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A Universal History of Iniquity

4.01 of 5 stars 4.01  ·  rating details  ·  2,897 ratings  ·  154 reviews
In his writing, Borges always combined high seriousness with a wicked sense of fun. Here he reveals his delight in re-creating (or making up) colorful stories from the Orient, the Islamic world, and the Wild West, as well as his horrified fascination with knife fights, political and personal betrayal, and bloodthirsty revenge. Sparkling with the sheer exuberant pleasure of ...more
Paperback, 128 pages
Published July 27th 2004 by Penguin Classics (first published 1935)
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The Hobbit by J.R.R. TolkienGone with the Wind by Margaret MitchellBrave New World by Aldous HuxleyThe Grapes of Wrath by John SteinbeckOf Mice and Men by John Steinbeck
Best Books of the Decade: 1930s
96th out of 383 books — 598 voters
Ficciones by Jorge Luis BorgesThe Aleph and Other Stories by Jorge Luis BorgesThe Book of Sand and Shakespeare's Memory by Jorge Luis BorgesLabyrinths by Jorge Luis BorgesHistoria Universal de la Infamia by Jorge Luis Borges
The Best of Jorge Luis Borges
7th out of 18 books — 27 voters


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Community Reviews

(showing 1-30 of 3,000)
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Steve Sckenda
Mar 15, 2015 Steve Sckenda rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommends it for: Those with a touch of larceny in their heart
This is a collection of stories about international criminals—redeemable and irredeemable; loveable and unloveable; historical and fictional. Gallows and pirates fill its pages. Borges published these nine stories in 1935 and, Borges states that these “exercises in narrative prose” were inspired by his reading of Chesteron and Stevenson and that these stories are in the “baroque style” that “flaunts and squanders.”

The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell
An amoral entrepreneur charges slave to help t
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Mike Puma

Briefly: A catalog, a biographical dictionary of vile people with a worldwide range, real and/or imagined (imagined, certainly, even the real). This owes a debt to Marcel Schwob’s Imaginary Lives and to which J. Rodolfo Wilcox owes a debt for having enabled The Temple of Iconoclasts (which I’ll now return to liking quite a lot), and more recently, providing premise for Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas (which I read first, bassackwards, I).

4 stars for a fun, creepy read, made more

...more
Glenn Russell
From his early years the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges lived among books and languages, classical literature from many civilizations and cultures: Chinese, Persian, Nordic, Spanish, to name several. His greatest childhood memory was his father's library; he was reading Shakespeare in English at age 11; by the time he was an adult, Borges turned his mind into one vast library. Therefore, it is a bit ironic this bookish man chose to write an entire collection of tales about men of sheer act ...more
Cecily
"Reading... is an activity subsequent to writing - more resigned, more civil, more intellectual" (the closing words to the preface of the first edition).

I have the Complete Fictions (with copious translator's notes), but am splitting my review of that into its components, in publication order: Collected Fictions - all reviews. This is the first, published in 1935.

I had read several profound and passionate reviews by friends, and felt the building lure of Borges, aided by a growing awareness of h
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Ian Klappenskoff
"In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing."

Oscar Wilde


Exercises in Style

These stories are fascinating exercises in style.

They effectively document the development of Borges' style at a time when "he was a shy sort of man who could not bring himself to write short stories, and so amused himself by changing and distorting (sometimes without aesthetic justification) the stories of other men."

Matter of Fact

As Borges said in an earlier Preface, "the stories are n
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Emir Never
I've grown tired of writing reviews. I feel no compulsion to write, nothing stirs, beckons, inspires. That despite many very good reads I've had last year. Let's hope to read and review more this year, a friend said on New Year. Yes, I said, hopefully.

But perhaps I've grown tired of writing. Nothing seems to come out of it. Considering the state of belief I am experiencing these days, this is a cause for celebration. A celebration of nothing.

Borges called the stories in this collection "exercise
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Lourdes
Aug 21, 2014 Lourdes rated it 4 of 5 stars  ·  review of another edition
Recommends it for: Temerosos de la Metáfísica y el Absoluto. Y todos los demás.
Recommended to Lourdes by: Todos
Leer Historia Universal de la Infamia es ir a la caza de la delgada línea roja. Ésa que separa, imperceptible, la realidad y la ficción. Sucede que, en esta antología de relatos criminales, Borges se apropia de historias verídicas (sin duda, caídas del ambar de viejas páginas policiales o de las polvorientas leyendas de antaño) y las envuelve en una atmósfera fascinante. En una telaraña de detalles asombrosos, que son una reescritura de lo real y que, incluso, lo perfeccionan.

Curioso: el autor l
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Luís Blue Yorkie
The stories in this book serve as a good appetizer to Borges's work, it may be considered small capsules of his characteristic fantastic realism.

Although lower than the stories of The Aleph and Other Stories in A Universal History Of Infamy the Argentine author uses his unique style to tell episodes of real crimes in fictional format, which generated a short book but fun.

