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Collected Fictions (Penguin Modern Classics Translated Texts) [Paperback]

Jorge Luis Borges , Andrew Hurley
4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)

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Book Description

2 Dec 1999 0141182105 978-0141182100 New edition
This is a collection of Borges's fiction, translated and gathered into a single volume. From his 1935 debut with "The Universal History of Iniquity", through the influential collections "Ficciones" and "The Aleph", to his final work from the 1980s, "Shakespeare Memory".

Product details

  • Paperback: 576 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Books Ltd; New edition edition (2 Dec 1999)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141182105
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141182100
  • Product Dimensions: 22.8 x 15.2 x 3.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.4 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (23 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 118,086 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description

Amazon Review

Although Jorge Luis Borges published his first book in 1923--doling out his own money for a limited edition of Fervor de Buenos Aires--he remained in Argentinian obscurity for almost three decades. In 1951, however, Ficciones appeared in French, followed soon after by an English translation. This collection, which included the cream of the author's short fictions, made it clear that Borges was a world-class (if highly unclassifiable) artist--a brilliant, lyrical miniaturist, who could pose the great questions of existence on the head of pin. And by 1961, when he shared the French Prix Formentor with Samuel Beckett, he seemed suddenly to tower over a half-dozen literary cultures, the very exemplar of modernism with a human face.

By the time of his death in 1986, Borges had been granted old master status by almost everybody (except, alas, the gentlemen of the Swedish Academy). Yet his work remained dispersed among a number of different collections, some of them increasingly hard to find. Andrew Hurley has done readers a great service, then, by collecting all the stories in a single, meticulously translated volume. It's a pleasure to be reminded that Borges' style--poetic, dreamlike and compounded of innumerable small surprises--was already in place by 1935, when he published A Universal History of Iniquity: "The earth we inhabit is an error, an incompetent parody. Mirrors and paternity are abominable because they multiply and affirm it". (Incidentally, the thrifty author later recycled the second of these aphorisms in his classic bit of bookish metaphysics, "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Teris".) The glories of his middle period, of course, have hardly aged a day. "The Garden of the Forking Paths" remains the best deconstruction of the detective story ever written, even in the post-Auster era, and "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote" puts the so-called death of the author in pointed, hilarious perspective.

But Hurley's omnibus also brings home exactly how consistent Borges remained in his concerns. As late as 1975, in "Avelino Arredondo" he was still asking (and occasionally even answering) the same riddles about time and its human repository, memory: "For the man in prison, or the blind man, time flows downstream as though down a slight decline. As he reached the midpoint of his reclusion, Arredondo more than once achieved that virtually timeless time. In the first patio there was a wellhead, and at the bottom, a cistern where a toad lived; it never occurred to Arredondo that it was the toad's time, bordering on eternity, that he sought". Throughout, Hurley's translation is crisp and assured (although this reader will always have a soft spot for "Funes, the Memorious" rather than "Funes, His Memory"). And thanks to his efforts, Borgesians will find no better--and no more pleasurable--rebuttal of the author's description of himself as "a shy sort of man who could not bring himself to write short stories". --James Marcus

About the Author

Borges was born in Buenos Aires in 1899. A poet, critic and short story writer, he received numerous awards for his work including the 1961 International Publisher's Prize (shared with Samuel Beckett). He died in 1986. He has a reasonable claim, with Kafka and Joyce, to be the most influential writer of the 20th Century.

Andrew Hurley is Professor of English at the University of Puerto Rico in San Juan. He has translated works by Borges, Padilla and Arenas.

--This text refers to an alternate Paperback edition.

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I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia. Read the first page
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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
62 of 63 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Great original, poor version 19 Sep 2000
By A Customer
Perhaps the greatest Spanish language writer of the century, says the fly-leaf. And it is not an exaggeration. But why did anyone let Andrew Hurley loose on this collection? A complete fictions in English was long overdue, but Hurley's translation lets Borges down. His prose style is leaden, and his translations often eccentric or just plain wrong. Borges was influenced by writers such as Burton, Chesterton and Henry James, and transposed their style into Spanish. Hurley, however, has translated Borges into twentieth century American English, which is clearly contrary to both the style and intent of the orignial. This book is well worth buying for the sake of having all the stories in one place and in English, but Norman Thomas di Giovanni's translations of Dr Brodie's Report and the Book of Sands are far superior. If only di G had tackled the Aleph or Ficciones, there would be little need for this amateur-ish effort at all...
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39 of 40 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars Not happy with Hurley 20 May 2002
By A Customer
As Andrew Hurley's translations of Borges are becoming ubiquitious some criticism of their style is called for. I see I have been (ably) beaten to it, so this can serve as a footnote to the earlier reader review. I can't compare the translations with the original Spanish, so can only observe that for the English reader of English they are spoiled by jarring Americanisms. Perhaps one might argue that American English is appropriate for translating a New World writer, but it is the product of a society very different to Borges's own, and its democratic, colloquial tone often works against his urbanity, fastidiousness, ironic pedantry and self-mocking snobbishness. Like the previous reviewer I have only docked one crown, because Borges is indispensable, whatever the shortcomings of his translators.
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5 of 5 people found the following review helpful
Jorge Luis Borges was one of those rare writers who can take even a bizarre, utterly unbelievable idea, and spin it into an exquisite little gem of prose.

