Ficciones (Fictions) (Everyman's Library)

Ficciones (Fictions) (Everyman's Library)

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Overview

Jorge Luis Borges was one of those very rare creators who changed the face of an art form—in his case, the short story. His work has been paid the ultimate honor of being appropriated and imitated by innumerable writers on every continent of the world.

 

The seventeen brief masterpieces of FICCIONES explode the boundaries of genre, offering up labyrinthine libraries, a fictional encyclopedia entry that spawns an entire world, a review of a nonexistent writer’s attempt to re-create Don Quixote word for word, a man with the disabling inability to forget anything he has ever experienced, and other metaphysical puzzles. But the true measure of Borges’s greatness lies in the fact that his fictions—elaborately paradoxical, postmodern, and intellectually delicious as they are—managed to return the short story to the realm of the fabulous and the uncanny from which, as parable and fairy tale, it originally came.

Product Details

ISBN-13: 9780679422990
Publisher: Knopf Doubleday Publishing Group
Publication date: 05/28/1993
Series: Everyman's Library Contemporary Classics
Pages: 192
Sales rank: 366,002
Product dimensions: 5.20(w) x 8.30(h) x 0.70(d)

About the Author

Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires in 1899 and educated in Europe. One of the most widely acclaimed writers of our time, 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. The Ingram Merrill Foundation granted him its Annual Literary Award in 1966 for his "outstanding contribution to literature." 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. In 1971 he received the fifth biennial Jerusalem Prize and in 1973 was given the Alfonso Reyes Prize, one of Mexico's most prestigious cultural awards. In 1980 he shared the Cervantes Prize (the Spanish world's highest literary accolade) with Gerardo Diego. Borges was Director of the Argentine National Library from 1955 until 1973. Along with Kafka and Joyce, he was one of the most influential writer of the twentieth century.

Date of Birth:

August 24, 1899

Date of Death:

June 14, 1986

Place of Birth:

Buenos Aires, Argentina

Place of Death:

Geneva, Switzerland

Education:

B.A., Collège Calvin de Genève, 1914

Read an Excerpt

Ficciones

Capítulo Uno

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius

Debo a la conjunción de un espejo y de una enciclopedia el descubrimiento de Uqbar. El espejo inquietaba el fondo de un corredor en una quinta de la calle Gaona, en Ramos Mejía; la enciclopedia falazmente se llama The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia (Nueva York, 1917) y es una reimpresión literal, pero también morosa, de la Encyclopaedia Britannica de 1902. El hecho se produjo hará unos cinco años. Bioy Casares había cenado conmigo esa noche y nos demoró una vasta polémica sobre la ejecución de una novela en primera persona, cuyo narrador omitiera o desfigurara los hechos e incurriera en diversas contradicciones, que permitieran a unos pocos lectores—a muy pocos lectores—la adivinación de una realidad atroz o banal. Desde el fondo remoto del corredor, el espejo nos acechaba. Descubrimos (en la alta noche ese descubrimiento es inevitable) que los espejos tienen algo monstruoso. Entonces Bioy Casares recordó que uno de los heresiarcas de Uqbar había declarado que los espejos y la cópula son abominables, porque multiplican el número de los hombres. Le pregunté el origen de esa memorable sentencia y me contestó que The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia la registraba, en su artículo sobre Uqbar. La quinta (que habíamos alquilado amueblada) poseía un ejemplar de esa obra. En las últimas páginas del volumen XLVI dimos con un artículo sobre Upsala; en las primeras del XLVII, con uno sobre Ural-Altaic Languages, pero ni una palabra sobre Uqbar. Bioy, unpoco azorado, interrogó los tomos del índice. Agotó en vano todas las lecciones imaginables: Ukbar, Ucbar, Ooqbar, Oukbahr... Antes de irse, me dijo que era una región del Irak o del Asia Menor. Confieso que asentí con alguna incomodidad. Conjeturé que ese país indocumentado y ese heresiarca anónimo eran una ficción improvisada por la modestia de Bioy para justificar una frase. El examen estéril de uno de los atlas de Justus Perthes fortaleció mi duda.

Al día siguiente, Bioy me llamó desde Buenos Aires. Me dijo que tenía a la vista el artículo sobre Uqbar, en el volumen XXVI de la Enciclopedia. No constaba el nombre del heresiarca, pero sí la noticia de su doctrina, formulada en palabras casi idénticas a las repetidas por él, aunque—tal vez—literariamente inferiores. Él había recordado: Copulation and mirrors are abominable. El texto de la Enciclopedia decía: Para uno de esos gnósticos, el visible universo era una ilusión o (más precisamente) un sofisma. Los espejos y la paternidad son abominables (mirrors and fatherhood are hateful) porque lo multiplican y lo divulgan. Le dije, sin faltar a la verdad, que me gustaría ver ese artículo. A los pocos días lo trajo. Lo cual me sorprendió, porque los escrupulosos índices cartográficos de la Erdkunde de Ritter ignoraban con plenitud el nombre de Uqbar.

