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97 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The place to start with Borges
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...
Published on September 18, 2006 by David Alston

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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Replete with spelling errors
Both the back cover and James E. Irby claim to have revised this current edition; in the postscript to his original introduction Mr Irby states "this new revised edition...corrects misprints and other minor errors," if such a revision has taken place Mr Irby's eyesight must now resemble that of Borges when he was in his fifties because the book is filled with errors...
Published on July 6, 2011 by David Z. Black


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97 of 104 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars The place to start with Borges, September 18, 2006
By 
David Alston (Chapel Hill, NC, USA) - See all my reviews
(REAL NAME)   
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
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103 of 118 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars I had the pleasure to read borges, May 12, 2002
By 
Pablo Camporino (Buenos Aires City, Buenos Aires Argentina) - See all my reviews
I had the pleasure to read borges in his native languaje (Spanish). I even have the honor to consider him one of my own, since im from Argentina. Sometimes I regret that Maradona is a better example of an Argentinian than Borges, and better known worldwide.
I first red Borges when i was 15 (im 17 now), i started with "The Aleph", and i just didnt have the intelectaul requirements to understand it. Buy right now im reading "Personal Anthology", and i find it simply wonderfull.
His obsession with Mirrors, Cats and Labyrinths its very intresting. His conception of the world is strange and difficult to describe, and his love for knowledge and languajes is outstanding.
Borges gave his life to literature, and he died saying "I wasnt happy... books took my life". He took a sacrifice to teach others. He gave his whole life to his readers, and i, as a reader, am very very greatfull. Literature would have a huge hole without this genious of literature.
I apologize for any grammar mistakes... this is not my native languaje, but i thought an Argentine perpective of Borges was, at least usefull, if not necessary.
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85 of 98 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Exceptional Literature. A Work of Genius, April 13, 2002
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.
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24 of 26 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Ficciones: Brilliantly imaginative and challenging., June 11, 1998
By A Customer
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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12 of 12 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Strange Days, December 1, 2000
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."
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12 of 13 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Satisfying estrangement for restless, unsold minds, October 17, 2005
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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.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Decoke your mind with a trip in the intellectual fast lane, September 24, 1998
By A Customer
Jorge Luis Borges is the personification of one of the most famous rules in the style guide of the magazine The Economist -- 'be succinct'. He never wrote a novel, and his stories are often very short indeed. One critic thinks of them more as plotlines than as finished stories. But what stories! Terse, pared to the bone, free of anything extraneous, yet charged with wry and detached humor, Borges takes us to amazing and often horrific universes in which literary, mathematical, scientific and philosophical riddles are made real. Here are stories exploring the nature of existence and the meaning of infinity, but which still work as powerful narratives. The plainness of the prose (I have only read it in English translation, of course) only throws the emotional impact of Borges' tales into sharper relief. In 'Kafka and his precursors', Borges lampoons the very idea of authorship, yet his own influences are clear. He is as journalistic and rational as his heroes, Wells and Poe, and has a sharp, ironic style every bit as focused as Kafka, but if anything even harder hitting. The themes sound lofty, and they are -- but the execution is much more accessible than one would think, and it often has the beauty of the abbreviated, Japanese poetic form called the Haiku: I think of phrases such as "some birds, a horse, saved the ruins of an amphitheatre". My first copy of Labyrinths was given to me by my father for something to read while I was recuperating from a medical operation. I've read it so often it's fallen to pieces, and I've had to buy a second copy. If I only ever had one book, this would be it. Like a book in one of Borges' other collections, Labyrinths looks like an ordinary book from the outside. From the inside, it's infinite in extent.
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18 of 21 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars This book is NOT bad science fiction..., November 17, 2000
...it is an amazing collection of metaphysical labyrinths (hence the title). It contains Borges' metaphysical speculations in short story form. When reading the stories, one is reminded of the famous paradoxes of Zeno of Elea (you know, the arrow that cannot move through space, the runner that cannot run, etc.). DO NOT READ THIS AS SCIENCE FICTION, or you will miss the point. Read it for what it is - speculations about the metaphysical mysteries of possible worlds which closely resemble our own. It takes a moderate amount of patience for someone to work through his various labyrinths, but there are rich rewards. In short, ten bucks to gain greater insight into the implications of the laws that govern the world we live in is quite the bargain. This one won't collect dust as long as you don't hastily dismiss it as science fiction or pseudo-intellectual babble (as in other reviews). It would be impossible for me to recommend this book strongly enough, but I can say that it is one that you won't forget.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Timeless literature, July 29, 2006
This is a very fine collection, which in its condensed form manages to distill the essence of Borges' writing. The book contains selected fictions and essays of the great Argentine writer. A brief preface by Andre Maurois serves as a useful introduction to Borges.

