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Ficciones es quizás el libro más reconocido de Jorge Luis Borges. Entre los cuentos que se reúnen aquí hay algunos de corte policial, como «La muerte y la brújula», otros sobre libros imaginarios, como «Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius», y muchos pertenecientes al género fantástico, como «Las ruinas circulares» o «El sur», acaso su mejor relato, en palabras del mismo autor. Está compuesto por los libros El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan (1941) y Artificios (1944), considerados piezas fundamentales del universo borgeano.

224 pages, Paperback

First published January 1, 1944

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About the author

Jorge Luis Borges

1,744 books11.7k followers
Jorge Francisco Isidoro Luis Borges Acevedo, usually referred to as Jorge Luis Borges (Spanish pronunciation: [xoɾxe lwis boɾxes]), 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 librarian and public lecturer. Borges was fluent in several languages. He was a target of political persecution during the Peron regime, and supported the military juntas that overthrew it.

Due to a hereditary condition, Borges became blind in his late fifties. In 1955, he was appointed director of the National Public Library (Biblioteca Nacional) and professor of Literature at the University of Buenos Aires. In 1961, he came to international attention when he received the first International Publishers' Prize Prix Formentor. His work was translated and published widely in the United States and in Europe. He died in Geneva, Switzerland, in 1986.

J. M. Coetzee said of Borges: "He, more than anyone, renovated the language of fiction and thus opened the way to a remarkable generation of Spanish American novelists."

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Profile Image for Vit Babenco.
1,426 reviews3,399 followers
March 8, 2023
To me Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges is the ultimate anthology of short stories… I find in it everything I ever want to find in literature: reality and surreality, rationality and irrationality, fables and parables, legends and myths, mysticism and philosophy, history and fantasy and an endless enigma of existence.
I owe the discovery of Uqbar to the conjunction of a mirror and an encyclopedia. The mirror troubled the far end of a hallway in a large country house on Calle Gaona, in Ramos Mejia; the encyclopedia is misleadingly titled The Anglo-American Cyclopaedia (New York, 1917), and is a literal (though also laggardly) reprint of the 1902 Encyclopœdia Britannica. The event took place about five years ago.

Yes, use expertly a combination of mirrors, labyrinths and books and you too will be capable to live an adventurous, fabulous and mysterious life whenever you wish…
With one quick look, you and I perceive three wineglasses on a table; Funes perceived every grape that had been pressed into the wine and all the stalks and tendrils of its vineyard. He knew the forms of the clouds in the southern sky on the morning of April 30, 1882, and he could compare them in his memory with the veins in the marbled binding of a book he had seen only once, or with the feathers of spray lifted by an oar on the Rio Negro on the eve of the Battle of Quebracho. Nor were those memories simple – every visual image was linked to muscular sensations, thermal sensations, and so on. He was able to reconstruct every dream, every daydream he had ever had.

A perfect memory and ability of perfect vision turns into a curse and we understand that our capability to forget is actually a divine gift.
And Death and the Compass is an utmost detective story, an utter post-noir modernistic tale to me. I believe that this elaborate maze of misconceptions, false steps and deception was a main influence on Foucault's Pendulum by Umberto Eco.
“There are more things in heaven and earth, Horatio,
Than are dreamt of in your philosophy.” William ShakespeareHamlet
And in fiction there are more things than in heaven and earth.
Profile Image for Jeffrey Keeten.
Author 3 books248k followers
December 30, 2020
”The truth is I grew up in a garden, behind lanceolate railings, and in a library of unlimited, English books.”

 photo Jorge Luis Borges_zpsysnqgemm.jpg
Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges, possibly one of the greatest readers of all time, lost his eyesight later in life. I believe the most terrible thing to have happen to a reader is to lose their ability to see. Yes, with Audible now making thousands of books available to be read to people, a blind reader has not completely lost the way to their magical escape tunnels to other worlds. Maybe, if I were blind, I could convince myself that I’ve returned to the age of Homer, where an oral tradition is the only means to pass on stories to others, but that will be a difficult transition for me. I am a reader. I process words much differently by reading them than by having them read to me, so I do think that if I did lose my eyesight, I would be, frankly, finished as a reader.

The question would be, which is very much a Borges type question, is who then would I be?

The blind Borges became Homer, a lecturer who travelled the world, sharing brilliant suppositions by pairing bits of knowledge from here and there that were only made possible by his prodigious reading. These wonderful suppositions, new revelations of what makes us tick as thinking human beings, were only made possible because of all the information he had stored in his brain from...books. So when someone says to me, why do I need to know anything when everything is on the internet? I always say, having the information available doesn’t mean that you have the capacity to make the connections to fully comprehend and use that knowledge, or for that matter even know what to google in the first place.

Borges had the internet in his head.

I never really know how to review collections of short stories without the reviews becoming ponderously long. I decided to share a few quotes from the stories that I find to be interesting. My notes from reading this book are vast and easily could have led to a dissertation many times longer than the original source material. I desisted.

For those readers who struggle with Borges’s text, don’t worry. I struggled as well. I had to read and reread sections of the story to make sure that I captured more of what Borges meant. I am positive, many times, that I failed to completely comprehend all that he intended for me to glean from his writing. My advice is to forge ahead, keep swimming from island to island of wonderfully written passages. Do not become overly anxious. I do not want you to get a cramp and drown in the Borges Sea.

”From the far end of the corridor, the mirror was watching us; and we discovered, with the inevitability of discoveries made late at night, that mirrors have something grotesque about them. Then Bioy Casares recalled that one of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had stated that mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man”--Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. I’d never really thought of mirrors as abominations before. Though mirrors have been associated with sex probably from the moment the inventor of mirrors first hung a shard on the ceiling over his bed (fanciful supposition).