El volumen que trajo Bioy era efectivamente el XXVI de la Anglo-American Cyclopaedia. En la falsa carátula y en el lomo, la indicación alfabética (Tor-Ups) era la de nuestro ejemplar, pero en vez de 917 páginas constaba de 921. Esas cuatro páginas adicionales comprendían el artículo sobre Uqbar; no previsto (como habrá advertido el lector) por la indicación alfabética. Comprobamos después que no hay otra diferencia entre los volúmenes. Los dos (según creo haber indicado) son reimpresiones de la décima Encyclopaedia Britannica. Bioy había adquirido su ejemplar en uno de tantos remates.

Leímos con algún cuidado el artículo. El pasaje recordado por Bioy era tal vez el único sorprendente. El resto parecía muy verosímil, muy ajustado al tono general de la obra y (como es natural) un poco aburrido. Releyéndolo, descubrimos bajo su rigurosa escritura una fundamental vaguedad. De los catorce nombres que figuraban en la parte geográfica, sólo reconocimos tres—Jorasán, Armenia, Erzerum—, interpolados en el texto de un modo ambiguo. De los nombres históricos, uno solo: el impostor Esmerdis el mago, invocado más bien como una metáfora. La nota parecía precisar las fronteras de Uqbar, pero sus nebulosos puntos de referencias eran ríos y cráteres y cadenas de esa misma región. Leímos, verbigracia, que las tierras bajas de Tsai Jaldún y el delta del Axa definen la frontera del sur y que en las islas de ese delta procrean los caballos salvajes. Eso, al principio de la página 918. En la sección histórica (página 920) supimos que a raíz de las persecuciones religiosas del siglo XIII, los ortodoxos buscaron amparo en las islas, donde perduran todavía sus obeliscos y donde no es raro exhumar sus espejos de piedra. La sección idioma y literatura era breve. Un solo rasgo memorable: anotaba que la literatura de Uqbar era de carácter fantástico y que sus epopeyas y sus leyendas no se referían jamás a la realidad, sino a las dos regiones imaginarias de Mlejnas y de Tlön... La bibliografía enumeraba cuatro volúmenes que no hemos encontrado hasta ahora, aunque el tercero—Silas Haslam: History of the Land Called Uqbar, 1874—figura en los catálogos de librería de Bernard Quaritch . El primero, Lesbare und lesenswerthe Bemerkungen über das Land Ukkbar in Klein-Asien, data de 1641 y es obra de Johannes Valentinus Andreä. El hecho es significativo; un par de años después, di con ese nombre en las inesperadas páginas de De Quincey (Writings, decimotercer volumen) y supe que era el de un teólogo alemán que a principios del siglo XVII describió la imaginaria comunidad de la Rosa-Cruz—que otros luego fundaron, a imitación de lo prefigurado por él.

Esta noche visitamos la Biblioteca Nacional. En vano fatigamos atlas, catálogos, anuarios de sociedades geográficas, memorias de viajeros e historiadores: nadie había estado nunca en Uqbar. El índice general de la enciclopedia de Bioy tampoco registraba ese nombre. Al día siguiente, Carlos Mastronardi (a quien yo había referido el asunto) advirtió en una librería de Corrientes y Talcahuano los negros y dorados lomos de la Anglo-American Cyclopaedia... Entró e interrogó el volumen XXVI. Naturalmente, no dio con el menor indicio de Uqbar.

Ficciones. Copyright © by Jorge Luis Borges. Reprinted by permission of HarperCollins Publishers, Inc. All rights reserved. Available now wherever books are sold.

