Collected Fictions

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Overview

The complete fiction of Jorge Luis Borges, whom Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa calls “the most important Spanish-language writer since Cervantes”

A New York Times Notable Book
The International Bestseller

For the first time in English, all of the best Latin American writer Jorge Luis Borges’s dazzling fictions are collected in a single volume in brilliant new translations by Andrew Hurley. From his 1935...

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Overview

The complete fiction of Jorge Luis Borges, whom Nobel Prize winner Mario Vargas Llosa calls “the most important Spanish-language writer since Cervantes”

A New York Times Notable Book
The International Bestseller

For the first time in English, all of the best Latin American writer Jorge Luis Borges’s dazzling fictions are collected in a single volume in brilliant new translations by Andrew Hurley. From his 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity through his immensely influential collections Ficciones and The Aleph, the enigmatic prose poems of The Maker, up to his final work in the 1980s, Shakespeare’s Memory, these enigmatic, elaborate, imaginative inventions display Borges’s talent for turning fiction on its head by playing with form and genre and toying with language.

For some fifty years, in intriguing and ingenious fictions that reimagined the very form of the short story, Borges returned again and again to his celebrated themes: dreams, duels, labyrinths, mirrors, infinite libraries, the manipulations of chance, gauchos, knife fighters, tigers, and the elusive nature of identity itself. Playfully experimenting with ostensibly subliterary genres, Borges took the detective story and turned it into metaphysics; he took fantasy writing and made it, with its questioning and reinventing of everyday reality, central to the craft of fiction; he took the literary essay and put it to use reviewing wholly imaginary books.

Commemorating the 100th anniversary of his birth, this edition at last brings together all of Borges’s magical short stories. Collected Fictions is the definitive one-volume compendium for all those who have long loved Borges, and a superb introduction to the Argentine master’s work for those who have yet to discover him.

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Editorial Reviews

From Barnes & Noble
International literary icon Jorge Luis Borges has been called be the greatest Spanish-language writer of this century. Now, for the first time in English, all of Borges's magical fictions are collected in a single volume -- from his 1935 debut with The Universal History of Iniquity through his immensely influential collections Fictions and The Aleph, up to his final work in the 1980s, the previously uncollected Shakespeare's Memory. In Andrew Hurley's vivid new translations, familiar stories such as "Funes, His Memory," "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote," and "The Library of Babel" will delight longtime Borges fans and captivate a new generation of readers. Published on the eve of the centenary of Borges's birth, Collected Fictions is the first book in a projected three-volume compendium of Borges's works that will include a collection of his poetry and a selection of his nonfiction writings.

Readers familiar with Borges's fictions will find in Hurley's new translation a uniquely Borgesian twist: Just as Borges's Pierre Menard struggled to recompose Miguel de Cervantes' Quixote from a remove of three centuries, only to find that verbatim passages had taken on a new context, a new reading of these stories invests them with their own new meanings and contexts. Similarly, knowing that Borges intended "The Library of Babel" as a nightmarish allegory for the nine years he spent cataloging the holdings of a municipal library puts a new, earthbound spin on this intricate fantasy. Certain aspects of Hurley's translation may shock the seasoned reader: The story that has long appeared under the title "Funes the Memorious" has here been changed to "Funes, His Memory." Despite the argument Hurley makes for changing the title, the neologism "memorious" is certainly more sonorous and better recalls the Spanish ("Funes el memorioso").

However titled, "Funes" is a brilliant exposition of the limitations of language and the Heraclitean philosophy that all is change and becoming, that "you can never step into the same river twice."

