- Hardcover: 256 pages
- Publisher: Viking Adult (November 3, 2005)
- Language: English
- ISBN-10: 0670891800
- ISBN-13: 978-0670891801
- Product Dimensions: 6.3 x 1 x 9.5 inches
- Shipping Weight: 1 pounds
- Average Customer Review: 4.3 out of 5 stars See all reviews (26 customer reviews)
- Amazon Best Sellers Rank: #899,185 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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The Book of Imaginary Beings
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From Publishers Weekly
The master, writing with sometime collaborator Guerrero, compiled 82 one- and two-page descriptions of everything from "The Borametz" (a Chinese "plant shaped like a lamb, covered with golden fleece") to "The Simurgh" ("an immortal bird that makes its nest in the tree of science") and "The Zaratan" (a particularly cunning whale) in An Anthology of Fantastic Zoology in 1954. He added 34 more (and illustrations) for a 1967 edition, giving it the present title, and it was published in English in 1969. This edition, with fresh translations from Borges's Collected Fictions translator Hurley, and new illustrations from Caldecott-winner Sís, gives the beings new life. They prove the perfect foils for classic Borgesian musings on everything from biblical etymology to the underworld, giving the creatures particularly (and, via Sís, whimsically) vivid and perfectly scaled shape. "We do not know what the dragon means, just as we do not know the meaning of the universe," Borges (1899–1986) and Guerrero write in a preface, and the genius of this book is that it seems to easily contain the latter within it. (On sale Nov. 7)
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Of all the Latin American authors in this century, [Borges] is the most universal. (Harold Bloom) --This text refers to an out of print or unavailable edition of this title.
Top Customer Reviews
Ctesias, physician to the Persian emperor Artaxerxes Mnemon, compiled a deficient description of distant India in the fourth century B.C., in which he mentions the crocotta, a blend of a dog and a wolf. The Roman writer Pliny expands on this work by describing a cross between the hyena and antelope.
Kafka tells about an unnamed creature, that is half cat and half lamb, not only in appearance, but also in behavior. C. S. Lewis describes chilling monsters in his fantasy fiction Perelandra. Dante paints a vivid, horrifying picture of Cerberus, a creature with clawed hands that rip the skin of the souls of the damned as they file past him. In The Time Machine H. G. Wells predicts the future split of mankind into the weak, aristocratic Eloi living on the surface, and the carnivorous Morlocks, a race of underground proletarians that feast on the Eloi.
While I enjoyed perusing The Book of Imaginary Beings, this little collection is not among his best works. Perhaps, his structured approach, that of assembling accurate depictions of creatures from literature, unduely prevented Borges from freely exercising his own uniquely creative imagination. Nonetheless, the reader familiar with Borges will find this little book an interesting addition to a larger collection of his works.Read more ›
Wry and clever on some pages, deliciously ambiguous and foggy on others, Borges' compendium of curious creatures makes for enjoyable perusal. The only thing missing, of course, is more creatures. Borges himself begins the work with a disclaimer that any such undertaking can never be complete, yet there was plenty of room for more here. Some omissions are surprising. But in any case, for what it is (and not for what it's not), I can recommend the book without reservation.
I remember reading this book with disappointment. It seemed to me as dictionary- like works often do constructed in a formula- like fashion. Of course it has Borges tremendous learning, and his capacity to search through literatures no one else gets to , to find for the reader certain treats and insights. Yet on the whole like the fantastic creatures themselves the work does not have real life, and the deepest kind of human feeling. A minor work of a great master.
He compiles a fantastic group of creatures, but it lacks a lot of his clever writing and ideas.
It could have been put together by almost anyone honestly.
...while it's still a good book, it's not as amazing as it could have been if Borges would have let himself run a bit with it.
Lurking in the pages of this book, one finds such familiar beasts as dragons (of east and west), lamiae, harpies, the minotaur, satyrs, Valkyrie, manticores, golems, kami and the Lernaean hydra. Yet we also find more obscure and exotic things, like the Chinese ink monkey, Lamed Wufniks, creatures from American folklore (like the Hide-Behind and goofus bird) and a strange hairy beast seen in France. While werewolves and other shapeshifters were intentionally excluded, Borges also includes a great number of beasts from literature, ranging from the Behemoth of the Bible, Homer's scylla and the roc from the 1,001 Nights, to stranger things imagined by Poe, Kafka, H.G. Wells and C.S. Lewis. All in all we get well over a hundead beasts mentioned, each with a short story and description, and some with cute little cartoon illustrations.
The end result is quite a fun read.Read more ›
Most Recent Customer Reviews
I have often heard the following phrase about Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges: "I wanted so much to read, but It's too hard". Read morePublished 9 months ago by Solari
I thought this was some kind of story, but it is just a collection of imaginary characters and their descriptions; just like the title entails. I still enjoy it.Published 12 months ago by Andrea A.
Incredibly well written, this book offers a rather novel look and figurative creatures both well known and not. Read morePublished 19 months ago by T. Kersey
Just started reading this. I have read his other works, so I had to continue with this book.Published 21 months ago by liz hirsh
This book is fascinating and exhaustive. Furthermore, the author is one of the best in all of the Americas. Read morePublished on May 13, 2014 by Kyle Kendall
This is a well-written bestiary for readers of all ages. Borges wrote a great deal magical realism fiction novels, and this non-fiction bestiary based on research he performed as... Read morePublished on September 21, 2013 by Tim H.
I've always loved Borges for his minute scrutiny of big and little wonders. This book is a collection of short revelations about various monsters and creatures from myth and... Read morePublished on July 5, 2013 by S. Higley
Most of the entries are quite short. The list is not inexhaustible, and this book could easily be read in one sitting. Read morePublished on May 11, 2013 by Piglet2