”One of the schools in Tlon has reached the point of denying time. It reasons that the present is undefined, that the future has no other reality than as present hope, that the past is no more than present memory. Another school declares that the whole of time has already happened and that our life is a vague memory or dim reflection, doubless false and fragmented, of an irrevocable process” --Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius. I can remember pondering the concept of time as a child and wondering why we are so obsessed with it when it constantly reminds us of the quick passage of our lives. If we don’t know what time it is or what day it is or what year it is, we can’t possibly be crippled by the knowing our own age. We would be perpetually as young as we think ourselves to be.

”I cannot imagine the universe without the interjection of Edgar Allan Poe“--Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote. Poe, so ignored by his own country for most of his life. Thank goodness the Europeans (and one Argentinian European in particular) saw his merit.

”Every man should be capable of all ideas, and I believe that in the future he will be”--Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote. Ideas used to travel so slowly. It is almost as if Borges is anticipating the internet. Of course, as I stated earlier in this review, people must still have a wide base of knowledge in their own head to fully appreciate or apply the brilliant ideas of others.

”With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he understood that he also was an illusion, that someone else was dreaming him”--The Circular Ruins. This would explain a lot. Whoever is dreaming me needs to drink less alcohol or shoot less heroin because I could really use a more coherent path forward.

”I deeply lament having lent, irretrievably, the first book he published, to a female acquaintance”--The Work of Herbert Quain. Ahh yes, who hasn’t lent a book to a saucy literary woman or a handsome poetic man with the hopes of words shared easing the assault on their virtue. The problem, of course, is that rarely do lent volumes return to us. The rule, clearly, for readers and especially collectors is to never lend a book that you expect to get back.

”Quain was in the habit of arguing that readers were an already extinct species”--The Work of Herbert Quain. If they were really serious about saving readers as a species, they would have us behind bars in book filled zoos, encouraging us to reproduce with one another.

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Library of Babel

”I suspect that the human species--the unique human species--is on the road to extinction, while the Library will last on forever: illuminated, solitary, infinite, perfectly immovable, filled with precious volumes, useless, incorruptible, secret”--The Library of Babel. There was a time I would have agreed with Borges. It is a nice thought that our libraries would exist beyond us, but with the current rate of libraries going extinct, especially in the United States, I would have to say that our species, or some devolved illiterate form of it, may outlive our libraries. Of course, when the internet goes black and the electrical grid goes dark, guess who will still have books to read….me! Candlelight was good enough for Honest Abe. It is certainly good enough for me.

”Whosoever would undertake some atrocious enterprise should act as if it were already accomplished, should impose upon himself a future as irrevocable as the past”--The Garden of the Forking Paths. I could have used this advice several times over the course of my business career, when I sold pieces of my soul. To imagine that the act is already done would have eased the moment when the loss is weighed, measured, and excised.

”In all fiction, when a man is faced with alternatives he chooses one at the expense of the others. In the most unfathomable Ts’ui Pen, he chooses--simultaneously--all of them”— The Garden of Forking Paths. I was thinking as I read this how useful it would be to run simulations of several choices that could show me the outcomes, not only of the first decision but the rippling effects of that decision over the next ten years. The interesting thing in watching how people make decisions is that, even if they have the percentages before them of potential success, they will still go with those fabled gut instincts, even though the simulation shows a much lower potential for success. We are a baffling species, naturally distrustful of knowledge.

”What one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men”--The Form of the Sword. The capacity for greatness or horror exists in all of us. To celebrate one is to celebrate all. To condemn one for an act is really, in many ways, condemning us all.

”’The next time I kill you,’ said Scharlach, ‘I promise you the labyrinth made of the single straight line which is invisible and everlasting’”--Death and the Compass. This has got to be one of the most unique death threats I’ve ever heard uttered. If only Clint Eastwood was still making Dirty Harry movies.

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”The time for your work has been granted”--The Secret Miracle. We can only hope, right? I hope Borges accomplished most of what he wanted before the final swing of the glittering scythe. I do want to encourage everyone that, if there is something you know you should be doing, you should get to it. If you have been putting off asking the libidinous (hope springs eternal) librarian out on a date, do it. If you are supposed to be painting, writing, or starting your own business, move the time table up. The sand in the hour glass is flowing faster than you think, and there will be times when it inexplicably speeds up. Carpe Diem!

If you wish to see more of my most recent book and movie reviews, visit http://www.jeffreykeeten.com
I also have a Facebook blogger page at:https://www.facebook.com/JeffreyKeeten
Profile Image for Florencia.
649 reviews1,914 followers
March 2, 2021
Reading Borges is always a challenge. When you read his stories, it seems you are reading everyone else's. There is a lot of references in his work, and if you want to truly (kind of) understand it (or begin to), you have to do some research. He ends up being an invaluable teacher.
Labyrinths, mirrors, libraries, dreams, fantasy, religion, philosophy, epistemology. My love for philosophical literature began with this author.
My all-time favorite story is "Las Ruinas Circulares" (The Circular Ruins); the power of thoughts.
Con alivio, con humillación, con terror, comprendió que él también era una apariencia, que otro estaba soñándolo.


With relief, with humiliation, with terror, he realized that he, too, was but appearance, that another man was dreaming him.

A magnificent line to end a story. Being able to read JLB in Spanish is a privilege.

"Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" is another jewel which contains a line I've never forgotten:
…los espejos y la cópula son abominables, porque multiplican el número de los hombres.


Mirrors and copulation are abominable, for they multiply the number of mankind.

I also enjoyed "La lotería de Babilonia" (The Lottery in Babylon), "El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan" (The Garden of Forking Paths), "Funes el memorioso" (Funes, His Memory), "La biblioteca de Babel" (The Library of Babel), and... I should stop here. Honestly, I loved every utterly beautiful and unfathomably deep short story included in this book. In that sense, this is a pointless, too subjective review because I'm absolutely enamored with Borges' writing. Despite the fact he makes me feel plain ignorant, most of the times. Though that's how we learn.

JLB and his blindness—an apt oxymoron. He saw things beyond the ordinary human eye. He created universes, troubled authors, perfectly plausible fake books, never-ending labyrinths and a unique writing style to talk about everything and more.
He is one of those great writers who makes you feel like everything has already been written.


May 05, 14
* Also on my blog.
** Credit: Photo
Profile Image for Fernando.
680 reviews1,095 followers
May 27, 2021
“Tú, que me lees, ¿estás seguro de entender mi lenguaje?”

Este libro es perfecto. Me atrevería a decir que es el mejor de Borges, aunque cueste seleccionar uno en su extensa y maravillosa obra, y tal vez, a mi humilde entender, le siga “El Aleph”.
Los cuentos y relatos aquí son brillantes, redondos y… perfectos. Nuevamente debo utilizar ese término.
Dividido en dos libros menores “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan” de 1941 y “Artificios” de 1944 este volumen atesora el mejor cuento de Borges, “El sur”, reconocido por él mismo, aunque los demás no le van en zaga por el asombroso trabajo de arquitectura y relojería con que están construidos.
Prácticamente es necesario nombraros a casi todos, pero los más emblemáticos son: “Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”, una exposición acerca de los libros y la realidad, “Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote”, en donde Menard y Cervantes son un hombre y todos los hombres, “Las ruinas circulares”, con su balanceada mezcla de realidad, irrealidad y saltos temporales, “La lotería de Babilonia”, donde el azar y el destino se enfrentan, “La biblioteca de babel”, un ensayo sobre Dios y el infinito, “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan”, bellísimo cuento que incluye un relato policial, un laberinto y una metáfora sobre el tiempo, “Funes el memorioso” donde los sueños, el insomnio y la genialidad confluyen en un misma persona, “La forma de la espada” en la que una cicatriz divide dos momentos históricos en Irlanda y Buenos Aires, “La muerte y la brújula”, que es otro genial cuento policial de factura, desarrollo y cierre impecables, “El milagro secreto”, una maravillosa parábola kafkiana, “El fin” en donde Recabarren narra el enfrentamiento entre Martín Fierro y su matador y “El sur”, otro entrevero de cuchilleros tan bien narrado que no necesita mucha explicación sino disfrute.
Naturalmente en Borges, nos encontraremos con lo que lo apasionaba y obsesionaba: laberintos, espejos, libros, metafísica, filosofía, tiempo, espacio, Dios, sus autores predilectos y el infinito.
Todos estos componentes forman el inmenso universo narrativo borgeano y aunque por momentos y con total lógica, nos sintamos desconcertados ante lo que estamos leyendo, por otro lado nos rendimos ante la sabiduría infinita de Jorge Luis Borges.
Profile Image for سيد محمد .
276 reviews482 followers
May 28, 2023
في صالة منزلنا القديم
تستند رضا إلى الباب الموارب وتقول لي
تحيرني قصص بورخس يا صديقي
لا تمنحك شيئا تستند إليه
تأخذك لقلب متاهة مغناطيسية
وحيدا... تائها... في عالم مغلق بلا أبواب
لا يراه غيره... يدور بورخس
معه مكتبته العابرة للقارات
أفكاره التي لا يلتقطها القارئ وإن شعر بها تزن في المجال المحيط براسه
تجريد تموت فيه حدوتة الإنسان... وتنطلق الكتابة متخطية التوقع، جارفة المألوف لعجائبية نسقها هو نفسه نسق المألوف
الحق اقول لك أنا أفضل ماريو بارغس يوسا لأنه يأخذنا معه لحياة الناس في شوارع ليما
وأنت تحب بورخيس يا برشومي
صوت رضا الذي سمعته في أجمل لحظات الواقع
وهي واقفة في المكان نفسه
تتغير الأزياء... مرة بزي مدرسة ثانوي الكحلي والقميص الأبيض... مرة بالفستان الأخضر في العيد... مرة بالكاجوال وهي في طريقها للجامعة
ملامحها لم تتغير... ونغمة صوتها... تتردد في موجات نفسي...
في الحلم
في الصمت
في رائحة الكتب... وحفيف الورق
وحنين الصفحات لنظرة ترى سطورها...
مع ذلك لا أكاد أميز بين صوتها القيثاري الضاحك...
وصوت بثينة المشحون بنغمة الكلارنيت الشبيهة بالجاكت العاجي الذي تكتفي بحمله على يدها في عز برد يناير
مع ان بثينة تناديني نصر فقط ولم تقل لي برشومي أبدا...
صوت رضا يتردد في نفسي... مع الناس... وفي وحدتي التي أكاد أرى فيها كل ما قرأناه معا... هنا... في صالتنا التي لم اذهب إليها من زمان
وهناك حيث كنت... واكون بمشاعري الآن
كلما ذهبت لحدبقة الأسماك... في تلك الغابة التي أمضيت فيها إجازات الطفولة
ذبذبات صوتها تلون مياه الحوض بالأخضر الفستقي... تسبح المعاني في موجة الود الصامت
لا أذكر أنني ذهبت لحديقة الأسماك من سنين
الآن... نحن هناك... معنا بورخيس... يقول إنه رأى هذه السمكة نفسها في حوض ناقد أدبي ببيونس أيرس...
كافكا ينظر إليها بتوجس ويقول إنها نفسها الناقد الأدبي ذاته...
بثينة هي التي حكت لي عن الحوض الفس��قي
والسمكة النمر الوحيدة التي أسمتها بثينة سورمينا على اسم بطلة رواية ساحرات جيتكوفا...
لم تحب رضا كتابة بورخيس...
رضا لا تحب المتاهات...
لا تحب الطرق المتشابهة التي تستهلك وقت الحلم..
الطرق المتكررة والمتعرجة والمتشعبة...
تظنها بداية جديدة...
فتجد نفسك تعود معها للمكان نفسه...
مثل شوارع جاردن سيتي الدائرية...
وشوارع الزمالك المتشابهة...
واهما تستيقظ من حلم فتدخل في حلم آخر... تظن انك في يوتوبيا وأنت في الحارة لم تغادرها... وأنت لم تر يوتوبيا... لم تر إلا رضا... ربما هي لم ترك...
سترى نفسك في النهر الذي لم تنزله... سترى حدائق وكواكب وصفحات لم تنشر من قاموس لَم يكتب...
هذه هي الدقاىق الأخيرة من العام...
ستقول لي إنه بدأ في مكان آخر...
ستقول لي بعض الأعوام تعود بالإنسانية للخلف...
ستقول لي رضا هي نفسها بثينة...
وأن حديقة الأسماك مسافة رائعة ظهرت بطريق الخطأ عندما لمست مفتاحا ضائعا من لوحة لاب قديم.
رضا لم تحب بورخيس لأنه لم يحقق لها واقعا تمنته ولا فتح لها أبواب يوتوبيا خيالية بكلمة حب مجانية... لقد تركها في منتصف المسافة تبكي حلما بعين وتتابع دروس الأولاد الذين سيهاجرون ويتركونها بالعين الأخري.
لا يحب بورخيس إلا السارحون في دهاليز الوقت الضائع... تطردهم الكواكب من مجرات الخيال التي تشبه تلك المجرة التي لم تبرح طفولتنا العجوز.
Profile Image for Jim Fonseca.
1,086 reviews7,012 followers
February 25, 2019
The author is a master of mixing fantasy and philosophy. He has been credited as a pioneer in magical realism in Latin American literature. In this classic collection, most stories are almost as much essays as they are short stories.