Phoebe-Lou Adams
A Borges invention can start anywhere...it always takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride into some previously unsuspected dimension.
The Atlantic Monthly
Richard Bernstein
Marvelous...one of the most remarkable writers of our century. —The New York Times
Publishers Weekly - Publisher's Weekly
Undeniably one of the most influential writers to emerge in this century from Latin America or anywhere else, Borges (1899-1986) is best known for his short stories, all of which appear here for the first time in one volume, translated and annotated by University of Puerto Rico professor Hurley. Many of the stories return to the same set of images and themes that mark Borges's best known work: the code of ethics embraced by gauchos, knifefighters and outlaws; labyrinths; confrontations with one's doppelganger; and discoveries of artifacts from other worlds (an encyclopedia of a mysterious region in Iraq; a strange disc that has only one side and that gives a king his power; a menacing book that infinitely multiplies its own pages; fragmentary manuscripts that narrate otherworldly accounts of lands of the immortals). Less familiar are episodes that narrate the violent, sordid careers of pirates and outlaws like Billy the Kid (particularly in the early collection A Universal History of Iniquity) or attempts to dramatize the consciousness of Shakespeare or Homer. Elusive, erudite, melancholic, Borges's fiction will intrigue the general reader as well as the scholar. This is the first in a series of three new translations (including the Collected Poems and Collected Nonfictions, all timed to coincide with the centennial of the author's birth), which will offer an alternative to the extensive but very controversial collaborations between Borges and Norman Thomas di Giovanni. (PW best book of 1998)
Library Journal
Borges, one of the giants of 20th-century world literature and a pioneer of Spanish American letters, is the master of the short tale he called ficcion. Not quite short stories, Borgesian narrations are metaphysical speculation, the elaborate working out of a hypothetical premise or philosophical concept. Published partly in commemoration of the centennial of his birth, this collection marks the first time that all his narratives, stretching over 50 years, have been compiled in one volume in English. Except for 'Shakespeare's Memory,' which appears here in translation for the first time, the other seven books have appeared separately. The Reign of Labyrinths (1964), the staple anthology for years, will now more than likely be usurped by this more modern translation, which has useful notes about Argentine history and culture. What a thrill to find old favorites -- 'The Circular Ruins,' 'Pierre Menard,' 'The Library of Babel' -- updated and boxed with lesser-known gems. An exciting publication event and an indispensable acquisition for all libraries. -- Lawrence Olszewski, OCLC Library, Dublin, Ohio
Booknews
A collection of all of the Latin American writer's stories, from 1935 through 1983, in new translation. A section of notes on the stories reveals insights in Argentinian history, literature, and culture. Includes the previously uncollected Shakespeare's Memory (1983). This is the first installment of the publisher's three-volume publication project of the works of Borges. No index. Annotation c. by Book News, Inc., Portland, Or.
Phoebe-Lou Adams
A Borges invention can start anywhere...it always takes the reader on a roller-coaster ride into some previously unsuspected dimension.
The Atlantic Monthly
Mavis Gallant
Some [of these stories] stand among the great short fiction of the century....There was no one like Borges.
The New York Times Book Review
Marc Berley
It offers, in one volume and in a fine translation by Andrew Hurley, all of Borges's remarkable and often indelible meditations on time, memory, infinity, the meaning of life, the value of art, chance, morality, and other subjects that are as fit for philosophical as for literary investigation.
Commentary
Jamie James
Dazzling. . .Collected Fictions gathers together all of Borges' fictions, newly translated with stylish scrupulosity by Andrew Hurley.
The Wall Street Journal
Melvin Jules Bukiet
An unparalleled treasury of marvels...Borges is more than a stunning storyteller and a brilliant stylist, he's a human mirror who reflects the spirit of his time.
Chicago Tribune Books
Richard Bernstein
Marvelous...one of the most remarkable writers of our century.
The New York Times
Kirkus Reviews
Mirrors, labyrinths, libraries, gardens, doppelgangers, knife fights, and tigers recur memorably in these witty, colorful tales that have exerted an incalculable influence on the past half-century's fiction. For this first installment in a projected three-volume series of Borges' work (to be followed by poetry and nonfiction collections), translator-editor Hurley has included the contents of seven previously published books (notably, the seminal Ficciones), plus previously untranslated work from the '80s (of which Shakespeare's Memory most successfully recapitulates Borges' urbane bridging of temporal and imaginary 'worlds').

