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Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings (Penguin Modern Classics) [Paperback]

Jorge Luis Borges
4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
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Book Description

28 Sep 2000 Penguin Modern Classics

Jorge Luis Borges's Labyrinths is a collection of short stories and essays showcasing one of Latin America's most influential and imaginative writers. This Penguin Modern Classics edition is edited by Donald A. Yates and James E. Irby, with an introduction by James E. Irby and a preface by André Maurois.

Jorge Luis Borges was a literary spellbinder whose tales of magic, mystery and murder are shot through with deep philosophical paradoxes. This collection brings together many of his stories, including the celebrated 'Library of Babel', whose infinite shelves contain every book that could ever exist, 'Funes the Memorious' the tale of a man fated never to forget a single detail of his life, and 'Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote', in which a French poet makes it his life's work to create an identical copy of Don Quixote. In later life, dogged by increasing blindness, Borges used essays and brief tantalising parables to explore the enigma of time, identity and imagination. Playful and disturbing, scholarly and seductive, his is a haunting and utterly distinctive voice.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was born in Buenos Aires, Argentina. 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 has a reasonable claim, along with Kafka and Joyce, to be one of the most influential writers of the twentieth century.

If you enjoyed Labyrinths, you might like Franz Kafka's Metamorphosis and Other Stories, also available in Penguin Modern Classics.

'His is the literature of eternity'

Peter Ackroyd, The Times

'One of the towering figures of literature in Spanish'

James Woodall, Guardian

'Probably the greatest twentieth-century author never to win the Nobel Prize'


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Product details

  • Paperback: 288 pages
  • Publisher: Penguin Classics; New Ed edition (28 Sep 2000)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0141184841
  • ISBN-13: 978-0141184845
  • Product Dimensions: 1.7 x 12.8 x 19.8 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.6 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (31 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 3,822 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)

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Product Description


Borges anticipated postmodernism (deconstruction and so on) and picked up credit as founding father of Latin American magical realism.--Colin Waters

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.

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Customer Reviews

Most Helpful Customer Reviews
91 of 94 people found the following review helpful
5.0 out of 5 stars Mind-bending brilliance 14 April 2001
By A Customer
This must be the best selection of writing by the mind-bending Borges; much of his work reflects his Latin-American background which can make it a little less accessible - and can be slightly heavy going sometimes to a middlebrow like myself, but Borges, bless him, does not waste words. Where some writers will stretch an idea to fill a novel, Borges will condense it. There are more mind-bending ideas in this one book than most writers come up with in a lifetime, and each one will make you see the world in a strange new light. If a story loses you, no great loss... move on to the next one and your perseverance will be rewarded with interest. If you don't read the whole book at least read 'The Lottery in Babylon', which stuns you into questioning your perception of society - 'The Zahir'-which will chill anyone who has ever had a tune stuck in their head - and my personal favourite, 'The Library of Babel', which will strike a chord with anyone who has ever been daunted by the idea of ever hoping to make sense of the universe. The stories I could get my head round were utterly brilliant - I daresay I'll say the same about the rest of them one day.
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14 of 14 people found the following review helpful
3.0 out of 5 stars The search for Borges 18 Oct 2010
Format:Paperback|Verified Purchase
I am embarrassed to admit that this was my first proper exposure to Borges - though I had seen, and was intrigued by, many fragments of his works quoted by other authors, which is what eventually prompted me to pick up this book. The experience has turned out to be a mixture of joy and disappointment.

Allowance has to be made for the fact that the English translations in this collection are not those revised and approved by Borges. The sparks of stylistic brilliance occurring every now and again in this book made me wonder how different an impression I would get from the authorised translations (which, sadly, cannot be published any longer).

The majority of the stories introduce metaphysical ideas dressed as fiction, which is something that I do not care for - though this, of course, is a matter of personal preference. Some stories appear to be merely jokes of philosophic or literary nature while some closely (perhaps too closely) remind the style of Poe or Bierce. This quality may or may not be an artefact of translation; however, I certainly feel that the central premise of 'The Secret Miracle' is essentially the same as that of 'An Occurrence on Owl Creek Bridge' by Bierce. I recognised this even though I only ever read the latter story some 40 years ago, in a Russian translation - so the similarity must be real.

