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Selected Non-Fictions

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4.41 of 5 stars 4.41  ·  rating details  ·  1,610 ratings  ·  73 reviews
It will come as a surprise to some readers that the greater part of Jorge Luis Borges's extraordinary writing was not in the genres of fiction or poetry, but in the various forms of non-fiction prose. His thousands of pages of essays, reviews, prologues, lectures, and notes on politics and culture—though revered in Latin America and Europe as among his finest work—have sca...more
Paperback, 576 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published January 1st 1999)
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(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Nick Tramdack
Borges is brilliant, though he does tend to repeat himself. So rather than try to review this collection, I'll use this box to give instructions for the game of "BORGES BINGO", usable not only on nonfiction but also his fiction and poetry.

The grid is 5X5. Of course, the center box is "LABYRINTH" (free space). Fill the 24 boxes around it with the following motifs/moves/topics, in random order. Whenever a topic gets mentioned in the book you're reading, check it off. First to 5 wins!

MINOTAUR
LIBRAR...more
Justin Evans
Dear editors of 'selected' editions,

no, you don't need to include that. I recognize that you're fascinated by the idea that someone opposed fascism, but by and large, that's only worth a footnote. You also don't have to include this. Sure, it's interesting every now and then to see what a favorite author thinks about a book, but not *every* book. Don't you see, editor, what a disservice you're doing to these people? Just choose the very best, and leave the rest for later volumes.

On the other h...more
Kiof
I just spent my last review (slightly) bashing Borges's poetry, so I feel I should sing some of my praises for Borges the essayist.

Has any man ever been more well-read! Borges appears to have a deep acquaintance with every major Western author of the last three thousand or so years. That he accomplished this feat while being blind for nearly half of his life, having to depend on others to read works aloud for him, is even more astonishing.

I think Borges's most significant contribution to liter...more
Roger DeBlanck
The knowledge Borges brings to his non-fiction writings draws upon sources vast and obscure. His scope makes parallels between the ancient past and dreams of the future. He charts such subjects as the histories of angels, dreams, archetypes, languages, and ideas, among many epistemological topics. He presents coincidence and irony as governed by forces beyond the human sphere, yet Borges rejects transcendent order. He chooses instead to be captivated with the human origin of immortality. He deci...more
Harold Griffin
A cornucopia of numerous wonderfully odd but interesting pieces of often very short fiction. I've been unable to read this cover-to-cover, because it takes too much effort and concentration. I also find that, like Updike, Borges sometimes confuses and annoys me by interjecting a little too much of his wide and obscure learning into his stories, so that many allusions are lost to me. While I perhaps know too little to appreciate them as they should be appreciated, I keep going back for more. The...more
Matt
Another Borges book. Another 5 stars.

I mean this man is so brilliant I'm starting to turn into a dithering fanboy when reading his books.

Now, I've only actually owned this book for a couple of days, and to be honest I've only read a few of the hundred plus essays in here, but this isn't exactly a book to be read from beginning to end. In fact that seems like a pretty pointless exercise. You can gain so much from reading so little of Borges' writing that it seems like I may as well write a revi...more
Chris
Brilliant, illuminating, but not, despite Maria Kodama's best efforts on the jacket, something for the casual Borges reader. A deep intimacy with not only the man himself, but also his idols and their work is required to get the most out of this volume. Carlyle, Kafka, and Dante I could manage; Bloy and the half-dozen translations of The Arabian Nights Borges could quote from memory, not so much. Borges' adoration of Faulkner and disdain for Joyce's "unreadable" later works will probably be the...more
Andrew
Mar 15, 2012 Andrew added it
Shelves: essays
I've been a Borges fan for as long as I can remember. We like to imagine Borges as this sort of hermetically sealed creature, but these nonfiction pieces totally demystified him for me. Turns out he loved crummy Westerns and detective movies, for instance. You also get to see his whole process, and you see in some of these pieces the ideas that would eventually coalesce into The Library of Babel, The Aleph, and all the other stories for which he would become known. While I'd previously imagined...more
Mark Sacha
Borges had a brilliant mind, and he demonstrated a love for literature (specifically classical and fantastic literature) that's almost touching. However, I'm not convinced that he makes a good nonfiction writer. The same things that make his fiction so fascinating - his brevity, affinity for the bizarre, tendency to render things in mystifying ways - come across as deficiencies in his critical writing. It seems that he never says enough, or says too much besides. Some pieces are almost entirely...more
Eric
Man I love this! I read Borges for the same reason I read Valery: for straight talk about the essential questions, the "modest mysteries," of reading and writing.
Marc
Know that it pains me to give such a low rating to one of my favorite authors, but this became more of an obligation to finish and the lows outweighed the highs for me personally. Borges' knowledge and ability to draw what seem like instant references and examples from the whole of literature is breathtaking. His subject matter holds multitudes--from reviews of popular movies to delighting in Dante's The Divine Comedy (the epitome of literature in his opinion). The collection itself gathers essa...more
Aduren
Feb 23, 2008 Aduren rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Everyone
Well I used t have all the book from Borges in Spanish, that was, until one of my boxes was lost when moving apartments. To my dismay the box that contain his books were lost. Alas the Aleph and other Stories managed to sneak to another box, but Labyrinths was lost forever and I can only hope it’s somewhere where the book can be read and not in a dumpster. The later faith would be a tragedy, the first an act of a comedic destiny.