Gloriously ruminative and bookish, Borges's teasing fictions skillfully absorb the influences of his native Argentina's indigenous folktales, various world mythologies, Anglo-Saxon verse, Icelandic saga, Poe, Cervantes, and Chesterton, along with numerous other literary touchstones. Among the best: the arcane pseudo-history of an imaginary planet ('Tlon, Ugbar, Orbus Tertius'); a memorable realization of Borges's credo that all 'new' stories are inevitably old ones retold ('Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote'); a clever lampooning of the author's own polymathism ('Funes the Memorious'); and a supremely ingenious detective story ('Death and the Compass'). Authoritative testimony to the virtues of eclecticism and cosmopolitanism, and a matchless gift to readers that belongs, as the old saying goes, in every library.

Library Journal - Booksmack!
Impossible, impassable. I am only able to read about one in every ten of these 101 stories before I give up in frustration. It's probably that I'm just not smart enough. Though I am reminded of Calvino, I am also reminded of Poe-without the ease or immediacy of either. The well-written entries show an erudite mind and a lush, wonderful, absolutely wild imagination. In order to sink my teeth into it, I need to immerse quite fully. So while Señor B. will be relieved to know that he is a definite desert-island pick, he'll be sad to learn that he's not a hey-we-gotta-get-to-basketball-practice-in-twenty-minutes-so-feed-the-dog-and-remember-to-drop-off-the-rent-on-they-way type pick. Did I tell you to feed the dog? Because she has to go out. Like, now. If I were recommending his fiction, and I am, I'd go with the classic Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings. You can get the damned thing for a penny on the Internet, which is itself a miracle. [Out of print; available used online.—Ed.] Douglas Lord, "Books for Dudes", Booksmack!, 12/2/10
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780140286809
  • Publisher: Penguin Group (USA) Incorporated
  • Publication date: 9/28/1999
  • Pages: 576
  • Sales rank: 137,250
  • Product dimensions: 5.65 (w) x 8.48 (h) x 1.49 (d)

Meet the Author

Jorge Luis Borges

One of the twentieth century's greatest writers, Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) published numerous collections of poems, essays, and fiction, Director of the National Library of Buenos Aires from 1955 to 1973, Borges was awarded the degree of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, from both Columbia and Oxford. He received various literary awards over the course of his career, including the International Publisher's Prize (which he shared with Samuel Beckett in 1961), the Jerusalem Prize, and the Alfonso Reyes Prize.
Andrew Hurley is a translator of numerous works of literature, criticism, history, and memoir. He is professor emeritus at the University of Puerto Rico.

Biography

Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires in 1899 and was educated in Europe. One of the most widely acclaimed writers of the 20th century, he published many collections of poems, essays, and short stories before his death in Geneva in June 1986.

In 1961, Borges shared the International Publishers' prize with Samuel Beckett. In 1971, Columbia University awarded him the first of many degrees of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa, that he was to receive from the English-speaking world -- eventually, the list included both Oxford and Cambridge universities. In 1971 he also received the fifth biennial Jerusalem Prize and in 1973 was given one of Mexico's most prestigious cultural awards, the Alfonso Reyes Prize. In 1980 he shared with Gerardo Diego the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish-speaking world's highest literary accolade.

Borges was director of the Argentine National Library from 1955 until 1973.

Author biography courtesy of Penguin Group (USA)

Good To Know

Borges began writing at the age of six, mostly fantasy stories inspired by Cervantes. When he was nine, he translated Oscar Wilde's The Happy Prince into Spanish, and the piece was published in El País, a local newspaper.

To the outrage of his followers, Borges never did receive the Nobel prize. "Not granting me the Nobel Prize has become a Scandinavian tradition," Borges once quipped. "Since I was born they have not been granting it to me."

Several of Borges's short stories have been adapted for the movies, most recently Death and the Compass (1996), directed by Alex Cox (Repo Man).