On the other hand, there are some true gems in this book - for example, 'Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius', whose intense poetic beauty transcends the metaphysical content, or 'Averroes's Search', which I find quite disturbing.
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9 of 9 people found the following review helpful
By A Customer
Borges combines fiction, fact, science, imagination, and philosophy like no other. The stories in Ficciones demonstrate his unparalleled depth, each needs to be read several times to determine what transpires. He often allows for several levels of interpretation, for example 'The Garden of Forking Paths'; which perhaps serves as the best first story for one new to Borges, they will quickly learn just what they have sank their teeth into. Borges shatters such accepted notions as the linear nature of time, the limits of reality, the difference between fiction and history. He is simultaneously toying with modern man's universe and offering metaphysical theories. I don't think he is as appreciated in the US as in South America, where his influence is pervasive. Must read stories include "Theme of the Traitor and the Hero", "Three Versions of Judas" and "The Library of Babel"; indeed the entire book. His stories are even more profound in Spanish than English. This book is a must for any fan of literature.
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42 of 45 people found the following review helpful
4.0 out of 5 stars A fantastic, thought provoking read 5 Feb 2003
'Labyrinths' is a tremendously successful attempt to merge metaphysics and literature. Combining philosophy and storytelling is rarely done well (maybe Camus and Sartre are the best examples), but Borges achieves it in these stories. It is metaphysics that creates the labyrinths of the title, labyrinths of the perception of 'truth'. Despite being short, each story contains layers of deception from which there is no escape. These begin with the 'historical' gravitas given to each story by Borges' claim to have discovered a manuscript, or to be retelling fact. We are then plunged into a metaphysical fantasy in which the idea of 'the truth' becomes meaningless (or at least relative). It is the success with which Borges' achieves this, rather than the style in which he does, that is the strength of this collection. I came to Borges through reading Umberto Eco, who is shamelessly influenced by the Argentinian (in 'The Name of the Rose' Borge-esque motifs such as the labyrinth - both physical and metaphysical, false trails leading to the truth, the discovery of a manuscript, etc., are prominent, as is the monk 'Jorge of Burgos'!). Any fan of Eco should try this book, as should anyone who likes their brains to be given a little workout every now and then.
I found the non-fiction at the end a little tedious, but there is not much of this. The rest of the book is a delight. It is not hard to read, but leaves you feeling a little more clever by the finish. Do yourself a favour: read this book.
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Most Recent Customer Reviews
5.0 out of 5 stars Great for philosophers and mathematicians.
This is philosophical and mathematical at the same time. Fitting really, considering the massive overlap in the most raw form of each of these subjects. Read more
Published 1 month ago by Katie
5.0 out of 5 stars 5 stars
Fantastic collection of short narratives. Highly recommended. Borges has the ability to bend your mind into various vicissitudes of time and space. Mind blowing.
Published 1 month ago by MR R O'GORMAN
3.0 out of 5 stars Imaginative but prolix
Each of these short stories is imaginative but far too wordy. The author seems to want to show off the fact that he used to be a librarian, as in many of the stories every... Read more
Published 10 months ago by michaelg2417
4.0 out of 5 stars House of Asterion
Bought this for the one short story, which I heard read on Radio 4. Nice edition, though not the cover pictured here.
Published 14 months ago by SJ
5.0 out of 5 stars The Immanence of a Revelation That Does Not Occur
The commonest comment that seems to prevail after being introduced to Borges is "how did I miss him"? or how come I hadn't heard of him before?. Read more
Published 19 months ago by nicholas hargreaves
4.0 out of 5 stars "The beginner with Borges can find a seductive entrance...
...to his enchantment through the short stories collected in "Labyrinths" (1962), which transmits his poetic magic irresistibly even through translation. Read more
Published 22 months ago by John P. Jones III
5.0 out of 5 stars escapist genius
This is probably the first serious work of literature I have ever read, and although I know next to nothing about literature, I wouldn't shy away from predicting it to be the best... Read more
Published 23 months ago by caw1994
5.0 out of 5 stars Borges
A fascinating insight into the creative and provoking thinking of this man This book is a must for those who wish to know how his mind works.
Published on 14 Oct 2011 by Paperbutterfly
4.0 out of 5 stars This book made me feel less clever than I like to think I am
I enjoy reading short stories as much as the next man - they're ideal for the train. But I may have bitten off more than I could successfully contemplate with this book. Read more
Published on 13 Sep 2011 by David Atkinson
5.0 out of 5 stars Diverse seas of the world
Trying to full describe the writings of Jorge Luis Borges is like trying to explain exactly why Leonardo da Vinci's art still captivates. The man wrote works of art. Read more
Published on 1 May 2011 by E. A Solinas
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