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Ficciones Paperback – February 1, 1994

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Editorial Reviews Review

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


“Without Borges the modern Latin American novel simply would not exist.” –Carlos Fuentes

“In resounding the note of the marvelous last struck in English by Wells and Chesterson, in permitting infinity to enter and distort his imagination, [Borges] has lifted fiction away from the flat earth where most of our novels and short stories still take place.” –John Updike

“These brief Ficciones have to be read one at a time, and slowly; then they throb with uncanny and haunting power” –The Atlantic Monthly

“Borges is the most important Spanish-language writer since Cervantes.” –Mario Vargas Llosa

“[Borges] engages the heart as well as the intelligence; his genius strikes, undismayed as Theseus, through the labyrinths of our life and time to the accomplishment of new, inspiring and stunningly beautiful work.” –John Barth

“One of the finest, subtlest, and least appreciated of comedians…[Borges is] a central fact of Western culture.” –The Washington Post Book World

“Borges’s composed, carefully wrought, gnarled style is at once the means of his art and its object—his way of ordering and giving meaning to the bizarre and terrifying world he creates: it is a brilliant, burnished instrument, and it is quite adequate to the extreme demands his baroque imagination makes of it . . . . Absolutely and most vividly original.”
Saturday Review


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 174 pages
  • Publisher: Grove Press (February 1, 1994)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0802130305
  • ISBN-13: 978-0802130303
  • Product Dimensions: 0.5 x 5.5 x 8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 12 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.8 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (85 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #15,350 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

75 of 77 people found the following review helpful By Christopher Culver TOP 1000 REVIEWER on July 11, 2002
Format: Paperback
While only a slim volume of about 100 pages, Jorge Luis Borges' FICCIONES is one of the 20th century's most original and influential works. A set of two collections of short stories, ''The Garden of Forking Paths" and ''Artifices", FICCIONES was the world's first exposure to the Argentinian writer and Borges' all-around best work.
The nature of the stories which Borges crafted is so unique and subtle that it defies description. He portrayed unusual occurrences, and peppered his stories, narrated in a faux-scholastic style, with references to colourful sources that, while sounding plausible, are of Borges' own invention and can be found in no library. In the first story of FICCIONES, ''Tlon, Uqbar, Orbius Tertius," he imagines an encyclopedia mysteriously containing a entry for a country that is not to be found - at least not in our reality. ''The Approach to Al-Mutasim" is a review of a book which doesn't exist; here, in a reversal of the usual order, the review brings the book into being. ''The Babylon Lottery" and ''The Library of Babel" are both clever metaphors for the human world. In the first, Borges describes an ancient society which lets all things be decided by chance. In the second, which introduced the concept of the infinite library, the story's setting is an unimaginably vast archive whose librarians from birth to death care for books whose meanings cannot be deciphered.
Jorge Luis Borges often used several key motifs in his books, such as mirrors and labyrinths, and it is this reuse of symbols which has created the ''Borgesian" genre. These symbols and the offbeat constructions which Borges almost singlehandedly invented went on to inspire legions of writers, including Gene Wolfe and Salman Rushdie.
The translation of FICCIONES has long been a divisive issue.
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35 of 36 people found the following review helpful By Jason Baer on December 12, 2001
Format: Paperback
After years of running into this name, "Borges," I felt as though I were falling short of my expectations as a reader to ignore this man and his colossal reputation. Ficciones seemed to be his most widely read and critically acclaimed book, and so I inevitably found myself reading it.
To try to capture the essence of Borges in a handful of words is like trying to capture the Lochness Monster on film: impossible, but frequently attempted. With that understanding in mind, here's my assessment:
All of Borges's stories are very different, and yet they all share a common sensibility, one of understated but very deeply felt anguish. This is not the anguish of an ordinary writer feeling sorry for himself and his fate. This anguish is deep, metaphysical. You get the sense that Borges views life and his fellow human beings at a distance, and yet is able to see more and understand more from this distance. He does not attempt to explain; he simply wants to impart his sense of awe, wonder, and inevitability.
The subject matter varies widely: an infinite library, a scholarly review of the life's work of a fictional writer, a boy with a perfect memory. Some of his stories are Kafka-esqe in a nightmarish sense, while others have the intellectual playfulness of an M.C. Escher drawing: what you thought was 'up' is really 'down,' and yet once you see the big picture you realize that this is the only way it can be. The endings are as inevitable as death, and yet you rarely see them coming.
I'm not so sure that Borges wrote his stories with a specific point or message, although many of them seem to have one. I believe that most of these stories are simply meant to inspire thought and contemplation of the very issues that Borges had been thinking of when he wrote them.
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30 of 32 people found the following review helpful By Maximiliano F Yofre on November 22, 2004
Format: Paperback
Jorge Luis Borges (1899 - 1986) was one of the greatest Argentinean's writers of all times. Since 1970 he was candidate to Nobel Literature Prize, which he never attained. In 1980 he was bestowed Cervantes Prize, the Spanish major literary award. He influenced two generations of Latin American writers. Even those who despised him as "elitist writer" admired his powerful imagination and writing skills.

Jorge Luis was born in a high-class family. He was bilingual, due to his English grandmother. He moved with his parents to Europe where he resided from 1914 till 1921. When he returned to Argentina he fells in love with Buenos Aires. This love affaire begot several poetry volumes and inspired him many stories.
Borges was an omnivorous reader with a wide range of interests: from Cabbala thru Golems; from Mythology thru Gaucho's hardships; from Immortality thru Infinite; from Buddhism thru Christianity. His tales reflect this interest.

The present volume encompasses two of his earlier stories collections: "The Garden of Forking Paths" (1941) and "Fictions" (1944) and constitute a fair sample of his writings and style.
"The Babylon Lottery" describes an improbable world, ruled by fate embodied in a lottery game. "Funes the Memorious" elaborates on what happens if a person may recall every instant of his whole life. "The Garden of Forking Paths" is an elegant spy's story, mixed with subtle laberynths. "The Library of Babel", is one of Borge's best known texts, where he speculate on an infinite library containing every volume of human literature and gave way to mathematical speculation.
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