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    1. Date of Birth:
      August 24, 1899
    2. Place of Birth:
      Buenos Aires, Argentina
    1. Date of Death:
      June 14, 1986
    2. Place of Death:
      Geneva, Switzerland
    1. Education:
      B.A., Collège Calvin de Genève, 1914

Table of Contents

Collected Fictions A Universal History of Iniquity (1935)
Preface to the First Edition
Preface to the 1954 Edition
The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell
The Improbable Impostor Tom Castro
The Widow Ching - Pirate
Monk Eastman, Purveyor of Iniquities
The Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan
The Uncivil Teacher of Court Etiquette Kôtsuké no Suké
Hakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv
Man on Pink Corner
Et cetera
Index of Sources

Fictions (1944)

The Garden of Forking Paths (1941)
Foreword
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim
Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote
The Circular Ruins
The Lottery in Babylon
A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain
The Library of Babel
The Garden of Forking Paths

Artifices (1944)
Foreword
Funes, His Memory
The Shape of the Sword
The Theme of the Traitor and the Hero
Death and the Compass
The Secret Miracle
Three Versions of Judas
The End
The Cult of the Phoenix
The South

The Aleph (1949)
The Immortal
The Dead Man
The Theologians
Story of the Warrior and the Captive Maiden
A Biography of Tadeo Isidoro Cruz (1829-1874)
Emma Zunz
The House of Asterion
The Other Death
Deutsches Requiem
Avveroës' Search
The Zahir
The Writing of the God
Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth
The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths
The Wait
The Man on the Threshold
The Aleph
Afterword

The Maker (1960)
Foreword: For Leopoldo Lugones
The Maker
Dreamtigers
A Dialog About a Dialog
Toenails
Covered Mirrors
Argumentum Ornithologicum
The Captive
The Mountebank
Delia Elena San Marco
A Dialog Between Dead Men
The Plot
A Problem
The Yellow Rose
The Witness
Martin Fierro
Mutations
Parable of Cervantes and the Quixote
Paradiso, XXXI, 108
Parable of the Palace
Everything and Nothing
Ragnarök
Inferno, I, 32
Borges and I

Museum
On Exactitude in Science
In Memoriam, J.F.K.
Afterword

In Praise of Darkness (1969)
Foreword
The Ethnographer
Pedro Salvadores
Legend
A Prayer
His End and His Beginning

Brodie's Report (1970)
Foreword
The Interloper
Unworthy
The Story from Rosendo Juárez
The Encounter
Juan Muraña
The Elderly Lady
The Duel
The Other Duel
Guayaquil
The Gospel According to Mark
Brodie's Report

The Book of Sand (1975)
The Other
Ulrikke
The Congress
There Are More Things
The Sect of the Thirty
The Night of the Gifts
The Mirror and the Mask
"Undr"
A Weary Man's Utopia
The Bribe
Avelino Arredondo
The Disk
The Book of Sand
Afterword

Shakespeare's Memory (1983)
August 25, 1983
Blue Tigers
The Rose of Paracelsus
Shakespeare's Memory

A Note on the Translation
Acknowledgments
Notes to the Fictions

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First Chapter


Chapter One

The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell

THE REMOTE CAUSE

In 1517, Fray Bartolome de las Casas, feeling great pity for the Indians who grew worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines, proposed to Emperor Charles V that Negroes be brought to the isles of the Caribbean, so that they might grow worn and lean in the drudging infernos of the Antillean gold mines. To that odd variant on the species philanthropist we owe an infinitude of things: W. C. Handy's blues; the success achieved in Paris by the Uruguayan attorney-painter Pedro Figari; the fine runaway-slave prose of the likewise Uruguayan Vicente Rossi; the mythological stature of Abraham Lincoln; the half-million dead of the War of Secession; the $3.3 billion spent on military pensions; the statue of the imaginary semblance of Antonio (Falucho) Ruiz; the inclusion of the verb "lynch" in respectable dictionaries; the impetuous King Vidor film Hallelujah; the stout bayonet charge of the regiment of "Blacks and Tans" (the color of their skins, not their uniforms) against that famous hill near Montevideo; the gracefulness of certain elegant young ladies; the black man who killed Martin Fierro; that deplorable rumba The Peanut-Seller; the arrested and imprisoned Napoleonism of Toussaint L'Ouverture; the cross and the serpent in Haiti; the blood of goats whose throats are slashed by the papalois machete; the habanera that is the mother of the tango; the candombe.