For those who like short stories, inclusive, Jorge Luis Borges is an essential, along with Anton Chekhov and Ernest Hemmingway
...more
M. Sarki
This was an enjoyable read and much better than some have mentioned in their criticisms. Borges' style is so natural and free. It is as if he is sitting there in front of you, relaxing, relating his story to our sharpening delight.
Miquixote
Apparently the term "magical realism" movement began here.
Original real criminal stories altered.
But Borges himself criticizes it: "when art flaunts and squanders its resources"; "the irresponsible sport of a shy sort of man who could not bring himself to write short stories, and so amused himself by changing and distorting (sometimes without aesthetic justification) the stories of other men"; "under all the storm and lightning, there is nothing."

My first Borges read, i really liked it even if h
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Jayaprakash Satyamurthy
May 02, 2013 Jayaprakash Satyamurthy rated it 4 of 5 stars
Recommended to Jayaprakash by: jayaprakash@gmail.com
Another re-read. Young Borges working his way toward fiction by playing with fact. Perfidious individuals from history and legend stride through the pages of this slim book, spreading death and fear across 4 continents before coming to, for the most part, sticky ends. A great preamble to a unique body of work, but don't let this be your first or only Borges.
Justin Evans
I somehow managed to get a BA with a focus on comparative literature and continental philosophy and then a PhD with a focus on twentieth century literature without reading any Borges. How did that happen? Well, any time I tried to read South American 'magical realist' literature I broke out in hives of boredom, and I thought maybe Borges was to blame; in addition, I thought, and still think, that Borges might be responsible in part for recent developments in the anglo-american literature of conc ...more
Isil
http://okudumdanoldu.blogspot.be/2012...

Her ne kadar bitirmem uzun sürmüş olsa da çok eğlenerek okudum bu kitabı. Dünyanın ve tarihin her tarafından toparlanmış öyküler var bu kitapta. Sudan'dan Arjantin'e, Çin'den İran'a kadar. Aslında büyük ihtimalle gerçekten yaşamış kişilikleri alıp biraz çarpıtarak hikayeleştirmiş.
Esasen Arjantin'deki bir gazetenin pazar ekine yazdığı yazıların toparlanması bu kitap ama zamanında çok ses getirmiş.

Bendeki nüsha İletişim Yayınları 10. baskı. Bunu neden söylüy
...more
Tanuj Solanki
According to Borges, the stories here were meant for nothing graver than light entertainment. But today their chief purpose may well be to provide access to the writer's early dabbling. And yes, there are numerous signs of what was to come. There are mirrors here, and recursive systems, and hoaxes, and some mind-boggling endings too.

Though the stories are straightforward, re-reading provides greater pleasures, as with all Borges. The trivia is that each story was written as contribution to a wee
...more
Ryan
A catalog of bad persons and their wrongdoings. Entertaining and funny, and sometimes scary. There are many novels inside this encyclopedia novel. The tradition of writing down personal histories in compressed form (vignettes), popularized here by Borges, clearly extends to contemporary writers. Cases in point: Nazi Literature in the Americas and Written Lives. In these histories are multifaceted representations of multi-faced evil and vanity, potent even in small doses.
Aysun
Benim asla böyle cümleler kurmak aklıma gelmezdi dedirten, muhteşem anlatıma sahip yarı kurgu yarı gerçek hikayeler. Hemen Borges'in kronolojik olarak yazılmış 2 kitabını daha sipariş verdim. okurken çok eğlendim çoook.
Simon
It is very interesting to read such a historically important writer in the evolution of world literature before he developed the signature style he is best known for today. Jorge Luis Borges is today best remembered as the grandfather of not just Latin American magical realism but also metafiction as we know it today, and while the stories found within "A Universal History of Iniquity" fit neither categorization there is a strong red thread running through them linking to those exact movements.

T
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Shane
I wondered why Borges had regurgitated, in his own interpretation, a rogues’ gallery of historic figures who had met the most inglorious ends. Was this fiction, practice for the fiction to come, or a commissioned set of synopses of these historic villains’ lives? Then I stumbled on a Wikipedia entry that explained that as part of his editorial work at the newspaper Crítica, Borges had written these pieces, some as a cross between non-fictional essays and short stories, and the others as literary ...more
El Avestruz Liado
Writing a long review seems an exercise of redundancy to me: there are already many reviews in english and any spanish speaking reader worth his salt already worships Borges (if not the case, just go and read him and stop reading reviews).

