Readers are invited to take a new look at "Labyrinths," the classic by Latin America's finest writer of the 20th century--a true literary sensation--with a new introduction by cyber-author William Gibson.
First, a memory: at the age of 19, I walked into a college elective course on Latin American literature, and was presented with a syllabus which included several works by Gabriel Garcia-Marquez, Carlos Fuentes, Manuel Puig, Julio Cortazar, and Jorge Luis Borges. We were to begin with Borges, which became a life-changing discovery. Since then, Borges has come to stand alongside Vladimir Nabokov as my favorite writer; they are two people whose writing I couldn't imagine not knowing. And LABYRINTHS is the place to begin - it's where I started, and once a year or so, it's the collection I most readily return to. Other reviewers have done an excellent job of summing up his style, so instead of rehashing, I'll zero in on some favorites: "Death And The Compass," which blends Borges' vast knowledge of global histories and religions with his love of pulp and genre conventions; the end results are a metaphysical mystery like no others. Or "The Sect Of The Phoenix," which - in the most simplistic analysis - is a birds-and-bees discourse undertaken with unusual originality, and enhanced with anthropological allegories. Other high-water marks include "A New Refutation Of Time," "The Garden Of Forking Paths," the brief "Borges And I" and "Pierre Menard, Author Of The Quixote." I would note that there's not a false moment to be found here, and after dozens of re-readings, I still enjoy finding new secrets hidden within these crystalline fictions, parables and essays. Anyone with a love of literature should get to know Borges. -David Alston
Satisfying estrangement for restless, unsold minds
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 17 years ago
I imagine in my mind what it would be like to have coffee with Luis Borges on a Sunday afternoon. Borges would be wearing a suit and have little cakes on hand, cane leaning on his armrest, as if nothing out of the ordinary were about to occur. Labyrinths is a useful first book to kick off a lifetime investigation into Borges' writings. Borges is truly original as an author as much for his intent as for his achieving it. Not quite Magic Realist, not quite Existentialist nor Kafkan: no one is Borges' equal in taking established assumptions and turning them into curious, elaborate, eruditely-supported flashing crossroads that defy simplification. Even the most unassuming essays like "The Fearful Sphere of Pascal," a subtle historical resketching, are characteristically erudite, yet sticky and complicate the subject irresistibly from your first reading onward. The prickly thorns reach out for your existing education on the subject and are designed to flesh out the glaring inconsistencies you will have read on the subject. The Garden of Forking Paths is an example of prime Borges storytelling at work. The story itself is a ruse. The first reading-through is not the time you are affected most by Borges, but rather only AFTER you have put the book down, when the Borges' physics of Being begin to gnaw at your world of compact, necessary daily conveniences, even in 2005 when we really ought to be intimately familiar with his universe by now. I think ultimately Borges sets tiny mind bombs set to detonate at exactly the time you seek to superimpose a Newtonian universe upon one of his stories, and ultimately, later, when you seek to superimpose order upon your own human experience. The entrance seems the same, but it has clearly moved by the time you exit the story. You become part of the puzzle, and that is the bedazzling signature of Borges, and his unassailable virtue. Everything solid in the universe of daily lived experience becomes compost and peacefully unsettled, as it originally was, before we came along to fix it up like morticians just before the funeral.
Exceptional Literature. A Work of Genius
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 21 years ago
I have difficulty imagining a world without the literature of Borges. It would be incomplete. His works - so unique, so eclectic, so intellectually stimulating, and so enjoyable - seem so essential. Jorge Luis Borges is one of the great writers of the twentieth century. His literary works include short stories, essays, and poetry, but not novels. He was never awarded the Nobel Literature Prize, a rather remarkable failure by the Nobel Committee. Borges will be read and respected long after many Nobel Prize winners of the last century have been forgotten. "Labyrinths" is an exceptional collection, great as an introduction to Borges, but equally suitable for the reader already familiar with his works. It consists of 23 of his best known stories, ten literary essays, eight short parables, an elegy to Borges from Borges himself, and a very useful bibliography. The detailed bibliography helps make Borges' works more accessible. In the last fifty years Borges' works in English have been published as a confusing mix of overlapping collections, largely due to complications regarding publishing rights. Translations also differ. The first sentence in The Form of the Sword (from Ficciones) - "His face was crossed with a rancorous scar: a nearly perfect ashen arc which sank into his temple on one side and his cheek on the other" - is recognizable, but transformed in The Shape of the Sword (from Labyrinths) - "A spiteful scar crossed his face: an ash-colored and nearly perfect arc creased his temple at one tip and his cheek at the other." While both translations are good, I suspect that the effort to master Spanish would be paid in full by the joy of reading Borges in his native language. Borges is difficult to characterize, but terms like metaphysical, philosophical, erudite, literate, unexpected, mysterious, and haunting are common adjectives. Like Franz Kafka, Edgar Allen Poe, and Umberto Eco, Borges offers unique perspectives and insights that startle us with originality and genius. He creates worlds that range from plausible to implausible to simply impossible, but under the spell of his imagination we accept unreality and illusion. The reader should peruse "Labyrinths" over time, rather than hurrying from story to story. There is no need to hurry as you undoubtedly will revisit these stories and essays. I find I return to Borges again and again with awe and appreciation, almost as though I am discovering him for the first time. I cannot imagine a world without Borges.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 22 years ago
Borges is quite possibly the finest writer of the 20th century. His anti-realist work, like that of Kafka, illustrates the fears and anxieties of our chaotic modernist age. All of Borges' stories are, at their most basic level, about the conflict between illusion and reality.In "Labyrinths" Borges is fascinated by the idea of the labyrinth, a construction intentionally created to confound man. His stories envision the universe as a kind of labyrinth, yet this view is not entirely pessimistic. "I believe that in the idea of a labyrinth there is hope or salvation," said Borges in an interview. "If we can be absolutely certain that our universe is an orderly one, we can have hope for personal salvation."The stories of Borges challenge traditional ideas of memory and immortality. In "Funes the Memorious," a boy is driven to madness because of his perfect memory: "He could reconstruct all his dreams. Two or three times he had reconstructed a whole day; he never hesitated; but each reconstruction had required a whole day." Borges' stories reflect his dark personal vision of man's position in a universe of chaos. "I have venerated the gradual invention of God," he writes. "Also of Heaven and Hell (an immortal renumeration, an immortal punishment). They are admirable and curious designs of man's imagination."Borges would like to believe that our universe is an orderly one but, in the end, he knows that it is not. We can never be absolutely certain that we fit in with any grand design, at least not until further notice. And if there is a center to our universe, then, in the words of Borges, "That terrible center is the Minotaur."
Ficciones: Brilliantly imaginative and challenging.
Published by Thriftbooks.com User , 25 years ago
Borges combines fiction, fact, science, imagination, and philosophy like no other. The stories in Ficciones demonstrate his unparalleled depth, each needs to be read several times to determine what transpires. He often allows for several levels of interpretation, for example 'The Garden of Forking Paths'; which perhaps serves as the best first story for one new to Borges, they will quickly learn just what they have sank their teeth into. Borges shatters such accepted notions as the linear nature of time, the limits of reality, the difference between fiction and history. He is simultaneously toying with modern man's universe and offering metaphysical theories. I don't think he is as appreciated in the US as in South America, where his influence is pervasive. Must read stories include "Theme of the Traitor and the Hero", "Three Versions of Judas" and "The Library of Babel"; indeed the entire book. His stories are even more profound in Spanish than English. This book is a must for any fan of literature.
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