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Ficciones 4.4 out of 5 based on 0 ratings. 17 reviews.
Anonymous More than 1 year ago
I may not have read this had it not been recommended...my taste in books usually revolving around histories and biographies. But it was a beautiful read...one to be taken slowly and thoughtfully. I found I spent a lot of time looking up words and phrases, deciphering Latin...but it wasn't work to do so. I was glad of the stretching of my mind.
katelattuca on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
This is my favourite exploration of the philosophical implications of language and literature. I am in love with Borges.
lyzadanger on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
It took me nearly a year to complete Borge's collection of short stories called Ficciones. This compilation, cited often as the best introduction to the Argentinian writer's oeuvre, has about 20 stories, written in the mid-20th century, that range between fantasy and satire, psychological thriller and eerie psychosis.The provenance of this volume (can you call a paperback book a volume? I'd like to) was my aunt Catherine, on one of her remarkably frequent visits (she travels between Ireland and the west coast of the US more frequently than I make it to Seattle). She wanted me specifically to read The Library of Babel, which describes a universe comprised of an infinite library, hexagonal chamber after hexagonal chamber of books.These are the literary equivalents of M.C. Escher drawings. There is an emphasis on impossible figures, impossible logic, impossible sequence. Cause and effect are reversed, dream and reality switched. There are time loops and secret societies. Much of the content was composed in the 1940s, and aches with the barbarities of the Second World War. Borges' Europe is one of pogroms, his Argentina a surreal magic kingdom (not always benign) full of tall, dark strangers and wizards.When you understand the twists of Borges' stories, it makes the hairs on the back of your neck stand up in a thrill reminiscent of 'I see dead people.' If I understood it consistently, I would love the entire colection. But sometimes I just feel stupid. Some of the stories are so deeply erudite as to be in effect hermetically sealed against casual readers. 'Three Versions of Judas', though only a few pages long, is a tortuous marathon of theology, rambling footnotes in French (untranslated), and Scandinavian/Protestant 20th century political-religious satire. The majority of the stories require careful attention and an eye for the subtleties of Borges' humor. As his reader, you are assumed to be well-read, to the point of making you feel distinctly under-read.Borges thrives in describing off-kilter dream states. He explores sacred geometries—labyrinths, rhombuses—through which his characters move toward heroic or anti-heroic transformation. Weird stuff. Captivating, strange, difficult.
bokai on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Reviewing a book by a 'master' of literature always feels like a dangerous undertaking, so I am going to call this a response instead.I read Borges for a class called Philosophy in Literature. While I'm not a total Philistine in literary matters, I would be lying if I said I caught half of Borges' references without having to look things up. Once I -did- look them up, my reading became much more enjoyable. Borges is utter nonsense unless you can figure out how to catch somehow the things he is throwing at you, and although I am sure that I've let the lion's share of the meaning in his work slip through my fingers on my first reading, what I did catch was delightful.Borges is playful to the extreme. The stories in which he shines are those where he takes some strange idea and runs with it straight through. My favorite in the anthology has to be "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote." The premise stripped bare of Borges' elaboration is idiotic, but the story is a great one none the less. I can hardly understand it.While I read Ficciones I was constantly torn between crying out, "This is so stupid!" and "Oh god, this is genius!" at the exact same time. I'm inclined to think that his greatest stories are both.There are also a few stories in Ficciones that are not nearly as interesting as the others. Perhaps if epic shorts like "Funes, the Memorious" had never been written, a story like "The Form of the Sword" would still be great fiction, but when compared to their neighbors, there are a few stories that do not incite nearly as much masochistic mental glee as the others.Regardless, Borges is a master of imagination, and for that I tip my hat to him.
jamguest on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
My first foray into Jorge Luis Borges and least of it is that I am very intrigued and heartedly desire to read more of his work. The Library of Babel being my favorite, but The South is all parts great. Like Eco, hard to nail it down, and most definitely worthy of re-reads. Would benefit from outright discussion and an exegesis of the text, but who to talk to about it? (Interesting Note: Considered Chesterton a heavy influence, though widely differing world-view). Like GK in plots of stories: fantastical. But more advanced in literary adeptness and more focused on philosophy.
justine on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Beautiful, compelling writing. Very dense little stories, Borges is a master of brevity and depth.
nmhale on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
Borges is a writer who I find hard to describe. His stories are highly intellectual, full of allusions to history and literature and religion and philosophy, and the subjects often deal with esoteric and philosophic matter. They defy being categorized in a particular genre. This book is a compilation of two collections of short stories. These tales are fantastical in nature, but not in a way that I usually associate as fantasy. The realm of the unnatural tends to occur in people's minds, or sometimes in complex societal structures that are unspoken and secret and seem to transcend time and place, and are subtle on the surface but extremely complex beneath.For instance, one story tells of a man that is facing the death sentence during World War II. After experiencing various emotions about his impending death, he realizes that the one thing he wishes more than any other is to be able to complete the drama he was composing. He prays to God for enough time to finish the task, and God grants his wish, if not in the way anticipated. At the moment that the bullets