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A Universal History of Iniquity (Penguin Classics) Paperback – July 27, 2004


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Product Details

  • Paperback: 112 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics (July 27, 2004)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0142437891
  • ISBN-13: 978-0142437896
  • Product Dimensions: 5.1 x 0.3 x 7.8 inches
  • Shipping Weight: 4 ounces (View shipping rates and policies)
  • Average Customer Review: 4.2 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (8 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #537,436 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

Editorial Reviews

Review

"Hurley’s efforts at retranslating Borges are not anything but heroic. His versions are clear, elegant, crystalline." —Ilan Stavans, The Times Literary Supplement



"[Borges’s] stories often take the outer form of some genre from popular literature, a form proved by long usage, which creates almost mythical structures." —Italo Calvino

About the Author

Andrew Hurley is a translator of numerous works of literature, criticism, history, and memoir. He is professor emeritus at the University of Puerto Rico.
Andrew Hurley is a translator of numerous works of literature, criticism, history, and memoir. He is professor emeritus at the University of Puerto Rico.

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Most Helpful Customer Reviews

22 of 22 people found the following review helpful By Leonard Fleisig VINE VOICE on July 26, 2005
Format: Paperback
there is none that doeth good."

Jorge Luis Borges is thought by many to be the 20th century's greatest Spanish-language writer. Borges was a poet, essayist and short story writer. Although born in Argentina in 1899, Borges spent most of his early years in Europe until his family returned to Buenos Aires in 1921. "A Universal History of Iniquity", originally published as "A Universal History of Infamy" was published in 1935. The stories represent a collection of stories originally published in the Argentine newspaper Critica between 1933 and 1934. The stories were a huge success for the newspaper and established Borges as a writer of the first rank in Argentina.

Each of the stories in Universal History of Iniquity was designed by Borges to give his newspaper readers a small glimpse of the evil that men (and sometimes women) do. They vary from slave owning states in the pre-U.S. Civil War south in "The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell", to the China Seas in "The Widow Ching - Pirate", to feudal Japan in "The Uncivil Teacher of Court Etiquette Kotsuke no Suke", Turkistan in "Hakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv" and the mean streets of Buenos Aires in "Man on Pink Corner". Borges acknowledges that these stories were all loosely based on little known historical treatises, the Arabian Nights, and other pieces of fiction. Lazarus Morell was clearly an homage to Mark Twain's Mississippi River stories.

Although this is Borges earliest work one can already see the creative, almost whimsical approach he takes to the art of telling a story. He constantly throws the reader off balance and engages in little acts of mis-direction, perhaps starting a story by telling the reader he will not set out the facts behind a story and then proceed to do just that.
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4 of 4 people found the following review helpful By E. A Solinas HALL OF FAMETOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on February 17, 2008
Format: Paperback
Jorge Luis Borges is so well known for his magical, often strange fiction that it seems a bit weird that his first book was sort-of-nonfiction.

In fact, "A Universal History of Iniquity" is a fairly interesting book, in which Borges spins some fanciful details for the lives of great criminals. It's a fascinating read, though his writing is still dogged by first-time-writer awkwardness in some of the stories.

Using words as a paintbrush, Borges explores the slavery-era South, the Wild West, the medieval Middle-East and Japan, Chinese seas, and the dreary streets of twentieth-century American cities. And the people he checks out are almost as colourful, starting out with a silver-tongued, slave-murdering outlaw and a "simple" man who was convinced to impersonate an aristocrat.

But his iniquitous people get even more interesting after that -- a Chinese widow who became a magnificent pirate, a brutal street urchin who became a legendary Western outlaw, a prominent gangster, a Japanese courtier who destroyed a lord (and incurred the wrath of his samurai), and a veiled prophet who created a citadel of devoted followers, and his own dark religion... but whose veil hid a terrifying secret.

And Borges finishes it off with a few more tales more suited to his style -- first there's the gritty, quirky "Man on Pink Corner." And then he addresses some legendary iniquitous people -- from Swedenborg, Richard Francis Burton, "1001 Nights," and the readapted tale of a callous deacon's broken promises.

"A Universal History of Iniquity" was Borges' first collection of stories, and with the exception of a few short stories, his first published works.
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Format: Paperback
The short histories of miscreants that (mostly) constitute this volume
are re-writings of originals which Borges read elsewhere. They
nevertheless possess the quintessential characteristic that makes
Borges stories what they are: A reimagining of the world in terms of
new continents and aesthetically appealing concepts, but none the less
lived and human. The misdeeds told of here are not depicted with gore
to scare the user; they are in a sense the natural result of the evil
world in which their protagonists exist. One even gets the impression
that Borges prefers dark and sordid themes, but I think he simply sees
that the complexity of human life is revealed even more sumptuously
when told around such themes. In addition to the stories of iniquity,
this book contains short texts that Borges claims to have translated
directly form others, though this claim --according to the
translator's note-- is a bit doubtful. These mystic bits are more
similar to his later stories as in the The Aleph, and are just as
enjoyable as the preceding histories.

The delightful surprise for me in this book was the meticulous
footnotes and the "Note on the Translation" at the end. Andrew Hurley
has gone beyond the line of duty, and in addition to making an
excellent translation, enriched Borges' work with an enlightening text
on what Borges thinks of translations, and how this has guided this
translation. According to Borges, Hurley writes, every
individual translation is a new rendering of the original, a
replanting on a foreign soil.
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