I’ve read all of his publications in Spanish, and I am sure there...more
Hamish
I enjoyed this, but not nearly as much as I wanted to. Like his fiction the scope and imagination of these essays are fascinating, but unlike his fiction they are often rambling and unfocused. I like pedantry as much as the next person (probably more), but the pedanticism here could get a little out of control. That said, I was sad when it ended, probably because it was arranged chronologically and the end of the book was the end of Borges' life. You could actually notice him getting older as ti...more
James
Borges is a reader's writer and he is a writer who reads; but unlike the many other writers who read he writes about reading as both an intellectual challenge and an inspiration (some might find that redundant). The connections he makes with writers from Plato to Cervantes, from Bacon to Mallarme, are made fascinating by his ability to be comprehensible while demonstrating an erudition that is almost beyond description. That his erudition does not obscure his attempt to share his ideas is one of...more
Jake
I learned many things about Borges from this long assortment of his non-fiction writings. For instance, in addition to his interest in the philosophy of time, the nature of human consciousness, and the use of labyrinths as a metaphor in literature, he loved to go the movies, and didn't care much for King Kong. Some more: he was a staunch anti-fascist during the Second World War, he was deeply interested in the nature of the Trinity, and that he didn't like detective fiction written after the 193...more
k
Borges in his non-fictions is like Virgil in the Divine Comedy that he writes so much about, a guide, though of literature and philosophy instead of Heaven and Hell. In a way, he was for me with literature what Bertrand Russell was with philosophy, a lucid voice that has a knack for seeing the heart of any problem and explaining it in clear terms. His indifference to specialization and length might have made him the world’s first classic blogger if he were born a little later.

Reading this colle...more
Andrew Bertaina
Reading Borges is like spending a few hours in one's library, though easier, as Borges has already read the interesting books and is distilling the worthwhile passages. The range of his subjects abounds from early Islamic traditions, the nature of eternity, the fiction of a set personality, to reviews of Charlie Chaplin movies or essays against fascism. The great pleasure of Borges is his concision. It is possible, though reading a five hundred page book, to feel as though you are steadily advan...more
Jared Doe
Borges' intellect is as limitless as the labyrinths of his stories. We can only quiver at the feet of such a mind. The essays collected here are some of the most captivating thoughts put to page. His essays on Dante, his lectures on his blindness, his theories on literature, time, and space stay with you forever. One cannot help but question the very fabric of reality after an encounter with Borges. It is in the little anecdotes he gives though where we see how incredible a mind this man possess...more
Simon King
Setting my eye on this book in a London book shelf, I instantly fell in love with it. Having read his more celebrated books - Fictions, The Aleph, Universal History, etc. - I have found here an even greater scope and dimension to Borges' writing.

The great thing about these essays that they're intelligent and erudite, but distance themselves from academic doctrine. The books that are his source of fascination - Greek mythology, fables, linguistic - are given original interpretations and re-evalua...more
James
Borges does not in any way resemble Polonius, except that he appears to have learned the truth of that attendant lord's maxim that "brevity is the soul of wit." These essays sometimes seem to be over before they've started; I mean this in the best sense: we wish Borges would go on, but, as in all his writings over his long and varied career, he is bracingly economical.

