This volume contains 18 tales, including several of Borges' most well-known and acclaimed, such as "The Immortal", "The Theologians", "German Requiem", and "The Wait". They exemplify Borges' inimitable fusion of mathematical thought, metaphysical depth, and poetic feeling.
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LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
This was a very disappointing collection of short stories from Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges; the stories are in general maddeningly brief and poorly developed. In writing a story it’s as if Borges was reading classic literature or history, came across a reference that reminded him of something, and then sketched out a few pages to draw the parallel, filling them with esoteric references to the original work. I had hoped to read of Argentina, and while there are minute traces of it, the stories are mostly fantasy, taking place in different places and times altogether, none of which were particularly interesting. It’s a shame, as Borges was obviously an intelligent and philosophical man. Quotes: On death: “…one thing, or an infinite number of things, dies with every man’s or woman’s death, unless the universe itself has a memory, as theosophists have suggested. In the course of time there was one day that closed the last eyes that had looked on Christ; the Battle of Junin and the love of Helen died with the death of one man. What will die with me the day I die? What pathetic or frail image will be lost to the world?” On honesty: “It is said that every generation of mankind includes four honest men who secretly hold up the universe and justify it to the Lord.” On religion: “Jews, Christians, and Muslims all profess belief in immortality, but the veneration paid to the first century of life is proof that they truly believe only in those hundred years, for they destine all the rest, throughout eternity, to rewarding or punishing what one did when alive.” On the simple pleasures in life: “The taste of mate, the taste of the black tobacco, the growing band of shade that slowly crept across the patio – these were reason enough to live.” On technology: “…and, after a few snifters, launched into an apologia for modern man. ‘I picture him,’ he said with an animation that was rather unaccountable, ‘in his study, as though in the watchtower of a great city, surrounded by telephones, telegraphs, phonographs, the latest in radio-telephone and motion-picture and magic-lantern equipment, and glossaries and timetables and bulletins…’” On toenails, yes, toenails: “Gentle socks pamper them by day, and shoes cobbled of leather fortify them, but my toes hardly notice. All they’re interested in is turning out toenails – semitransparent, flexible sheets of a hornlike material, as defense against – whom? Brutish, distrustful as only they can be, my toes labor ceaselessly at manufacturing that frail armament. They turn their backs on the universe and its ecstasies in order to spin out, endlessly, those ten pointless projectile heads, which are cut away time and again by the sudden snips of a Solingen.” On writing: “A man sets out to draw the world. As the years go by, he peoples a space with images of provinces, kingdoms, mountains, bays, ships, islands, fishes, rooms, instruments, stars, horses, and individuals. A short time before he dies, he discovers that that patient labyrinth of lines traces the lineaments of his own face.” Lastly, on the Recoleta, actually quoted from a guidebook in the notes to the work. If you’re ever in Buenos Aires it’s worth a tour, and you can see Evita’s tomb: “Death is an equalizer, except in Buenos Aires. When the arteries harden after decades of dining at Au Bec Fin and finishing up with coffee and dessert at La Biela or Café de la Paix, the wealthy and powerful of Buenos Aires move ceremoniously across the street to Recoleta Cemetary, joining their forefathers in a place they have visited religiously all their lives … According to Argentine novelist Tomas Elroy Martinez, Argentines are ‘cadaver cultists’ who honor their most revered national figures not on the date of their birth but of their death… ‘it is cheaper to live extravagantly all your life than to be buried in Recoleta.’”
LibraryThing ReviewUser Review - LibraryThing
It was a Penguin collection, trade paperback, which I normally hate (love the mass-markets though!), but it's the first book I've read in a month or so that wasn't on my mobile, so that was nice. Paired with the prose pieces from The Maker, general theme "identity". Borges is one of the authors closest to my heart—his Book of Imaginary Beings haunted me, I could only find it by accident for years (same thing with LeGuin, actually, I never remembered the names, and only found their work browsing the shelves in my constant prowl to feed the tiger). I can't describe Borges. I can only say that I absolutely love his work.