The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel)


Written by Borges's mentor in the 1930s, but unpublished until after Fernandez's death, Museum is an "anti-novel," opening with more than fifty prologues—some philosophical, some outrageous—and ending with a novel featuring characters who are aware they're in a novel. Incredibly innovative, Macedonio deemed this "The First Good Novel," a counterpart to his very conventional "Last Bad Novel." A true masterpiece.
Read More Show Less
... See more details below
Paperback (New Edition)
$11.24 price
(Save 24%)$14.95 List Price

Pick Up In Store

Reserve and pick up in 60 minutes at your local store

Other sellers (Paperback)
  • All (22) from $3.90   
  • New (10) from $8.32   
  • Used (12) from $3.90   
Sending request ...


Written by Borges's mentor in the 1930s, but unpublished until after Fernandez's death, Museum is an "anti-novel," opening with more than fifty prologues—some philosophical, some outrageous—and ending with a novel featuring characters who are aware they're in a novel. Incredibly innovative, Macedonio deemed this "The First Good Novel," a counterpart to his very conventional "Last Bad Novel." A true masterpiece.
Read More Show Less

Editorial Reviews

Library Journal
Fernández (1874–1952) is legendary in his native Argentina, where he is referred to strictly by his first name. Known chiefly for his association with and influence on Jorge Luis Borges, his own work has been neglected. Only a small fraction of his writing received publication in his lifetime, and this novel, his most important work, is making its first appearance in English. Composed over a period of 30 years, it is one of the most fascinating and inventive novels ever written, suffused with the ideas of metaphysics. Macedonio intentionally confounds all expectations, promising in an early prolog that his book "will annoy the reader like no other." This is followed by more than 50 additional prologs, in which he explores concepts of reality, introduces characters that do not appear in the novel, and attacks his nemesis, the "skip-around reader." The novel itself, when it finally begins, is nearly as bewildering but also reveals itself to be a heartfelt investigation of love and death. VERDICT Decades ahead of his time and overlooking nothing, Macedonio supplied his novel with its own reviews, blurbs, and the following verdict: "If you think there's a probability that a novel like the one thus synthesized might be agreeable to you, read it."—Forest Turner, Suffolk Cty. House of Correction Lib., Boston
The Barnes & Noble Review

"Avant-garde" is a slippery term, but it can be useful shorthand to call attention to the sort of literature that is designed to frustrate most readers' expectations or overturn received wisdom. Sometimes it is concerned with the revelatory inversion of a cliché -- viz., originality breeds contempt. Books in this line unabashedly bore, flummox, or chafe. Their demographic, by extension, is a small one: the experienced or, alternatively, those looking to get experienced… You know who you are; read on if you're keen on narrative excursions that prance past the rim of a manicured plotline.

The Argentinean writer Macedonio Fernández (1874-1952), renowned for his influence on Borges, proved himself a model avant-gardist when he wrote in The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel). "This will be the novel that's thrown violently to the floor most often, and avidly taken up again just as often. What other author can boast of that?"

Fernández's book spurns the earnest advice of squads of creative writing instructors. Anachronistically, it brushes aside Elmore Leonard's no. 2 rule for writing fiction: "Avoid prologues: they can be ­annoying, especially a prologue ­following an introduction that comes after a foreword." The editors at Open Letter should be commended for adding a preface and an introduction to this book which is half composed of prologues. Assuredly, this is one of those"challenging" works that derive benefit from exegesis, especially for those who approach it without any schooling in philosophy. Then again, even if one has a taste for ontological disputes, there are syntactical hurdles to be surmounted. Margaret Schwartz's translator's introduction nails the quandary posed by Fernández's style: "[It] is best characterized as baroque…. Sentences may go on for pages, without any temperance with regard to punctuation, with open parenthesis dangling and semi-colons propping up impossibly convoluted clauses. An idea begins, only to be interrupted by a different thought, then the first idea returns without fanfare or apology." The last noun in her sentence is somewhat redundant since the author writes in the novel,"I don't have anything to apologize for."