    And yet another thing: the evil and magnificent existence of the cruel redeemer Lazarus Morell.

THE PLACE

The Father of Waters, the Mississippi, the grandest river in the world, was the worthy stage for the deeds of that incomparable blackguard. (Alvarez de Pineda discovered this great river, though it was first explored by Hernando de Soto, conqueror of Peru, who whiled away his months in the prison of the Inca Atahualpa teaching his jailer chess. When de Soto died, the river's waters were his grave.)

    The Mississippi is a broad-chested river, a dark and infinite brother of the Parana, the Uruguay, the Amazon, and the Orinoco. It is a river of mulatto-hued water; more than four hundred million tons of mud, carried by that waters, insult the Gulf of Mexico each year. All that venerable and ancient waste has created a delta where gigantic swamp cypresses grow from the slough of a continent in perpetual dissolution and where labyrinths of clay, dead fish, and swamp reeds push out the borders and extend the peace of their fetid empire. Upstream, Arkansas and Ohio have their bottomlands, too, populated by a jaundiced and hungry-looking race, prone to fevers, whose eyes gleam at the sight of stone and iron, for they know only sand and driftwood and muddy water.

THE MEN

In the early nineteenth century (the period that interests us) the vast cotton plantations on the riverbanks were worked from sunup to sundown by Negro slaves. They slept in wooden cabins on dirt floors. Apart from the mother-child relationship, kinship was conventional and murky; the slaves had given names, but not always surname. They did not know how to read. Their soft falsetto voices sang an English of drawn-out vowels, They worked in rows, stooped under the overseer's lash. They would try to escape, and men with full beards would leap astride beautiful horses to hunt them down with baying dogs.

    Onto an alluvium of beastlike hopefulness and African fear there had sifted the words of the Scripture; their faith, therefore, was Christian. Go down, Moses, they would sing, low and in unison. The Mississippi served them as a magnificent image of the sordid Jordan.

    The owners of that hard-worked land and those bands of Negroes were idlers, greedy gentlemen with long hair who lived in wide-fronted mansions that looked out upon the river--their porches always pseudo-Greek with columns made of soft white pine. Good slaves cost a thousand dollars, but they didn't last long. Some were so ungrateful as to sicken and die. A man had to get the most he could out of such uncertain investments. That was why the slaves were in the fields from sunup to sundown; that was why the fields were made to yield up their cotton or tobacco or sugarcane every year. The female soil, worn and haggard from bearing that impatient culture's get, was left barren within a few years, and a formless, clayey desert crept into the plantations.

    On broken-down farms, on the outskirts of the cities, in dense fields of sugarcane, and on abject mud flats lived the "poor whites"; they were fishermen, sometime hunters, horse thieves. They would sometimes even beg pieces of stolen food from the Negroes. And yet in their prostration they held one point of pride--their blood, untainted by "the cross of color" and unmixed. Lazarus Morell was one of these men.

THE MAN

The daguerreotypes printed in American magazines are not actually of Morell. That absence of a genuine likeness of a man as memorable and famous as Morell cannot be coincidental. It is probably safe to assume that Morell refused to sit for the silvered plate--essentially; so as to leave no pointless traces; incidentally, so as to enhance his mystery.... We do know, however: that he was not particularly good-looking as a young man and that his close-set eyes and thin lips did not conspire in his favor. The years, as time went on, imparted to him that peculiar majesty that white-haired blackguards, successful (and unpunished) criminals, seem generally to possess. He was a Southern gentleman of the old school, in spite of his impoverished childhood and his shameful life. He was not ignorant of the Scriptures, and he preached with singular conviction. "I once saw Lazarus Morell in the pulpit," wrote the owner of a gambling house in Baton Rouge, "and I heard his edifying words and saw the tears come to his eyes. I knew he was a fornicator, a nigger-stealer, and a murderer in the sight of the Lord, but tears came to my eyes too."

