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Collected Fictions (1988)

by Jorge Luis Borges

Other authors: See the other authors section.

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5,098632,145 (4.61)102
The first complete, annotated collection of short stories in English by the twentieth-century Spanish master ranges from his 1935 debut up to his last work, "Shakespeare's Memory," in its first appearance in English.

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English (63)  Spanish (1)  All languages (64)
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"There's no native tradition of any kind since the Indians here were mere barbarians. We have to fall back on the European tradition, why not? It's a very fine tradition."
  windowlight | Jan 23, 2024 |
The collection is divided up into sections based on the books the stories were originally published in, so I'll review each section. It's worth noting that this collection has a lot of advantages over reading the individual components separately - it's a new translation and the translator gives a lot of notes on particular cultural things and references you'd likely miss otherwise, which is really handy for giving context, as well as translation notes which give a bit of insight into how Borges writes.

A Universal History of Iniquity 3 stars. Stymied by it being based on real life stories where he doesn't take much opportunity to embellish them - maybe it's just me but I found most of them dull. Some are just straight narratives of facts (or reported facts). The best of those is the one about the Veiled One, which is a little surreal and takes the most interesting interpretation of what actually happened. The best of the bunch is Man on Pink Corner, which is a first person highly fictional account of Argentinian gang culture. The setting isn't really my thing but he hints at more and really brings the setting to life while touching on themes of masculinity and vengeance.

Fictions - The Garden of Forking Paths 5 stars. A brilliant series of stories, all about fiction and how it overlaps with reality. The stories ask what authenticity means, how to tease meaning out of chaos, what the stories we tell about the past really mean and what they're for, how to deal with meanings and stories being infinite. The stories range from absolutely incredible to merely really great. They individually deserve far more analysis than I can reasonably give them. I'll mention Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote specifically as it's one of the less famous. It's a surprisingly funny (in a very straight faced way) look at what it means to write "authentically", prefiguring what are usually considered very postmodern concerns. How does the context that a work is written in change it? What does it mean to repeat what's gone before? Where do our ideas come from? It's wrapped up with intriguing details indicating another story behind the story we read. Many of the stories hint at far more than we ever get to see - Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius gives us just a taste (and a brilliantly written taste) of a whole other world, and the little we get makes the coherence and whole of what we don't see more convincing. Each story left me thinking about something and set me off on some sort of flight of imagination. A brilliant story collection I recommend to everyone.

Fictions - Artifices 4 stars. A slight decline in quality, but only slight. These stories are more traditionally story like rather than the focus on descriptions of ideas of Forking Paths but still touch on similar themes of unreality, fiction, the infinite of experiences. In both sets of stories, Borges gives so many little details that help to create an idea of a world beyond the small section we're shown in the story. The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero is a stand-out - the convergence of fiction and reality, the story-within-a-story, the idea of everything being planned out from the start. Nothing here is as stand out as in Forking Paths, but it's fascinating all the same.

On finishing: ok, I lied. For various reasons I never ended up rating them as I finished each section and it's been too long for me to distinguish the sections and review them. That's pretty bad sorry. In general though, the later books are each very similar, although there's a very noticeable trend of him getting more and more self reflective and semi-autobiographical as time goes on. The themes he keeps returning to are mostly the same sorts of ones that appeared previously - the Unitarian/Federalist stuff crops up a lot and the footnotes with the book are very useful to understand it - but he always has a new idea to expand on. Nothing for me reaches the same heights as "The Garden of Forking Paths" section but that's due to my personal interests I think. His writing is consistently interesting and it always leaves me feeling like I'm within the stories - they all have this hazy mysterious atmosphere that I really like. I gave it a 4 rather than a 5 because I feel some of the stories are kind of average and if you aren't really into his style the stories might sometimes feel repetitive. But it is good and I did enjoy it. ( )
  tombomp | Oct 31, 2023 |
read p 299 a few days after Hughes died - knew I had brought home the right book; did have to return it car, tho - odor affected my sinus condition - will just have to buy ( )
  Overgaard | Oct 15, 2023 |

I finally finished !!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!

Borges is brilliant, but most of his stories just don't appeal to me. Most are too much in the blood and gore category or the gunslinger category or are just boring and seem very self-indulgent ("Shakespeare's Memory," both of the stories where younger and older versions of himself meet). A few stories I really liked, but that was it. Still, now I know what he's all about.


I'm about 2/3 through. I read another story this morning ("The Gospel According to Mark"). So precisely and beautifully written, but oh so disturbing. My favorite story so far is "The Duel," which makes sense given that Borges introduces the pieces as a perfect Henry James scenario and I think he's right. It's about two women who are friends and unacknowledged (to each other) rivals, as they have a protracted, unspoken, possible not quite consciously recognized struggle to win prominence as painters in a certain niche of the art world.

This stories are incredibly challenging. History of Inequities is very disturbing, so much so that I had to stop reading it at night. Some of the stories I don't get at all--why the handful of translations from 1001 Arabian Nights? I couldn't see the thread. I'm almost through Ficciones now, and am enjoying that much more. I like the labrynthian aspect to these stories as opposed to the brutality and violence of Inequities. ( )
  lschiff | Sep 24, 2023 |
Essential reading.
  Crokey20 | Feb 24, 2023 |
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» Add other authors (1 possible)

Author nameRoleType of authorWork?Status
Borges, Jorge Luisprimary authorall editionsconfirmed
Buckley, PaulCover designersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Fernandez, JessePhotographersecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Guidall, GeorgeNarratorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed
Hurley, AndrewTranslatorsecondary authorsome editionsconfirmed


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In 1517, Fray Bartolomé de las Casas, feeling great pity for the Indians who grew worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines, proposed to Emperor Charles V that Negroes be brought to the isles of the Caribbean, so that they might grow worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines.
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The first complete, annotated collection of short stories in English by the twentieth-century Spanish master ranges from his 1935 debut up to his last work, "Shakespeare's Memory," in its first appearance in English.

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