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"The Mermaid's Child" by Jo Baker
In this fantastical novel, the acclaimed author of "Longbourn" brings us the magical story of a young girl in search of her mother - who just might be a mermaid.
Placing an exagerated emphasis on the `mind game' aspect of Borges' work - especially when referring to Fictions - tends to make one consider his writings as huge mystifications which, although interesting enough to read, are first and foremost games of no major consequence. This underestimates the ambiguity that Borges knowingly uses and strips his works of their speculations' positivity. The use of the `what if...?' motif, intrinsic to all fiction writing, is systematically employed by Borges in stories which, starting from axioms (explicitely acknowledged in `The Library of Babel'), explore themes from multiple viewpoints (cosmology, philosophy, theology, art...) and provide multiple levels of interpretation. Stories such as `Death and the Compass' and `The Garden of Forking Paths' are as much about the mechanics of suspense-laden literature as they are, among other things, about the relationship between someone and his/her intellectual and spiritual pursuits; pieces like `The Library of Babel' and `Funes the Memorious' are at once fairy tales and fascinating texts on knowledge. Through metaphor and allegory, the stories of `Fictions' provide a vision of the world devoid of restraining reflexes; reading them, one is forced to question his/her own habits (the same can be said about Borges' reviews of imaginary authors and books). The theme of the double, which was to become even more important later, here surfaces in stories where the notions of hero and villain are reconfigured. `Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius' and `Pierre Menard, author of the Quixote' are probably the best-known, but every piece manages to raise questions and problems, not always solving them. Essential reading.
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