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review 2014-11-01 00:00
Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges,Anthony Bonner,Anthony Kerrigan Challenging and full of ideas; I'm still chewing on it, two weeks out. If you haven't read dense fiction in awhile, I'd start with the stories in Part Two, then track back to Part One. Wasn't as much a fan of the ones that were meta-literary criticism, though these have many clever bits. All are stories within stories, intricate and clever. Faves include The Secret Miracle (about a writer!), The Garden of Forking Paths, The South (which Borges says in his intro is his best; I might disagree), Theme of the Traitor and Hero (for writers), Three Versions of Judas. I'd read Pierre Menard for a class, which ruined it for me; I didn't think I liked Funes, the Memorious but thinking back on it now I like it more.


“In all fiction, when a man is faced with alternatives he chooses one at the expense of the others. In the almost unfathomable [fiction of] Ts’ui Pên, he chooses— simultaneously—all of them. He thus *creates* various futures, various times which start others that will in their turn branch out and bifurcate in other times. This is the cause of the contradictions in the novel.

"Fang, let us say, has a secret. A stranger knocks at his door. Fang makes up his mind to kill him. Naturally there are various possible outcomes: Fang can kill the intruder, the intruder can kill Fang, both can be saved, both can die and so on and so on. In Ts’ui Pên's work, all the possible outcomes occur, each being the point of departure for other bifurcations. Sometimes, the pathways of this labyrinth converge. For example, you come to this house; but in other possible pasts you are my enemy; in others, my friend.” -- The Garden of Forking Paths, p 98

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review 2014-05-11 00:00
Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges,John Sturrock,Anthony Kerringan http://msarki.tumblr.com/post/85474584243/ficciones-by-jorge-luis-borges

As I was reading these stories, these ficciones, I was wondering where I might have heard this Borges voice before. And as I read it seemed to me that each story was important in its own rank as if derived from a serious study of an ancient text or the pouring over of history books detailing in no small measure the accounts that made up the results of whatever was being set forth. Of course, because the original Ficciones were written in Spanish and then translated to English, the stories additionally allowed me to consider that some of the numerous facts and details presented were possibly “made-up” and mingled together with others which obviously were not. The entire practice of a Borges composition was basically lost to a reader like me who is not “up” on his ancient history and could no more in these given instances discern a truth from a bald-faced lie. Nonetheless, the stories were written and translated with such abundant grace and were so well-crafted their meaning mattered little to me as I was obviously in the presence of genius, which is such a joy to behold when it actually occurs to me. Still, it bothered me incessantly as each story ended with the same result of my not understanding what I had just read but enjoying it nonetheless. I am apt to want to quit on something I do not understand, but the words were too powerful and crafted for me to end our affair.

Throughout my reading there wasn’t one story that made more of an impact on me than another, but taken as whole it reminded me by the end that another writer, a contemporary, whose voice I realized sounds just like Borges, or at least sounds like the translation of Ficciones that I am reviewing here. It felt a bit uncanny for me to think of my writer-friend Jason in light of reading a book written so long ago. I know Borges died blind in 1986 and was born in 1899. I know he originally published the first edition of this book in 1944 or thereabouts. Besides this unique voice I heard on every page, what made me think of my contemporary as I read Borges was that confident, loving tone of a very good teacher, a scholar relating something he found so interesting that he wants to excite us with his discovery too. The tone comes from a very nice man, a gentle soul who is humble and totally unpretentious even though his gifted presentation flies way over my head and is so far out of my league of understanding. Perhaps, for some readers of this text, understanding is not so hard to come by. But for me it was nearly impossible. In order to not frustrate myself I began to read these stories much as I read [a:Gilles Deleuze|13009|Gilles Deleuze|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1377593399p2/13009.jpg] say, and of course [a:Jason Schwartz|653615|Jason Schwartz|https://d.gr-assets.com/authors/1370111512p2/653615.jpg], and attempt to glean what I might from their words and simply enjoy the rest. I doubt there will ever come a time when I know enough history to connect more to these short stories, but I do know I expect I will not derive more pleasure in my newfound understanding than was my first exposure and initiation into this world.

But lo and behold miracles do occur and the last story filled my void. The understanding that had been missing over the last days spent with all these Borges pages came headlong to me, and not delivered as I was present in my trance as I had been in while reading the stories prior to this last one titled The South. No, for this one, the last one, I was fully alive and awake for his scrumptious ending of the way life goes sometimes. But instead of topping my already generous day I was directed by a Borges order to press on, that silly, my time had not come, as neither the hero’s had nor his aggressor’s, and that a knife fight must and will ensue, and the results are not a given though perhaps it could be perceived as somewhat predictable.
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review 2013-10-12 02:00
Ficciones (English Translation)
Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges,Anthony Bonner,Anthony Kerrigan Borges' Ficciones consists of two "books" of 17 short works of fiction published mostly in the 1940s. I'm told they're landmarks in not just Latin American fiction but modernist literature. Woven throughout the stories are fantastic elements I can well imagine fed into magical realism. I can't say I adored these--they are odd certainly, often surreal, dealing with such recurring devices as labyrinths, "illusory encyclopedias" and an "infinite library," which I'm told inspired both Umberto Eco and Terry Pratchett--I can see that. I do admire the inventive way in which Borges plays with time and reality. Many of these short works seem to toy with concepts of physics as much as using the fantastical. I think what distanced me was the style; it made for an emotionally arid experience. Some of the 17 shorts felt more like essays on imaginary subjects or puzzle pieces than stories; often they're pedantic, laden with literary allusions and including footnotes and even equations--yet rarely dialogue. At times the "I," present in most of these works, is identified as "Borges" himself and I found myself irked at times at such literary bagatelles--I couldn't sink into these stories. I (mildly) liked "The Circular Ruins," "The Garden of Forking Paths" and ""The Secret Miracle" (which is said to be the inspiration for the film, Inception) but by and large didn't find the stories engaging. Maybe something was lost in the translation? Also, after a while I found the plots rather predictable. When the twist came in "The Garden of Forking Paths" I wasn't the least bit surprised. The story might have had more impact if I'd read it in isolation, but by then a definite pattern had emerged. This anthology doesn't make me want to seek out more of Borges.
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review 2013-07-14 00:00
Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges The best Spanish language author I have found so far.

"The Library of Babel" is the clear winner for me, and reveals Borge's power to engage the imagination to create such fantastical imagery, despite our knowledge of how few pages the image will last...

This unreal collection will subvert the normal, entrance, seduce and open your eyes to the labyrinth of chaos that is your world.
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review 2013-07-09 20:22
Review: Ficciones
Ficciones - Jorge Luis Borges,Anthony Bonner,Anthony Kerrigan

This book tied my head in knots, but somehow I enjoyed it. And want to reread it, repeatedly, so my brain might be tied in knots again.

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