Recurring themes are non-existent and ancient books. Time. Geometry. Gnosticism. Mirrors. Encyclopedias. Chess. Labyrinths. Imaginary worlds. Memory and mnemonics. Infinity in books, libraries and labyrinths. All possible outcomes, like infinite universes in which every act and its result are mirrored by the opposite act and the opposite result. (Or maybe the opposite act and the same result. lol)

Here are a few examples of the 17 stories:

The Library of Babel, perhaps his best-known story combines almost all of the list in the previous paragraph. The library is God or the universe. Every book is mirrored by one with all the opposite conclusions.


Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius is a story that gives us imaginary countries and worlds that get into encyclopedias and take on a life of their own. (Like imaginary islands) “One of the schools of Tlon has reached the point of denying time. It reasons that the present is undefined, that the future has no other reality than as present hope, that the past is no more than present memory.” (This story calls to mind the fake stories that keep resurfacing and periodically go viral on the internet. This week for example in Feb. 2019, fact checking sites are once again refuting claims that 98 million Americans got cancer from the polio vaccine.)

In The Garden of Forking Paths, a Chinese spy for the Germans (against the British) can only pass on his secret information by killing someone. Meanwhile we hear speculation on the garden: is it a true labyrinth or a book about the labyrinth?

In The Secret Miracle a man is condemned to the firing squad basically for being an erudite Jew. He tries to stop his execution by attempting to foresee all the details of the endless possibilities of the execution -- number of soldiers firing, how far away they stand, where it will take place, etc. -- knowing that it is impossible to imagine all these details correctly, so that if he imagines all possible scenarios, his execution can’t happen. He prays for a year to finish the book he is working on. He is granted that wish to finish the book in his head in the suspension of time between bullets leaving the guns and their impact on his body.

Three Versions of Judas is in effect a religious work arguing that Judas’ betrayal of Christ was superfluous. His action wasn’t needed to betray a master who daily preached in the synagogue and performed miracles before gatherings of thousands of people. But maybe the betrayal was necessary for God to prove his divinity.

And we have humor:

A hotel “…which most manifestly unites the hateful whiteness of a sanitorium, the numbered divisibility of a prison, and the general appearance of a bawdy house…”

“This delay [in an execution] was due to a desire on the part of the authorities to act slowly and impersonally, in the manner of planets or vegetables.”

“In life, he suffered from a sense of unreality, as do many Englishmen; dead, he is not even the ghostly creature he was then.”


Why a rating of 4 rather than 5? Perhaps because the stories are starting to show their age. They were all written in the 1940’s and 50’s. Maybe we need a new translation – the edition I read was translated in 1956. Borges has had so many imitators, some are quite good, such as the stories by his countryman, Julio Cortazar, in All Fires the Fire, which I reviewed here https://www.goodreads.com/review/show...

It’s fun to think how Borges would be writing stories today about the internet and cell phones!