are fired, all motion around him ceases. He is able to live in his mind for years and years, until he has completed his masterpiece. At that moment, time resumes, and bullets cut him down. Or there is the story of a man that escapes to a forgotten temple ruin in the middle of the jungle, lays down, and dreams. His ambition is to dream another man into existence. He is successful, but becomes consumed with fear that his child will realize he is not like other men, that he is, in fact, just another man's dream. This anxiety is forgotten, however, when he finds that fire can not touch him, and learns that he himself is another man's dreamed creation.Other stories transcend the individual level. Borges writes of the library of Babel, for instance, that is a never ending structure of connecting hexagons, ascending and descending into infinity. More astounding, though, are the books, which contain every possible piece of written text in all of time and history. Librarians work various sections of this institution, and have developed theories about life based on the library. Cults have been formed, pilgrimages undertaken, extremists and heretics have arisen, and even such crimes as murder have been committed, all in the pursuit of understanding the library. Contrast this to the tongue-in-cheek story about the cult of the Phoenix, a society of believers that can be found in all countries, all ethnicities, all periods of time, built solely around a simple secret tradition that some are too superstitious to even practice. Borges slyly neglects to describe what this secret is. No one can deny Borges's genius as a writer. His short fiction is intelligent, inventive, and entirely his own. The closest comparison I can make to other writers is to those that write magical realism, because of the way Borges writes grandiose philosophical impossibilities and fantasies with such normality, as if he finds them not surprising at all, and neither should we. This is the type of literature that truly benefits from a close analytical study, which I did not do, but read straight through them instead. I still appreciated their artistry, and was engaged with the plots as well as the themes that I did glean, but I'm sure that I missed a great deal. The motif of literature, being bound by the written word and yet boundless, of the way it shapes us rather than us shaping it, of the various relationships between reader and text, between writer and text, and between writer and reader, is present throughout most of the stories. The power of language and writing is a theme Borges explores consistently. Also repeatedly evoked were the ideas of who we are in connection to our mental capacities, our philosophy and religion, and how what we create can take life beyond us. Borges likes to play with the vagaries of the mind. I am certain that there are many more metaphors and messages that others have discovered
kratib on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I would classify Ficciones as fiction for philosophers. Actually, a more contemporary term for philosophers is information scientists, and Borges' short stories are all about thought experiments concerning information, regardless of context. The most striking example is The Infinite Library, which starts with the very simple premise that the information contained in the Universe is infinite, and then describes specific situations arising from that premise. In each story, you can find an abstract hypothesis that, if applied to a real life context, yields the dramatic unfolding of the story. Of course, it can be said of any fiction work that it materializes an abstract idea. However, with Borges, it's as if this idea is presented to us in its most bare, abstract form.
sfhaa on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
For me, a great introduction to Borges. Some very persistent ideas with a mythical quality: realities, labyrinths, the nature of 'knowledge', plot arcs, storytelling, feedback loops. I already have JLB's Labyrinths lined up to read next.Highly recommended.
humdog on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
more from this brilliant, and under-rated (in english language cultures) author
CliffBurns on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
An excellent cross-section of the Master's work; you get a good look at his preoccupations, the scope and erudition of his unique oeuvre...
datrappert on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
If ever a book deserved a six star rating, this is yet. Borges writes ten page stories that have more packed into them philosophically, intellectually, and entertainingly than any 600- or 1000-page novel I can think of. He could have written Foucault's Pendulum in about 8 pages. These are stories you will read over and over again, and some of the ones that don't grab you at first, such as "The South" will end up haunting you with their inevitability. My own favorites are "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius", "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote", which is a marvel of taking a somewhat absurd idea to its logical extreme - treating it absolutely seriously - and leaving the reader with both a profound sense of wonder and a silent bit of hysterical laughter just trying to get out, "The Babylon Lottery", "The Library of Babel", "The Garden of Forking Paths" - one of the great noir stories, "Funes the Memorious", and "Theme of the Traitor and the Hero". And the others are great, too.
edwartica on LibraryThing More than 1 year ago
I once stumped the great Don Miller (of Blue Like Jazz fame) with a story from this collection. Miller had a theory that "all fiction has a setting." I pulled out the story "The Babylonian lottery," (which sets itself up as a non-fiction piece but is all an elaborate piece of fiction - and thus does NOT have a setting). But this review is not about bashing other authors. This review is about this wonderful collection of Borges short stories, essays, and what not. If you don't like Borges, you might not like this collection. If you are already a Borges fan, then you probably have read this piece.What am I getting at, read it. Borges cannot be described in words, so I don't know why I even tried.
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Borges' stories here are vehicles for proposing philosophical quandaries, more or less, and they range from perplexing realistic tales to the imaginatively fantastic. His prose is well-constructed as well. The stories are fairly short and don't take long to read, but their baffling implications are remembered long after.