    Another testimony to those holy outpourings is provided by Morell himself: "I opened the Bible at random, put my finger on the first verse that came to hand--St. Paul it was--and preached for an hour and twenty minutes. Crenshaw and the boys didn't put that time to bad use, neither, for they rounded up all the folks' horses and made off with 'em. We sold 'em in the state of Arkansas, all but one bay stallion, the most spirited thing you ever laid eyes on, that I kept for myself. Crenshaw had his eye on that horse, too, but I convinced him it warn't the horse for him?

THE METHOD

Horses stolen in one state and sold in another were but the merest digression in Morell's criminal career, but they did prefigure the method that would assure him his place in a Universal History of Iniquity. His method was unique not only because of the sui generis circumstances that shaped it, but also because of the depravity it required, its vile manipulation of trust, and its gradual evolution, like the terrifying unfolding of a nightmare. Al Capone and Bugs Moran operate with lavish capital and subservient machine guns in a great city, but their business is vulgar. They fight for a monopoly, and that is the extent of it .... In terms of numbers, Morell at one time could command more than a thousand sworn confederates. There were two hundred in the Heads, or General Council, and it was the Heads that gave the orders that the other eight hundred followed. These "strikers," as they were called, ran all the risk. If they stepped out of line, they would be handed over to the law or a rock would be tied to their feet and their bodies would be sunk in the swirling waters of the river. Often, these men were mulattoes. Their wicked mission was this:

    In a momentary wealth of gold and silver rings, to inspire respect, they would roam the vast plantations of the South. They would choose some wretched black man and offer him his freedom. They would tell him that if he'd run away from his master and allow them to resell him on another plantation far away, they would give him a share of the money and help him escape a second time. Then, they said, they'd convey him to free soil... Money and freedom--ringing silver dollars and freedom to boot--what greater temptation could they hold out to him? The slave would work up the courage for his first escape.

    The river was a natural highway. A canoe, the hold of a riverboat, a barge, a raft as big as the sky with a pilothouse on the bow or with a roof of canvas sheeting ... the place didn't matter; what mattered was knowing that you were moving, and that you were safe on the unwearying river.... They would sell him on another plantation. He would run away again, to the sugarcane fields or the gullies. And it would be then that the fearsome and terrible benefactors (whom he was beginning to distrust by now) would bring up obscure "expenses" and fell him they had to sell him one last time. When he escaped the next time, they told him, they'd give him his percentage of the two sales, and his liberty. The man would let himself be sold, he would work for a while, and then he would risk the dogs and whips and try to escape on his own. He would be brought back bloody, sweaty, desperate, and tired.

THE FINAL FREEDOM

We have not yet considered the legal aspect of the crime. The Negro would not be put up for sale by Morell's henchmen until his escape had been advertised and a reward offered for his capture. At that point, anybody could lay hold of the slave. Thus, when he was later sold, it was only a breach of trust, not stealing, and it was pointless for the owner to go to law, since he'd never recover his losses.

    All this was calculated to leave Morell's mind at ease, but not forever. The Negro could talk; the Negro was capable, out of pure gratitude or misery, of talking. A few drinks of rye whisky in a whorehouse in Cairo, Illinois, where the slave-born son of a bitch went to squander some of those silver dollars burning a hole in his pocket (and that they'd no reason to give him, when it came right down to it), and the cat would be out of the bag. The Abolitionist Party was making things hot in the North during this time--a mob of dangerous madmen who denied a man's right to his men property, preached the freeing of the blacks, and incited the slaves to rebellion. Morell was not about to let himself be confused with those anarchists. He was no Yankee, he was a Southerner, a white man, the son and grandson of white men, and he hoped someday to retire from his business and be a gentleman and possess his own league upon league of cotton fields and his own bow-backed rows of slaves. With his experience, he was not a man to take pointless risks.