Illustration of the Library of Babel from americandigest.org

Photo of the Borges Labyrinth in Venice planted on the 25th anniversary of his death. (1899-1986). From oddviser.com/italy
Profile Image for Luís.
1,866 reviews524 followers
January 10, 2023
Are there fictional tales with such philosophical significance somewhere in all of literature? At Lessing, at Novalis, at Kafka, at Hesse, at Kierkegaard, perhaps? In any case, we swim in these waters in excellent company!
The stories arise from all kinds of horizons (mystical, fantastic, erudition, news stories, etc.) to spread with authority and confidence before the fascinated mind of the reader I am. And the ideas and the perspectives employed have taken me to all spiritual and philosophical depths while entertaining me with high efficiency.
I also enjoyed the struggle for freedom expressed in several novels, Tlön, Orbis Tertius, and The Lottery in Babylon. How often have I come across an evocation of news from this collection? I cannot say! Probably as often as on invocations of Aesop's Fables or Andersen's Tales! A reader needs to know certain precise information, to grasp the meaning of what expressing and the impression that must emanate from it, and it is to the word that Borges always delivers the right measure to him. It is possible that the message does not get through to some, but every chance will have been made available to it to keep its attention and interest to their maximum levels.
Yes, for me, Borges writes what he wants with uncompromising elegance. They have become essential in the history of Western thought, and he will have had the chance to know them during his lifetime. What a beautiful collection of philosophical novels!
Profile Image for Gaurav.
150 reviews1,145 followers
February 5, 2023
*edited on 27.05.19

I now held in my hands a vast and systematic fragment of the entire history of an unknown planet, with its architectures and its playing cards, the horror of its mythologies and the murmur of its tongues, its emperors and its seas, its minerals and its birds and fishes, its algebra and its fire, its theological and the metaphysical controversies- all joined, articulated, coherent, and with no visible doctrinal purpose or hint of parody.

What could be said about a book which is in itself many books in a book or many authors in one, for are you capable enough to said anything? What genre could encapsulate the breadth of this gem, which has been shining through the vagaries and austerity of time and space, of literature? What so called forms- which could have been defined by whatever produced, known and understood of literature (for we are one and one is all)- could best describe it, be it novel, poetry, non-novel, short story or essay, philosophy, memoir and others for that matter. For it surpasses all the known (or created) formal or informal forms of literature. The abovementioned questions come up from the vague recesses of our consciousness and challenge our so called knowledge and understanding of literature as we have known it. These questions tremble our shallow buildings of self- appeasing knowledge and send great discomfort for us to realize that we have absolutely no idea about literature, for our mind has been tied to the strings of dogmas, references (for as human beings we need them) which we have been telling ourselves since the very inception of literature. A sense of shame creeps up for us to recognize that we are quite mediocre in our so called progress, for we have kept beating around the bush. And perhaps the courage of all our might has not been assembled to produce something original in itself, which may have a being unto itself and doesn’t require anything else to define its existence. But then, suddenly, a sense of solace find its way to our heart and we come to discern that we are not Borges, for there had been only one, there would (may) be only one, for his style is inimitable. There have been very few authors in the history of literature who could produce such impact of originality and Borges is certainly right up there.

There are many men adept in those diverse disciplines, but few capable of imagination- fewer will capable of subordinating imagination to rigorous and systematic plan. The plan is so vast that the contribution of each writer is infinitesimal.

Fictions introduced entirely new voice into world literature. The collection continues to be among the most read, commented on and alluded to fictions of the century and despite the quality of so much of Borges’s subsequent works, the collection continues to be most sought after book, perhaps have become his identity over the years. What was striking about Fictions is that whenever and wherever it come to existence it immediately grabbed the imagination of readers- for it is quintessential for a reader to be imaginative to understand Borges’s world. As we say one overdoes something until one perfects it, Borges has developed a much serene, subtler prose from the baroque style employing strained and startling metaphors from his early days, and mind you that quieter style has beauty of undertones which may take you to so many avenues in so little words. He became so adept at his style in 40s that it got a particular name- Borgesian- like those of Dickensian and Kafkaesque. But there was more than just the style, the unclassificability and originality of these stories were among the most prominent factors which led uncomfortable but curious stir among readers and writers of that time, probably still continues to do in modern world.

Borges’s prose style is characterized by an economy of resources in which words are being weighted through patience and erudite imagination which produce an truly original voice whose effects are not pompous but rather produced with a few words which may seem to be fitted into the sentence without disturbing its divine serenity and quietness. The prose style of Borges may come across as intellectual with its allusion to literature (which may be both existent or non- existent), philosophy, religion, theology, myth, culture, history of Latin America He deftly used parallelism, chiasmus, subtle repetitions-with-variations to shock the reader in a pleasant way. He combined literary and extraliterary genres in order to create a dynamic, electric genre. The ingenious playing with the boundaries of genre was underlined by playfulness, cleverly though, in both prose style and attitude. Borges was having real fun with these stories. One just has to sit back and enjoy spotting the playfulness; one learn that Borges’s ways were mysterious and sometimes may be incomprehensible to naïve men. We find that such spontaneous and playful attitude existed even in the most serious of his stories and readers unaccustomed to such techniques were constantly being made to feel just bit off balance. This serious, high literature that sometimes went just over one’s head or was this sport, spoof, playing, perhaps it was both. The characters are not being developed like in traditional fiction, the role of the characters is just to create effect, which comes up on the surface of the story, and then to dissolve in nothingness to convey the greater theme of the story. Borges considered and discarded seemingly all the previously known forms of literature and philosophy, creates a world ex nihilo- for there was nothing to write and nothing be written. Yet minutely studied, Borges, like Kafka, under close scrutiny reveals subtle affinities with other forms of literature, exhibits an unmistakable existential angst. This new wave of literature reintroduced irony, angst, existential dilemma, a knowing worldliness which was overshadowed by seriousness and realism of previous age. There have been ingenious authors in past too but it had taken them hundreds of pages and the invention of an entirely new language to communicate what Borges has done in sparingly three or four pages. He has managed to turn language upon itself to reverse himself time after time with a sentence or a paragraph with relentless logic so that it comes up as a pleasant surprise.

