Nathanimal's Reviews > Borges and the Eternal Orangutans

Borges and the Eternal Orangutans by Luis Fernando Verissimo
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M_50x66
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Oct 23, 09

bookshelves: latin-american, new-directions

One of the most purely entertaining books I've ever read. Honestly, when I finished, I held it to my chest with a purr.

I was a bit nervous at the start. I mean, was this just going to be some guy capitalizing on the fact that Borges never wrote a novel? Saying to all the Borgesians who are a bit glum over the fact: "Hey everybody over here! I got your Borges novel! Your Borges stamped key chains! Borges coffee cozies! Going fast!"

Well the book was an homage, definitely, almost a piece of fan fiction, but an extremely respectful and astute one. The guy obviously knows Borges down to his fluids and neurons. At the end he crafts this letter written from Borges to the narrator, and the rhythms and diction are so spot on I had to go look at the publishing date to make SURE Borges hadn't participated somehow. No, he was dead by the time this book was written, and admits as much in the letter. The book was full of little touches and nods like that. This book distills and collects so much of what I love about Borges.

Okay, how's this for super clever? Borges stars as the sleuth in a very Borgesian detective story (it relies heavily on a mirror), set appropriately enough in Buenos Aires at a literary conference on Edgar Allan Poe, who a) invented the detective story and b) was a primary if not THE primary influence on Borges and c) was also the primary influence of H.P. Lovecraft, another Borges favorite. The puzzles in this book quickly move from forensics to philology, as you'd expect.

While Poe and Lovecraft definitely have their qualities, I'll admit they can be a little too pulpy for me. I think I like them best as busts in the library of Jorge Luis Borges. Herein lies one of the main pleasures of this book for me: examining those two writers through Borgesian eyes (excuse the irony there), through his love of semiotics, of misdirection, and of obscure and fantastic scholarship. The letter, mentioned above, was only one of the many ways that Verissimo exploited the meta-fictional "Is this this real or not?" possibilities of the story. The last word of the book is "verisimilitude" a word which I think, in its connotations toward both truth and the simulation of truth, captures the spirit of this book; and it makes me wonder if the universe is really so kind to have honestly named this author Verissimo.

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Comments (showing 1-3 of 3) (3 new)

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Birdbath Birdbath Bravo.


Ulises Nice review :)


Stacia True, true. Verissimio, that is. (Portuguese for 'true'.) Fabulous review. I agree totally. Loved this little book!


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