Alisha G's Reviews > Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
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's review
Apr 18, 09

it was amazing

I can't think of an accurate way to describe the experience of reading one of his stories: nothing unfolds in an expected way. I like him because he warps conventionality for a purpose, not just because it is (was) the post-modern thing to do. I also love his melding of philosophy and storytelling. This collection is one of the most intellectually intriguing and satisfying I have ever read.

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message 1: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly Some of my favorite stories are from Borges.

Alisha G Which have you liked? These stories beg discussion.

message 3: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly I can't remember the titles off hand, and I'm too lazy to go look them up. But one of my favorite stories ever is the famous one about the guy who kills a fascinating stranger to send a message to Hitler, which I think is called Labyrinth so I'm sure it's in this collection.
The other two I really love, that I still think about sometimes, are the one about the lottery and the one about the tower of Babel. I'm not even sure what I think he's getting at with those, but the ideas are just so intriguing!
Borges likes an intriguing idea...some of his stories are just about someone having a really great idea for a story. I was just thinking the other day that he would have loved the Unconsoled, the brilliant and slowly-revealing structure of it.

Alisha G I just finished the Babel one--about the library? I liked that one. I've read the lottery, too. My favorite so far is about a writer. He's about to be assassinated but is granted (by God) an extra year of life to finish his final play. Except instead of being freed, time just freezes for a year. So he composes the whole thing in his head, and time unfreezes as soon as he's done, exactly a year later. Who thinks of stories like this? Borges is a singular mind. I like him because I've read a lot of post-modern writers who play with convention just because they can. Borges seems to really have a purpose behind his unconventionality. (I think Ishiguro is the same way, which is one of the reasons I like him, too.)
Have you read Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose? It is supposed to have been based on the "Library of Babel". Truthfully I just thought it was an exceptional murder mystery, but maybe I should have read Borges first to get the proper context. Now I'm thinking of re-reading it.
You know, I still have that old philosophy-bred bias that philosophy is the highest form of secular knowledge. I love that Borges has obviously studied a lot of philosophy. Especially because he's actually is applying concepts and examining theories, not just name dropping.

message 5: by Kimberly (last edited Mar 22, 2009 05:34PM) (new)

Kimberly Oh, yeah, I'd forgotten the time-stopping one. That's actually Zac's favorite too. Borges' ideas are so interesting that I'm always remembering one of his stories for some reason. I've learned though that they don't come across well if you try to describe them in conversation... I've felt awkward more than once because of Borges.

I am actually reading the Name of the Rose now. (How did you get italics in your comment?) After I wrote about Foucault's Pendulum I thought I should read other things by him. So far so good, but I just finished The Remains of the Day and I don't think anything will compare to that. I can't get over that earnest, tragic butler trying to figure out American bantering. I want to start a church to worship that book. Will you join?

Alisha G I will absolutely join your church. One of the blurbs on my copy referred to it as exemplifying "flawless control of tone". I absolutely agree. The tragedy unfolds so slowly and methodically. I think it's amazing Ishiguro was able to create such devastation from not much of a plot. I love that book.
I've thought about reading Foucault's Pendulum and I'm sure I will. I didn't find this so much with Rose, but with The Island of the Day Before there was a lot of times I was really bored. But then I got to the end and realized the boring parts were necessary and it didn't seem so boring. Still, it makes me hesitant to start anything by Eco. I need to mentally prepare to wade through the tedious parts.
Jared's in the middle of War and Peace and it's killing me--I want him to read Borges so we can talk about how cool it is. I'm not sure I'm helping matters when I try to describe it, though. Awkward to say the least. It's impossible to describe.
I figured out the italics from goodreads (it was on the right hand side of I think where you write reviews?) But it's lower case i in between <> to start, and to finish /i in between <>. I can't really demonstrate because then you'd just see italicized writing.

message 7: by Kimberly (last edited Mar 23, 2009 01:59PM) (new)

Kimberly Well, frankly, as I look back I remember thinking that parts of Pendulum were boring. But by the end when it all paid off I absolutely forgave him. But you have to understand, I have a fascination with conspiracy theory to begin with. So I was pretty forgiving from the start.

message 8: by Kimberly (new)

Kimberly Look at my italics!

Alisha G I'm impressed!
I'm a fan of conspiracy theories, too. I'm willing to give it a try. Now I just have to wait until it's checked back into the library.
You should really give The Name of the Rose a try. I don't remember boring parts, and there is some conspiracy involved. It's a little, um, TV movie-ish (it was turned into a movie, I believe) with some of the twists (I'm thinking of a particular affair). But it's set in a medieval monastery and it involves philosophy so it's got that going for it. Though I rolled my eyes a couple times, overall it was satisfying.

Alisha G Was the guy that killed the fascinating stranger Chinese? If so, I just read that one. It was called "Garden of Forking Paths" in my collection, though. That one seemed to be the most straight forward of all the ones I've read so far.
And I just re-read your earlier comments and realized you are already reading Rose, so I needn't have urged you again. I hope you like it.

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