Borges’s universe is successive in nature where in there is a heterogenous series of independent acts, the world is temporal not spatial as we generally know it on earth. The universe is based on all possible probabilities which in turn give rise to infinite successive possibilities which give birth to infinite universes co-existing together in a labyrinth, which is surreal, does not have clear demarcation between physics and metaphysics; real and unreal; right and wrong; myth and belief; the rules are, of course, different than that in our universe. The language and things derived from the language- religion, literature, metaphysics, myth- presuppose idealism. These universes are congenitally, idealistic. There is only one discipline which is psychology to which all others are subordinate. The fiction has only one plot, with every imaginable permutation; the works of philosophy invariably contains both thesis and antithesis. There is a library (or universe itself) which contains all possible books of entire universe or rather multiverses in it; all books, however different from one another they might be, consist of identical elements: the space, the period, the comma and letters of alphabet; so the library has all the possible combinations of all letters of the alphabet. There is a person in Borges’s universe who may reconstruct every dream, every day dream he had ever had. He can even reconstruct an entire day and he had never erred. Several people count the same quantity come to the same result is an example of association of ideas or of memorization, for subject knowledge is one and eternal there. There are paths which fork from themselves and lead unto themselves. These universes are built upon various possibilities of a tussle between chance and self -determinism. These parallel or successive universes repeats themselves as a hand of card does after multiple runs. While we sleep in one universe, we are awake somewhere else, so every men is in fact many men, all men are one and one is all men. The space is not conceived as having duration in time, posterior stage of subject can’t affect universe, only prior stages can do. There is no concept of time there, for present is undefined and indefinite, the future has no reality except as present hope, and the past has no reality except as present recollection. It is believed that time passes differently for everyone for it is not uniform, depends upon medium and perceiver. Perhaps all the time has already passed, so that our life is but the crepuscular memory, or crepuscular reflection, doubtlessly distorted and mutilated, of an irrecoverable process.

I recall him (though I have no right to speak that sacred verb- only one man on earth did, and the man is dead) holding a dark passionflower in his hand, seeing it as it has never been seen, even had it been stared at from the first light of dawn till the last light of evening for an entire lifetime.

The stories of the collection co-exist in the same labyrinth wherein the reader may move one to another through strings of probabilities, intertextuality (for some of the stories refer to other and narrator in one stories talks about creation of another one). The boundaries between fact and fiction, between essay and short story are being expertly blended and the border between genres too is obliterated quite adeptly. In fact, he created three genres- the essay, the poem and the short story (as mentioned by Octavio Paz) but the division is arbitrary: his essays read like stories, his stories are poems and his poems are essays. Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, The Library of Babel, The Lottery in Babylon, The Circular Ruins, The Secret Miracle and The South seem to belong science fiction or fantasy, although in their treatment of their major themes, they are more erudite and philosophical in nature. The themes of chance versus determination, conception and writing of our history, ideation and transmission of philosophical and mathematical systems; existence of various levels of realities could be explored in these stories of the collection. While other ones- The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim, Pierre Menard, A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain and The Versions of Judascome across as book reviews or critical monographs of non-existent books but they were as convincing as any reviews or criticisms may be. Funes, His Memory, The Garden of Forking Paths and The Shape of the Sword could be said as imaginative fiction where fictions-about-fictions anticipated metafictional concerns of postmodernism. We find traits of detective fiction too in The Garden of Forking Paths, Death and the Compass and The Theme of the Traitor amd the Hero on the other hand The Circular Ruins, The Lottery of Babylon and The Cult of the Phoenix were told in a style that recalled myth and were set in distant times and places that made them seem parables, both ageless and perfectly contemporary. But all the stories are common in a sense that we may find an existential angst in all of them wherein either characters or narrators or the story itself struggles to define its existence in the unique world of Borges.

Borges’s own diminishing eye sight perhaps helped his imagination to grow leaps and bound than to cause harm to him, which resulted such an extraordinary achievement in world literature. It is one of those unforgettable experiences which one may come across once in a lifetime but every word of this gem is worth it. In his essay on Borges, Perez wrote that he has created his own type of post-avant-grade literature- which shows the process of critical self- examination that reveals the moment in which literature becomes a reflection of itself, distanced from life- on order to reveal the formal and intellectual density involved in writing.

I am something of a connoisseur of mazes: not for nothing am I the great-grandson of that Ts-ui Pen who power in order to write a novel containing more characters than the Hung Lu Meng and construct a labyrinth in which all men would lose their way.