    The runaway expected his freedom. Therefore, the nebulous mulattoes of Lazarus Morell would give a sign (which might have been no more than a wink) and the runaway would be freed from sight, hearing, touch, daylight, iniquity, time, benefactors, mercy, air, dogs, the universe, hope, sweat--and from himself. A bullet, a low thrust with a blade, a knock on the head, and the turtles and catfish of the Mississippi would be left to keep the secret among themselves.

THE CATASTROPHE

Manned by trustworthy fellows, the business was bound to prosper. By early 1834, some seventy Negro slaves had been "emancipated" by Morell, and others were ready to follow their fortunate forerunners. The zone of operations was larger now, and new members had to be admitted to the gang. Among those who took the oath, there was one young man, Virgil Stewart, from Arkansas, who very soon distinguished himself by his cruelty. This boy was the nephew of a gentleman who had lost a great number of slaves. In August of 1834, he broke his vow and denounced Morell and the others. Morell's house in New Orleans was surrounded by the authorities, but Morell somehow (owing to some oversight--or a bribe in the right quarters) managed to escape.

    Three days passed. Morell hid for that period in an old house with vine-covered courtyards and statues, on Toulouse Street. Apparently he had almost nothing to eat and spent his days roaming barefoot through the large, dark rooms, smoking a thoughtful cheroot. Through a slave in the house, he sent two letters to Natchez and another to Red River. On the fourth day, three men entered the house; they sat talking things over with Morell until almost daybreak. On the fifth day, Morell got out of bed at nightfall, borrowed a razor, and carefully shaved off his beard. He then dressed and left the house. Slowly and calmly he made his way through the northern outskirts of the city. When be reached open country, out in the bottomlands of the Mississippi, he breathed easier.

    His plan was one of drunken courage. He proposed to exploit the last men that still owed him respect: the accommodating Negroes of the Southland themselves. These men had seen their comrades run away, and had not seen them brought back. They thought, therefore, that they'd found freedom. Morell's plan called for a general uprising of the Negroes, the capture and sack of New Orleans, and the occupation of the territory. A pitiless and depraved man, and now almost undone by treachery, Morell planned a response of continental proportions--a response in which criminality would become redemptive, and historic. To that end, he headed for Natchez, where his strength ran deeper. I reproduce his own narration of that journey:

    "I walked four days," he reported, "and no opportunity offered for me to get a horse. The fifth day, I had ... stopped at a creek to get some water and rest a while. While I was sitting on a log, looking down the road the way that I had come, a man came in sight riding on a good-looking horse. The very moment I saw him, I was determined to have his horse .... I arose and drew an elegant rifle pistol on him and ordered him to dismount. He did so, and I took his horse by the bridle and pointed down the creek, and ordered him to walk before me. He went a few hundred yards and stopped. I ... made him undress himself, all to his shirt and drawers, and ordered him to turn his back to me. He said, `If you are determined to kill me, let me have time to pray before I die.' I told him I had no time to hear him pray. He turned around and dropped on his knees, and I shot him through the back of the head. I ripped open his belly and took out his entrails, and sunk him in the creek. I then searched his pockets, and found four hundred dollars and thirty-seven cents, and a number of papers that I did not take time to examine. I sunk the pocket-book and papers and his hat, in the creek. His boots were bran-new, and fitted me genteelly; and I put them on and sunk my old shoes in the creek ....

    "I mounted as fine a horse as ever I straddled, and directed my course for Natchez."

THE INTERRUPTION

Morell leading uprisings of Negroes that dreamed of hanging him ... Morell hanged by armies of Negroes that he had dreamed of leading ... it pains me to admit that the history of the Mississippi did not seize upon those rich opportunities. Nor, contrary to all poetic justice (and poetic symmetry), did the river of his crimes become his tomb. On the 2nd of January, 1835, Lazarus Morell died of pulmonary congestion in the hospital at Natchez, where he'd been admitted under the name Silas Buckley. Another man in the ward recognized him. On that day, and on the 4th of January, slaves on scattered plantations attempted to revolt, but they were put down with no greet loss of blood.