In the short fictions and the essays that follow, the reader gets to freely partake in the world of Borges; all of his great themes and motifs are here - labyrinths, mirrors ("mirrors and copulations are abominable, because they increase the number of men"), time distortion (he was intrigued by Zeno's paradox since his childhood days), dreams in which characters are actors in others' dreams, infinite libraries that contain exhaustive sets of linguistic permutations...

Borges' writing style is precise and taut, almost scientific; one does not find extended, florid passages in his prose. The short fictions are not so much about poetic description (though Borges also wrote poetry) - instead the beauty of the writing lies in its ideas and their wonderful intelligence. Every word seems to have its specific function - this is doubly true because toward mid-life Borges lost his eyesight. He composed his wonderful thoughts and stories in his head and then had them dictated. For the average reader this means that to read Borges requires some effort and the full capture of one's attention - these are not writings that you breeze through, read once and then forget about. The enjoyment lies in the contemplation. Borges was a genuine `man of letters', probably one of the most widely read and erudite people in the recent history of literary discourse. He was especially fond of Berkeley and Schopenhauer and the philosophy of idealism is a topic that he found immensely interesting (this is evident in many of his stories). Today, the writings of Borges are not only treasures to lovers of literature - he is also highly regarded among some contemporary philosophers and scientists. Dan Dennett has written that while Borges is not traditionally considered a philosopher (he once defined philosophy as "that organization of the essential perplexities of man") in his brief meditations, he has given to philosophy some of the most fascinating thought-experiments. Dennett makes extensive use of `The Library of Babel' in particular. Oliver Sacks has often quoted from and referred to `Funes the Memorious' in his discussions on mnemonists.

"Labyrinths" is not by any means a complete collection of Borges' work - in fact, some of my favorite Borges pieces are not included here (`The South', `The Other Death'. `The Aleph' to name a few) but it is still an excellent resource. The translations are of high quality and for a reader not familiar with Borges this makes the perfect first book to buy.

Borges was truly a giant of South American and for that matter, world literature. Italo Calvino was right to be thoroughly exasperated that Borges never received the Nobel; he famously said that having given the Nobel to Marquez before Borges was tantamount to giving it to the son before the father. This is timeless literature, by which I mean that it belongs to a rare class of books which do not have an `expiry date' - one can keep returning to them, over and over, throughout life, reading and re-reading and never exhausting. I often imagine Borges as a kind of eternal figure - one thinks of him still inhabiting his beloved libraries, blind to the world and dreaming of labyrinths and mirrors that reflect infinity.
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10 of 11 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Replete with spelling errors, July 6, 2011
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This review is from: Labyrinths (New Directions Paperbook) (Paperback)
Both the back cover and James E. Irby claim to have revised this current edition; in the postscript to his original introduction Mr Irby states "this new revised edition...corrects misprints and other minor errors," if such a revision has taken place Mr Irby's eyesight must now resemble that of Borges when he was in his fifties because the book is filled with errors.

I'll admit it doesn't detract too much from enjoying the work but for the book to go through thirty-five printings with later additions/ editing and to still be like this?

Come on. Someone must not be taking their job seriously as a proofreader.

Aragentine, happly are two that come to mind though there are a dozen others.

The "invitation" by William Gibson is forgettable and adds little if anything to the work.
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Labyrinths (New Directions Paperbook)
Labyrinths (New Directions Paperbook) by Jorge Luis Borges (Paperback - May 17, 2007)
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