Suffice to say that this is his first work, a compendium of fictional criminal chronicle he did for a newspaper. It is entertaining, of course: that is the purpose of such newspaper sections. The great merit of these stories lies not the -quite generic- content
...more
Murat G.
Tr. Alçaklığın Evrensel Tarihi. Borges, dünya tarihindeki dolandırıcı/üçkağıtçı/alçakları anlatıyor. Özellikle ilk hikayedeki Lazarus Morell, hem Amerika kıtası tarihi, hem Hristiyanlık/din ve sömürü etkileşimi çerçevesinde benim açımdan kitaptaki en etkileyici anlatı. Bunun yanısıra "Onur kırıcı görgü hocası Kotsuke no Suke", Peçeli Sahte Peygamber Hâkim bin Haşim (Mukanna), "Hanım Korsan Dul Ching" de diğer ilgi çekici anlatılar.
Benjamin
I was actually pretty disappointed by this book. It's made of very short essays about some unkind people—knife-fighters, pirates, cultists—many of them figures from the footnotes of history books. Although I liked a lot of the ideas Borges presented in this book, I felt as though a lot of it fell flat. The best ideas are just mentioned in passing, and the longer passages seem to be made for the more mundane stuff. Perhaps it was the length of the pieces that prevented them from blossoming into s ...more
Giuseppe
Talvolta, quando le mie ultime letture non mi appagano abbastanza, mi rifugio in un volume di racconti di Borges. So quello che vi troverò, ma so anche che non ne rimarrò deluso.

Il che mi fa giungere alla conclusione che si può continuare a scrivere utilizzando gli stessi temi, toni e stile senza perdere di qualità e freschezza. Una declinazione infinita, vecchia e nuova al contempo, del proprio sé di narratore.

Un'idea che sicuramente sarebbe stata cara a Borges stesso.
Kyle Muntz
The only Borges I never read. It's an interesting reminder that Borges the writer is really very different from his reputation--that his career is just as much about vagabonds, murderers, "toughs," gauchos, history, and knife fighting as it is dreamtigers and mirrors. The fact that the stories are (mostly) true makes it especially fascinating, but also that over the course of 60 pages, the Borges we know is born. More than any writer I'm familiar with, Borges was interested in Arabic history and ...more
Sergio Monterrubio
De los libros de Borges que he leído fue el que menos me ha atrapado, quizá por el recurso referencial a otros textos (o como dice Borges, "falsear y tergiversar"). No obstante, esto no quiere decir que no lo disfruté. La concisión de las historias es perspicaz y delata que Borges pasó más tiempo investigando y pensando, que escribiendo éstas.

Lo que más he admirado de Borges desde que lo comencé a leer es su enorme destreza en el recurso de adjetivar creativamente y en Historia universal de la i
...more
Rodrigo Vigo
Nunca antes me había deshecho de un libro el mismo día en que lo termino. De cabeza al container. Un final inafame para un libro sobre la infamia. Anécdota mínima. En realidad lo tiré porque estaba limpiando mi habitación de trastos y esta colección de historias verídicas, si bien es una delicia para cualquier lector curioso (en el sentido de que va sobre gente tan pendeja como singular) no tiene mucha alma. No es un libro escrito con las tripas. Y no sé si reclamar esto sea justo. Pero bueno, n ...more
Luciana Darce
Esse mês no Clube do Livro, continuando com nossa viagem de volta ao mundo, paramos na América Latina, mas especificamente na Argentina do incomparável Jorge Luís Borges.

Adoro Borges. Dos contistas, ele é um dos meus favoritos – Borges consegue conjugar cotidiano e absurdo e fazer daquilo que temos no dia-a-dia algo a ser visto sempre com novos olhos. É também um autor estilo Barsa, que nos espanta com sua cultura e nos deixa curiosos em buscar suas fontes – o que me faz pensar em Eco e Manguel,
...more
Dan
A collection of short stories about some historic criminals, including a pirate, a gang leader, an impostor and a Wild West gunslinger. This is early Borges; moreover, it is Borges writing the factual, rather than the fantastic. However, in these stories one can see the emergence of some of Borges’s fictional techniques. In many passages, particularly those containing his catalogs, and those that include poetic as well as realistic details, Borges appears to be exploring those areas where the li ...more
Sarah
"Whether profiled against a backdrop of blue-painted walls or of the sky itself, two toughs sheathed in grave black clothing dance, in boots with high-stacked heels, a solemn dance--the tango of evenly matched knives--until suddenly, a carnation drops from behind an ear, for a knife has plunged into a man, whose horizontal dying brings the dance without music to its end. Resigned, the other man adjusts his hat and devotes the years of his old age to telling the story of that clean-fought duel."

T
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Paul
Unfortunately I have to say that I found this rather disappointing...
I read it mostly in the days leading up to Christmas, and even though it's a very short book - only some 130-odd pages - it took me a while to read. It just didn't excite me that much and I couldn't see the point of some of it.

I've probably missed something here, but I was hoping that this much praised collection of Borges' early short stories, fictionalised accounts "chronicling the lives of such famous villains as Billy the
...more
tim
Just finished Infinite Jest for the first time and it's nearly all I think about. Whatever else I read for awhile could very easily, by untimely default, fail to capture my full attention. This partly explains why most of these stories passed right through me. With that on the table, I admit to enjoying A Theologian in Death which immediately jumps out, solidly evolves, and ends in perfect brevity. That and a couple other stories in the Et Cetera section left enough of an impression on my distra ...more
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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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