, which does not bring surprises, which is not a translucent network of minimal surprises."

Hmm... how should I put this... some of these pieces when they hit me they HIT ME... shining fairly brightly, wrapping me right up round (its proverbial finger) with all the cosy feels of an intricate tapestry.

But when it comes to the pieces that totally go over my head? They just tooootally went over my head. Like... could not even read to the finish. Meh.

Hence the looong time it took me to finish this.

But there really is some gorgeous writing to be read here. You can just see the words blossoming in your mind... hmmm.

Favourites: Library of Babel, The Lottery in Babylon, The Zahir, The Waiting, Borges & I, The Immortal ( )
  kephradyx | Jun 20, 2017 |


The stories, essays and parables in this Borges collection, with all their esoteric references to multiple histories, cultures and literatures, are no more likely to appeal to a casual reader then a textbook on cognitive psychology. To extract literary gold from highly intricate, complex works like The Garden of Forking Paths, Emma Zunz, The Library of Babel or The Zahir requires careful multiple readings as well as a willingness to occasionally investigate terms and references, for example here are several from The Zahir: The Book of Rites, Isaac Laquendem, The Nibelungen, the novel Confessions of a Thug, The Book of Things Unknown.

And, speaking of The Zahir, if I were to move from referring to the tale itself to the ideas which lie behind it, how would my review read? What does it mean for a narrator to dissolve the universe into a single coin? Why does Borges describe, right at the outset, how at different times in the past the Zahir, a coin he was handed in a bar, morphed into a tiger, a blind man, a small compass, a vein in the marble of a pillar, the bottom of a well? How does one compress all time into this one sentence I am now writing? And what of the philosophical and cultural context in which Borges wrote this tale? Could a first-person short-story like The Zahir have been written in Ancient China? Medieval Persia? Colonial America? These are questions that lie outside the framework of this Borges tale. Or do they?

Philosophical musing on the reality of the Zahir propels Borges (and us as readers) to multiple worlds: of a woman who seeks to makes every one of her actions correct to the point where she desires the absolute in the momentary; the dark light of the Gnostics; a dream where he, Borges the narrarator, becomes a pile of coins guarded by a gryphon. Then, after Borges’ fascination with the Zahir slides into obsession, driving him to seek out a psychiatrist, he writes, “Time, which softens memories, only makes the memory of the Zahir sharper. First I could see the face of it, then the reverse; now I can see both sides at once. It is not as though the Zahir were made of glass, since one side is not superimposed upon the other; rather it is as though the vision were spherical and the Zahir flutters in the center.”

Such refection bring to mind Hesse’s The Glass Bead Game, where the beads are, in fact, made of glass and can represent, in turn, cosmic topology, a fugue of celestial spheres, variations on relational placement as in the colors and lines of a Mondrian or circles with plasticity in Vasarely; only the Zahir has about it more unity then plurality, and thus one Möbius strip, one musical note, one painting, one print. Toward the very end we read: “Others will dream that I am mad, while I dream of the Zahir. When every person on earth thinks, day and night of the Zahir, which will be dream and which reality, the earth or the Zahir?”

Regarding the essays, Partial Magic in the Quixote opens us to a least a dozen unique angles in our approach to this Spanish classic; Kafka and His Precursors explores the connection of writers like Kierkegaard and Browning along with Zeno’s paradox to the famous author of The Metamorphosis; The Mirror of Enigmas delves into conundrums such as the symbolic significance of Sacred Scriptures and various forms of metaphysical writings as reflected on by, among others, Philo of Alexandria. Seven more essays will bend and stretch you mind in ways you never thought possible.

In the parable, Borges and I, the author conducts a dialogue with himself as well as, take your pick - author, public persona, alter ego, younger self, older self, second self – and is uncertain as he concludes his parable who exactly is the author of the lines he has just written. Everything and Nothing is a parable featuring Shakespeare with a multiple identity crisis; another parable, The Witness, has the narrator brooding over memory and death and yet in another parable, Inferno 1,32, we encounter a leopard, Dante, and God in what could be viewed as a dreamscape.

Reading Labyrinths years ago, I was inspired to write this micro-fiction as a tribute to Jorge Luis Borges:

LIFE STORY

The bold letters on the cover read: Harold Blackman – Life Story. The book looks quite ordinary. One is required to make a special inspection to see a queer spring-like device along the spine. Harold Blackman opens the book before him. The title page is completely blank as are all the pages. He runs gnarled fingers, tips calloused and slightly trembling, lightly over this ghost of a title page and reflects on the long agonizing nights when he tried to pen the fire of his youth and the spume of his manhood without success. What he saw when the ink dried always left him feeling flat, unsettled. Closing his eyes, he repeats an incantation learned from a half-crazed Argentine, then opens them slowly, very slowly. Harold Blackman, weary adventurer, is now standing on the writing table, shrunken to the size of the book. Lying down on the title page, the back of his legs, buttocks and backbone relax to the paper’s slight give. He released a catch on the spine, the leather cover snapping shut with the vengeance of a mousetrap. But for a muffled groan all is silence. Over time, the blood seeps through the pages, forming, words, sentences, paragraphs.
( )
  GlennRussell | Feb 16, 2017 |
Showing 1-5 of 63 (next | show all)
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» Add other authors (23 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Borges, Jorge Luisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
de Onis, HarrietTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fein, John M.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fitts, DudleyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Irby, James E.Editorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kerrigan, AnthonyTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Kuhlman, GildaCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Maurois, AndréPrefacesecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Murillo, L. A.Translatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Palley, JulianTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Yates, Donald A.Editorsecondary 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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A book is more than a verbal structure or series of verbal structures; it is the dialogue it establishes with its reader and the intonation it imposes upon his voice and the changing and durable images it leaves in his memory.
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(Click to show. Warning: May contain spoilers.)
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Amazon.com Amazon.com Review (ISBN 0811200124, Paperback)

If Jorge Luis Borges had been a computer scientist, he probably would have invented hypertext and the World Wide Web.

Instead, being a librarian and one of the world's most widely read people, he became the leading practitioner of a densely layered imaginistic writing style that has been imitated throughout this century, but has no peer (although Umberto Eco sometimes comes close, especially in Name of the Rose).

Borges's stories are redolent with an intelligence, wealth of invention, and a tight, almost mathematically formal style that challenge with mysteries and paradoxes revealed only slowly after several readings. Highly recommended to anyone who wants their imagination and intellect to be aswarm with philosophical plots, compelling conundrums, and a wealth of real and imagined literary references derived from an infinitely imaginary library.

(retrieved from Amazon Thu, 12 Mar 2015 18:21:51 -0400)

(see all 3 descriptions)

Forty short stories and essays have been selected as representative of the Argentine writer's metaphysical narratives.

» see all 3 descriptions

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Penguin Australia

2 editions of this book were published by Penguin Australia.

Editions: 0141184841, 0143566342

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