And this classic writer was at the peak of his powers when he collected together "Ficciones," whose plain name belies the subtle power and exquisite beauty of Jorges' short stories. Even among Borges' many short stories, few of them can rival this little labyrinth of strange ancient cities, fictional histories, and the eerie depths of the human mind.

"I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia." An odd old saying from the Middle-East leads the narrator to seek out the long-lost heretical histories of a fictional world known as Tlon. Its beliefs, language, and metaphysical eccentricities increasingly fascinate the narrator, until it's almost a surprise to realize that Borges invented all of this.

The stories that follow are no less engrossing -- the recounting of a strange, haunting novel, a man who attempts to LIVE as Don Quixote, a man who tries to dream a new being into existence, a lottery that determines the way the people of Babylon are to live, an examination of a brilliant and underrated author, an exploration of the eternal Library of the universe, and a labyrinthine spy story.

The second round of short stories is a bit less enthralling, merely because it focuses more on "typical" Borges short stories.
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26 of 29 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars Borges in English: God vs Mammon 16 Jan 2010
For the younger generation who are discovering Borges for the first time I wanted to explain a tragic state of affairs that is so typical of our time. Translation is a great art and particularly so when that which is being translated is considered by critics around the world to be Great Art. As such, great writers often work with a translator to ensure that the finished product is worthy of the original. In the case of Borges he chose to work with Norman Thomas di Giovanni for a period of ten years or more during which time they translated a considerable body of work together. These translations are some of the most sublime in the English language. With the greatest respect to Andrew Hurley for his enthusiasm, the Borges/Giovanni translations are superior to Hurley's own and without denigrating Hurley's capacities as a translator it is understandable in as far as the author of the original stories not only gave his approval to di Giovanni's translations but was in fact the co-translator. It is a great tragedy that since the death of Borges these remarkable translations have become redundant due to personal factors taking precedence over respecting the wishes of the author. A similar disrespect was shown to Nabokov when his son Dmitri published work which he had promised his father he would destroy as was his father's wish. The result was an embarassment and dishonour to the artist.

Norman Thomas di Giovanni's long, painstaking work with Borges to produce translations of extremely high quality have been overturned by a similarly disrespectful attitude towards the artist's wishes. It is wonderful that Andrew Hurley has such an appreciation and enthusiam for the writings of Borges but his translations are really not in the same league as the Giovanni/Borges efforts.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars A poetic and conceptual masterpiece
Definitely one of the best books iv'e read recently. Borges's ability to created worlds and entire systems with such clarity in the mere space of a few pages is unrivaled.
Published 2 months ago by fawaz
2.0 out of 5 stars pretentious and boring
Maybe I'm missing something after all the gushing reviews here, but I found a rather different picture when reading this book. Read more
Published 15 months ago by Mr. Robert Marsland
3.0 out of 5 stars Immense but uncertain
I'm unsure if I profoundly enjoyed Ficciones, or if I'm still lost in its labyrinth of words, bifurcating stories, and fictional chaos. Read more
Published 18 months ago by M. J. Easton
5.0 out of 5 stars If you only ever read the collected works of one author, make it this...
Borges' collected fictions contains, not to put too fine a point on it, some of the most wonderful, magical stories ever written. Read more
Published 23 months ago by Mike N
4.0 out of 5 stars Borges' Fictions translated by Andrew Hurley
This is a wonderful collection of beautiful, though at times challenging stories. The most accessible stories, such as The Circular Ruins or The Garden of Forking Paths, are not... Read more
Published on 14 July 2011 by Burncastle
4.0 out of 5 stars Metaphysical Fiction
I first read 'Fictions' at University, within a module which involved studying works by Bataille, Sartre and Eco. Read more
Published on 20 May 2011 by Cornish
5.0 out of 5 stars Fiction Concentrate
Borges is the one that every short story writer aims to be like - Ballard, Dick, Di Phillipo - and for good reason. Read more
Published on 26 Feb 2010 by Mr. R. J. Wright
5.0 out of 5 stars Redefines the boundaries of fiction
If I have to summarise very briefly what I love about this book, it's that it completely redefines what short stories can be. Read more
Published on 1 Nov 2009 by Andrew Blackman
5.0 out of 5 stars Fictions
Borges is a true original. This collection brings together some of his most famous work. Combining tales of the Argentine pampas with metaphysical conceits, historical theories and... Read more
Published on 1 Jun 2009 by Blue Yates
5.0 out of 5 stars Genius
Borges is one of the few authors with the ability to let you know for sure that you are an idiot. You can read most of his stories in the time it takes to make a cup of tea, yet it... Read more
Published on 1 Feb 2009 by D. Maskelyne
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