Profile Image for mark monday.
1,646 reviews5,110 followers
November 22, 2019
Borges looked inside the swirling mind of man and made a maze of it. A glorious maze! The maze that is Ficciones is a maze built of mazes, one opening unto another, circling around and looping back, an infinity of mazes, small as the smallest of small minds, large as the universe can be imagined. Its architecture is delicate and refined; the wry wit of its creator is apparent in every twist and turn. Borges' maze gently mocks yet empathizes with the self-important, the self-absorbed, and the self-denying. He understands the foibles of man and his maze offers diverse commentaries on such things. But there are darker things lurking beneath that amiable surface; Ficciones is more than an academician's cleverly constructed playground. Beware the prickly thorns of this maze! There is anger there, under the charm and the playful games; anger at the systems of man and the futility of certain behaviors, at the machinery of government. There is sadness there too, at the thought of those who would treat such mazes as homes, at the machinations of fate.
Like every writer, he measured the virtues of other writers by their performance, and asked that they measure him by what he conjectured or planned.
An ironic dig, but that phrase is more than a shot fired. Borges is fascinated by the concept that if something has been thought about, has acquired meaning through that contemplation, then that something has become real. Thought creates its own reality, and reality is composed of varied systems of being and behavior; thought becomes the way that reality is interpreted - and therefore enacted.

Ficciones tells stories about stories: each story is about the perspective of mankind, the symbols this species clings to, the metaphors they attempt to turn into living, breathing reality. Ficciones is an imaginarium; it is a weird and haunted carnival of games and sideshows come to life. It is a dazzling display of comic, sometimes cosmic gems... and each gem includes a seam of tragedy, fractures that can sometimes be seen on the surface but are most often buried within its heart.

Oh the mysterious fallibility and hypocrisy of the human kind! Their failures and their attempts to transcend their fates! The mazes and fictions that they create - and then proceed to live in!

each story title is a link to something that that story made me think about...


Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
The Approach to Al-Mu'tasim
Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote discard the download
The Circular Ruins
The Babylon Lottery
An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain
The Library of Babel
The Garden of Forking Paths


Funes, the Memorious
The Form of the Sword
Theme of the Traitor and Hero
Death and the Compass
The Secret Miracle
Three Versions of Judas
The End
The Sect of the Phoenix
The South
Profile Image for Fionnuala.
779 reviews
June 17, 2020
I've just finished the seventeenth and final story in this volume. My symmetry-loving self is pleased to note that I've been reading and rereading these seventeen Borges' stories for exactly seventeen days. Incidentally, Borges says reality favours symmetries.

Another symmetry which strikes me is that the seventeenth story mirrors the fifteenth story which is called The End though we might expect the seventeenth story to be called The End instead. In any case, the seventeenth story is packed with many of the elements I had noticed in the earlier stories which makes it the perfect one to end the volume as well as to use as a launch pad for my thoughts on this first Borges reading experience.

The South, for that is the name of the seventeenth story, begins in a typical (as I now realise) Borges manner with a factual sounding paragraph that could be straight out of an essay or a history book. Precise dates and place names and other historical references add weight to this impression, and the reader might feel overwhelmed by the amount of detail packed into that first paragraph.
Which details will be useful ones to remember later, I wondered, as my mind reeled from the concentration of facts. The dates themselves destabilised me because one minute the story seemed to be set in 1871 and the next in 1939.
Borges often uses numbers, shapes, places and compass points in his stories, and that numerical, spatial, geometrical and temporal data, combined with uncertainty about whether the 'facts' are historical or fictional, made me feel as if the ground was shifting beneath my feet, as in the twelfth story, Death and the Compass: …the second crime occurred on the night of the third of January....and the letter prophesied that on the third of March there would not be a fourth crime.

But just when I might abandon a story in confusion (as you might abandon this review), Borges offers an axiom that has the effect of a strong coffee, setting me back on solid ground, able to pay complete attention and avoid being slapped in the face by any further red herrings: destiny can be ruthless at one's slightest distraction.

This is the stage when the story proper begins, or perhaps continues, since Borges likes to drop us into the middle of a story from time to time. Or indeed the 'story' might not 'begin' at all leaving the narrative to continue in the mode of an essay. That's only one of the games Borges likes to play with his readers, and when I understood how playful his writing could be, I enjoyed his stories much more.

I also learned to look out for the signs that I shouldn't take everything literally as in the story called The Sect of the Phoenix which seems to be about a secret activity known only to an obscure group but instead turns out to be about something we all do instinctively and without which life couldn't go on. The story is very funny especially as Borges inserts corks and sealing wax into the scenario!
However humour is generally not so apparent in Borges's writing, and certainly not in the ninth story about Ireneo Funes who is cursed with a phenomenal memory, not only of every word he had read but every transient pattern on water or in the sky, every scrap of dream he ever had. The oddest thing about that odd story is that, as I read it, I remembered reading it before though I had been certain that this volume of stories was my first experience of reading Borges! Unfortunately, unlike Ireneo, I cannot recollect where or when I read Funes, the Memorious, just that I did.

By stressing the weightiness of Borges's stories, and the red herrings that distracted me sometimes, I may have given the impression that the stories are long. The opposite is true. The South might well be one of the longest, at only eight pages while The End is one of the shortest at a mere four pages, and is an example of Borges's ability, when he so chooses, to make every word count: the setting, the timing, the oblique view of the action are precise and perfect.

