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The Total Library: Non-fiction, 1922-1986

4.61 of 5 stars 4.61  ·  rating details  ·  114 ratings  ·  11 reviews
This third Penguin volume marking the centenary of the birth of Jorge Luis Borges follows the publication of the Collected Fictions and Selected Poems: editor Eliot Weinberger's choice of Borges' non-fiction writings in The Total Library gives readers the necessary corollary to the work for which the Argentine author became most famous--and for which he became lauded as on ...more
Hardcover, 576 pages
Published January 27th 2000 by Allen Lane (first published January 1st 2000)
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Browsing through this again makes me tempted to upgrade it from four stars to five. Much as I love the great Argentine's fiction, there is an algebraic quality to a lot of it that leaves me cold; his non-fiction is where I feel utterly gobsmacked with awe. His polyglottery, his self-deprecation, his sense of humour and his love of Old English are all calculated to appeal to my tastes, and the range of subjects he deals with in this selection (which is nowhere near a complete collection of non-fi ...more
Nick Jones
In his introduction, the editor, Eliot Weinberger, gives us two warnings. We should not see these essays as ancillary to Borges’ stories: in the Spanish speaking world Borges is just as respected as an essayist and poet as a short story writer. Secondly, while Borges’ short stories often read as though they are essays, we should not read his essays as though they are stories. But, although I have read some of these essays before and some translations of his poems, for the English reader Borges i ...more
Just as awesome as his fiction, but nowhere near as pleasurable. Too much philosophy for my taste, but I certainly appreciate it more after having read this. Among my favourite essays are the very early “The Nothingness of Personality.” He returned to its absurd, titular theme again and again, and possibly even believed it. However, he certainly could not have believed everything he wrote. At first, I thought his literary arguments against quantum space-time (“A History of Eternity”) were just r ...more
Benjamin Kerstein
It doesn't get better than this. It's the only book I've read and reread many times and still feel that I haven't exhausted its possibilities. It's a cliche, but you really do find something new every time you read it.
What a brilliant book. It's restored my faith that a sceptical and rigorous approach to language and philosophy can be combined with an utterly intuitive delight in the aesthetic - and that the aesthetic is a worthy end in itself. Not that I ever stopped believing this, but how wonderful it is to see it so beautifully demonstrated again and again in this remarkable collection of essays, lectures and occasional prose writings. I surprised myself by reading this book in a kind of fever. Usually, w ...more
Paul Culloty
The Total Library is one of those books that once picked up proves impossible to put down. Borges proves to be a man of omnivorous interests, his essays here considering Dante, Shakespeare, Jack London, Edgar Allan Poe amongst others in literary reviews, while covering an inconceivable range of topics throughout the course of his lengthy career from film to politics, philosophy, linguistics, nationalism and personal concerns. Like all such anthologies, some topics will prove of greater interest ...more
This sprawling mix of non-fiction works and essays is, predictably, uneven. Some items are superb, others are quite underwhelming. I personally liked the ones on fascism/nazism, but didn't particularly enjoy film and book reviews.

If you don't know Borges, you should probably read his short-story anthologies first, rather than this. If you already know Borges, you will read this sooner or later anyway, regardless of what I say :)
This is a collection of non-fiction works by Borges. It includes an eclectic collection of book reviews, biographical notes about other writers, essays about strange things -- essays about Argentina. My favourite essay in this collection was the 'short history of tango' and the film reviews (including citizen kane among others).

Jun 15, 2007 Sam is currently reading it  ·  review of another edition
unsurprisingly he's a super critic. For example he notices that Wilde is always right, and that the "fantastic" Londons of Stevenson and Chesterton are oddly similar.
Mike Lynch
Every time I take this down to look up a reference, I usually end up re-reading it. Indispensible.
Roy Hjort
A cornucopia of uniquely borgesian points of view on a plethora of subjects.
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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
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“In 1883, an earthquake that lasted ninety seconds shook the south of Italy. In that earthquake, he lost his parents and his sister; he himself was buried by rubble. Two or three hours later, he was rescued. To ward off total despair, he resolved to think about the Universe - a general procedure among the unfortunate, and sometimes a balm.” 0 likes
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