Although he is most famous for his short stories, Borges, in my view, surpasses Orwell and Vidal as the greatest essayist of the...more
Phill Melton
The One Book to read to make Borges make sense. So many of the allusions in his poetry and fiction, as well as recurring themes, are explained here; "A New Refutation of Time" is the clearest statement of his metaphysics you'll find.
No, really, Borges can make sense, in a very twisted Borges sort of way. Suffice it to say that his vision of reality seems just as strange as his fictions, especially once you realize that the two might not actually be that different. While his essays are perhaps th...more
Thomas
It is venturesome to think that a coordination of words (philosophies are nothing more than that) can resemble the universe very much. It is also venturesome to think that of all these illustrious coordinations, one of them -- at least in an infinitesimal way -- does not resemble the universe a bit more than the others.” -- Essay: "The Avatars of the Tortoise.
I first fell in love with Borges for his fiction, but have also been impacted by the creativity and novelty of his nonfiction. My reading...more
Matt
I finally finished this one, which I've been nursing for several years. I read it slowly not because it's not great -- Borges is one of my favorite authors -- but it's so persistently erudite and tricky that it's hard to go through a lot of pages at once.
I like his short stories more, but his essays about Dante are fascinating and he has some other really intriguing stuff -- I remain dazzled by the breadth and depth of Borges' reading and knowledge about the world.
Houdini Douglas
Great fun thats not just for completists. I love Borges, but he made his name as a critic writing for a magazine whose numerous articles are somewhat reprinted here. The book is broken down by type and form, but even some of his throwaway thoughts are brilliant. Also it's pretty fun to find out what novels Borges read over and over again (he was someone who really loved to read), and snarky fun to read whom he hated or thought was overrated.
Anna
Borges understood literary translation like almost no one has (even if his own translations can be problematic and less than thrilling). As much as his ficciones make me sing, I love this compilation of essays for allowing me such direct access to his incisive, sparkling mind.

Eternal thanks to Andrew Hurley for his brilliant translations of nearly everything this wonderful man wrote. What a gift you have given English.
Ryan Smedberg
By testimony of this volume alone, it's obvious that Borges had an insatiable appetite for the curious. The function and malleability of language, the paradoxical inconsistencies of time and motion, the ambiguity of style, the vicissitudes of hell--nothing is out of his reach. A cosmic mind concerned with the universe, he is a proper answer to the lamentations of Sisyphus, and it's quite a boulder he heaves.
Mike
In my mind Borges represents the pinnacle of erudition. His short stories are generally filled with wide ranging references. The selected nonfictions gives you a sense of what he reads and draws upon when he composes his fictions. Histories, metaphysical exercises, philosophy, book reviews, biographies, film criticisms, and political writings are all found in this large but rewarding volume.
Riah
Alright, so I am a bit biased as Borges is my very favorite author. I definitely prefer his fiction, but am happy to say that his non-fiction kept me just as much on my toes, and searching for a way through the maze to the end. As is typical of Borges, if you can follow it, it's poignant... but you can't always follow it. I recommend this book to buy and enjoy in small morsels.
Tina Cadwell
I almost enjoy this more than Borges's collection of fiction. Borges provides a powerful and unique view of history, current events, and possible future events. He is such a thoughtful writer and although some of this collection requires additional research on the part of the reader to fully grasp the context, it is fun to get to know Borges and his view of the world he lived in.
Patrick
It's maybe inappropriate to give this the same rating as something like, oh I don't know, "The Nerdist Way" for example. But for the most part (A New Refutation of Time, obviously) these are minor, inessential pieces. Sure it's great to read his first impressions of King Kong or Finnegan's Wake but those aren't going to change one's view of literature, as his fictions do.
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Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo (Spanish pronunciation: [xoɾxe lwis boɾxes], Russian: Хорхе Луис Борхес) was an Argentine writer and poet born in Buenos Aires. In 1914, his family moved to Switzerland where he attended school and traveled to Spain. On his return to Argentina in 1921, Borges began publishing his poems and essays in Surrealist literary journals. He also worked as a libra...more
More about Jorge Luis Borges...
Ficciones Labyrinths:  Selected Stories and Other Writings Collected Fictions The Aleph and Other Stories Selected Poems

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“The thought came over me that never would one full and absolute moment, containing all the others, justify my life, that all of my instants would be provisional phases, annihilators of the past turned to face the future, and that beyond the episodic, the present, the circumstantial, we were nobody.” 18 likes
“A writer, or any man, must believe that whatever happens to him is an instrument; everything has been given for an end. This is even stronger in the case of the artist. Everything that happens, including humiliations, embarrassments, misfortunes, all has been given like clay, like material for one’s art. One must accept it. For this reason I speak in a poem of the ancient food of heroes: humiliation, unhappiness, discord. Those things are given to us to transform, so that we may make from the miserable circumstances of our lives things that are eternal, or aspire to be so.” 13 likes
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