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Sort by: Showing all of 15 Customer Reviews
  • Posted September 1, 2013

    Let me put it this way. What The Beatles did for contemporary mu

    Let me put it this way. What The Beatles did for contemporary music with Rubber Soul, Revolver and Sgt. Pepper's, Borges did to contemporary literature with The Garden of Forking Paths, Artifices and The Aleph. In his works he displays both creativity and erudition, complemented with a singular style of narration that will have you believe all sort of fictional societies, books and mystical artifacts to be true. Make no mistake: political reasons kept him from being awarded the Nobel prize in literature, but he remained a strong contestant for almost 30 years in a row. Many authors and critics consider him to be one of the best and most influential writers not only in Spanish, but in any language.

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  • Posted November 4, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Timeless 20th Century Literature!

    Borges is a master in the art of fiction and illustrates it with peculiar ease in this potent and ravishing collection containing most of his lifetime's work. His writing is style is unparallel to any other author whether past or modern. From beginning to end the pages unleash Borges' life long self-taught philosophy pertaining currency, religion as well as politics while dazzling readers with his uncharacteristic ability to amusingly entertain his audience to a higher level of profound literature.

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  • Posted April 2, 2009

    more from this reviewer

    I Also Recommend:

    Timeless 20th Century Literature!

    Borges is a master in the art of fiction and illustrates it with peculiar ease in this potent and ravishing collection containing most of his lifetime's work. His writing is style is unparallel to any other author whether past or modern. From beginning to end the pages unleash Borges' life long self-taught philosophy pertaining currency, religion as well as politics while dazzling readers with his uncharacteristic ability to amusingly entertain his audience to a higher level of profound literature.

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  • Posted October 9, 2008

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    An Unimpeachably Great Thing to Buy

    Borges' genius seems bottomless. He is the heir to Kafka and the grandfather to many of this generation's finest writers. Unlike many writers who rely on imagery, Borges employs the unexpected paradox and the yawningly expansive metaphor. <BR/><BR/>A quick note about the binding of this volume. This is a quite comprehensive collection which you're gonna wanna read a ton of times! One thing about this book that doesn't come across in the photo is that it's a beautiful object. The pages are cut in that ragged old school way. The paper is heavy. The cover is paper but has a nice durable heft to it. When people see a book like this on your shelf, on your desk or in your hand, they will admire your intellect and ask you all kinds of questions about what you've read and you will be so happy to tell them. Many other people have read these stories and if you meet them you can each share your appreciation and competing interpretations. I can't believe the price. There is simply no reason not to buy this book right now!

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  • Anonymous

    Posted June 15, 2004

    Should be read in Spanish

    Borges is a genius. The stories contained in this edition (Penguin 1999) include the best of his prose work. Of course I recommend that everyone read the beautifully captured reflections of this book, but unfortunately this particular translation leaves too much to be desired. I only say too much because of the disparity between the original spanish and the offered translation. No obstante, you have to use what you can, and Borges' work is worth the compromise of translation. If at all possible, read the spanish, even if you struggle. You'll improve.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted March 6, 2001

    One of the best books I have ever read.

    I keep coming back to the Collected Fictions. It always leaves me satisfied. Borges plays his little tricks with image and memory and thereby lets the reader into alternate universes. There is always a new twist, always another sublte subversion of reality. I love this book.

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  • Anonymous

    Posted December 19, 1999

    Complete your mind

    The Idea that Ultimate Beauty, Ultimate Truth, And Ultimate enlightenment is possible drives this Author. These things That stay just outside our reach everyday, every year, Century after Century have been Idolized in every culture, and are brought to light on every page.

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    Posted April 27, 2009

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    Posted December 28, 2008

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    Posted December 31, 2009

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    Posted January 3, 2010

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    Posted November 17, 2008

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    Posted October 25, 2008

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    Posted March 24, 2009

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    Posted August 18, 2009

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