And so the concessions, gracious reader, will have to be shouldered by you. Because Fernández wants nothing less than to bury the tropes of the traditional novel, all but the most avant of readers will find the accoutrements they've come to expect peeled away (ergo its pretentions to being the "first good novel"). Wanderers in The Museum of Eterna must submit to knowing the"plot" of the novella before it begins, since the prologues scuttle all hopes of losing oneself in a tale that apes the contours of daily life or provides the hospitality of escapist fiction. Readers must also make do with forgoing the company of three-dimensional characters in favor of conceptual cut-outs with names such as Sweetheart, Maybegenius, and The Gentleman Who Doesn't Exist. This description of John Mountainclimber demonstrates the manner in which Fernández conducts their somewhat abstract antics:

This protagonist has always been known for his invariable position, which makes him afflictingly interesting: John Mountainclimber, driven by love to a life of adventure, on a mountaintop with novelistically opportune precipices, has fallen several meters from one of the same, something that's always a pity, and even more so in those moments when the story can't be put off; proof of this is that the story begins by describing an accident, which serves as the impetus for the novel… and for the reader as a way of maintaining suspense and worry…

This is an approach to storytelling that can leave the first-time reader feeling mired in its self-attentions. But that should be expected given that the novel wants to inculcate a sense of metaphysical entanglement as it explores two of the most rudimentary concerns of human life: love and death. At bottom, The Museum of Eterna's Novel (The First Good Novel) aches to free its readership from the fear of death by insisting that consciousness cannot experience its total cessation directly,"Death is only death of love; there is only the death of the other, her concealment, since for oneself there is no concealment." As a work of devout humanism, this novel is conceived around the best sorts of frustrations.

--Christopher Byrd

Read More Show Less

Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9781934824061
  • Publisher: Open Letter
  • Publication date: 2/15/2010
  • Edition description: New Edition
  • Pages: 240
  • Sales rank: 991,359
  • Product dimensions: 5.40 (w) x 8.40 (h) x 0.90 (d)

Meet the Author

Macedonio Fernández was one of the most influential—and strangest—Argentine authors ever. He was Borges's mentor; he campaigned for president by leaving notecards with the word "Macedonio" in cafes; he started a utopian society. He also wrote the "Last Bad Novel" (Adriana Buenos Aires) and the "First Good One" (The Museum of Eterna's Novel).

Margaret Schwartz is an assistant professor at Fordham University. She was a Fulbright fellow to Argentina in 2004, during which time she researched the life and works of Macedonio Fernández.

Adam Thirlwell is the author of the novels Politics and The Escape. His book about literature and translation, The Delighted States, won the Somerset Maugham Award in 2008. He has twice been named as one of Granta's "Best Young British Novelists."

Read More Show Less

Customer Reviews

Be the first to write a review
( 0 )
Rating Distribution

5 Star


4 Star


3 Star


2 Star


1 Star


Your Rating:

Your Name: Create a Pen Name or

Barnes & Review Rules

Our reader reviews allow you to share your comments on titles you liked, or didn't, with others. By submitting an online review, you are representing to Barnes & that all information contained in your review is original and accurate in all respects, and that the submission of such content by you and the posting of such content by Barnes & does not and will not violate the rights of any third party. Please follow the rules below to help ensure that your review can be posted.

Reviews by Our Customers Under the Age of 13

We highly value and respect everyone's opinion concerning the titles we offer. However, we cannot allow persons under the age of 13 to have accounts at or to post customer reviews. Please see our Terms of Use for more details.

What to exclude from your review:

Please do not write about reviews, commentary, or information posted on the product page. If you see any errors in the information on the product page, please send us an email.

Reviews should not contain any of the following:

  • - HTML tags, profanity, obscenities, vulgarities, or comments that defame anyone
  • - Time-sensitive information such as tour dates, signings, lectures, etc.
  • - Single-word reviews. Other people will read your review to discover why you liked or didn't like the title. Be descriptive.
  • - Comments focusing on the author or that may ruin the ending for others
  • - Phone numbers, addresses, URLs
  • - Pricing and availability information or alternative ordering information
  • - Advertisements or commercial solicitation


  • - By submitting a review, you grant to Barnes & and its sublicensees the royalty-free, perpetual, irrevocable right and license to use the review in accordance with the Barnes & Terms of Use.
  • - Barnes & reserves the right not to post any review -- particularly those that do not follow the terms and conditions of these Rules. Barnes & also reserves the right to remove any review at any time without notice.
  • - See Terms of Use for other conditions and disclaimers.
Search for Products You'd Like to Recommend

Recommend other products that relate to your review. Just search for them below and share!

Create a Pen Name

Your Pen Name is your unique identity on It will appear on the reviews you write and other website activities. Your Pen Name cannot be edited, changed or deleted once submitted.

Your Pen Name can be any combination of alphanumeric characters (plus - and _), and must be at least two characters long.

Continue Anonymously

    If you find inappropriate content, please report it to Barnes & Noble
    Why is this product inappropriate?
    Comments (optional)