As I said earlier, those two stories are mirror images of each other, and, what's more, The South is divided into two halves which are mirror images of themselves. Orbis terrarum est speculum Ludi: The world is mirror to the game, says Borges in the thirteenth story, quoting a sixteenth century Latinist. Indeed mirrors and symmetry seem to be as much a part of his writing tools as games themselves are. And although he is Argentinian, it's as if the entire world is his playing field, or his chessboard to continue the mirror/game metaphor. As I began each new story, I never knew where it was going to be situated, south or north, west or east. And I was pleasantly surprised to find that several stories were set in my native country, or at least had characters who came from there. They weren't the most heroic of characters perhaps but I have no illusions about my countrymen so I wasn't perturbed.
In any case, the countries Borges described became entirely new territories for me, places I have never visited or could never visit. He has created his own Orbis Terrarum with its own compass points, and as I read, I felt like an explorer, going where no one has ever gone before. I felt I'd discovered the planet Borges.
Profile Image for Michael.
655 reviews966 followers
April 3, 2020
A series of laconic, fantastical tales that provoke thought at every turn. The collection’s made up of seventeen stories packed with irony, metaphors, and allusions to works of literature from a vast array of places and times, but all the pieces have easy-to-understand concepts. In one the writer allegorizes the universe as infinite library, and in another he explores Argentinian identity through a man’s fantasy of a heroic death. The work invites rereading.
Profile Image for Tadiana ✩Night Owl☽.
1,880 reviews22.7k followers
April 2, 2021
4.5 stars, rounding up. I read and then reread several of these stories (some of them for a third time) while I was writing my final review for Fantasy Literature, and they keep impressing me more ... for the most part. My literary friends will be so proud of me! :D So here's the full review, where you can follow along with the journey of myself and my (severely challenged, but ultimately edified) brain cells ...
Ficciones is a classic collection of seventeen short stories by acclaimed Argentine author Jorge Luis Borges, originally published in the 1940s in Spanish, and winner of the 1961 International Publishers Prize. These stories and mock essays are a challenging mixture of philosophy, magical realism, fantasy, ruminations on the nature of life, perception and more. There are layers of meaning and frequent allusions to historic figures, other literary works, and philosophical ideas, not readily discernable at first read. Reading Ficciones, and trying to grasp the concepts in it, was definitely the major mental workout of the year for me. My brain nearly overloaded several times, but reading some critical analyses of these works helped tremendously with my understanding and appreciation of these works … well, at least most of them.

The stories in Ficciones are divided into two parts: The first part, The Garden of Forking Paths (El Jardín de senderos que se bifurcan) was originally published in 1941. The first six stories in Part Two, Artifices, were added in 1944, and the collection was named Ficciones at that time. Borges added the final three stories to Ficciones in the 1956 edition.

Part One: The Garden of Forking Paths

“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” ― The narrator tells how his search for information about Uqbar, mentioned to him by a friend and found in only one edition of an encyclopedia, leads him to Uqbar’s literature about the imaginary world of Tlön, with its fantastical culture steeped in psychological and philosophical concepts. A brief taste:
The nations of that planet [Tlön] are congenitally idealist. Their language, with its derivatives ― religion, literature, and metaphysics ― presupposes idealism. For them, the world is not a concurrence of objects in space, but a heterogeneous series of independent acts. It is serial and temporal, but not spatial. There are no nouns in the hypothetical Ursprache of Tlön, which is the source of the living language and the dialects; there are impersonal verbs qualified by monosyllabic suffixes or prefixes which have the force of adverbs.
Heady stuff! This twenty page story (the longest in the book) is so abstruse and heavily laden with philosophical ideas and allusions that I found it almost completely impenetrable. It reminded me of trying to read James Joyce’s Ulysses. I was so completely lost that I’ll confess I had to put this book down and retreat to a fluffy romance while I mentally regrouped for another attack on this book. Brain cell verdict: no response. They totally shorted out on this one.

“The Approach to Al-Mu’tasim” ― This allegorical story purports to be a review of the titular novel, about the years-long pilgrimage of a law student in India, who murders a man in a riot and falls among the lowest of society. When he perceives a note of tenderness and clarity in one of these vile men, he concludes that it is the reflection of a perfect man who exists somewhere. The student embarks on a lengthy search for this man, whom he calls Al-Mu’tasim. We have met the divine and it is us. My brain cells concluded that, although some of the allusions are obscure, this tale is far more readily grasped than the first one. There is hope!

“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” ― Another story set up as a mock review of one Pierre Menard’s attempt to recreate Don Quixote ― not copy it, but study Cervantes and his world so deeply that he can write Don Quixote exactly as it was originally written. The reviewer lauds Menard’s work, which uses the identical words as Cervantes, as far richer and more profound than the original. It’s satirical in tone, but otherwise I was at a loss as to the theme and meaning of this work. The brain cells were getting restive again.

“The Circular Ruins” ― A stranger makes his way into the circle of ruins of an ancient temple, lies down and begins to dream, with great purpose: he wants to dream a man, to create a son to whom he will be the father, by imagining him in great detail. It succeeded for me as a symbol of the creative process of authors, even though I’m still wading through tricky but entrancing sentences like this:
He understood that modeling the incoherent and vertiginous matter of which dreams are composed was the most difficult task that a man could undertake, even though he should penetrate all the enigmas of a superior and inferior order; much more difficult than weaving a rope out of sand or coining the faceless wind.
It’s still a challenge, but my brain cells are starting to feel a little more hopeful. So we moved on to …

“The Lottery in Babylon” ― In the city of Babylon, a lottery morphs into an game that takes over all aspects of life in Babylon. A lucky drawing might lead you to be elevated to the council of wizards or reunite you with a long-lost love; a losing ticket might land you in jail, or get your tongue burned, or lead to infamy or death. The ubiquitous lottery seems to be a symbol of the capriciousness of chance in life and the story in general seems to be taking an ironic view of the questionable role of deity in human life. My favorite part was the sly reference to Franz Kafka in the form of the “sacred privy called Qaphqa,” where informants can leave accusations for agents of the Company that runs the lottery. The brain cells were quite amused.

“An Examination of the Work of Herbert Quain” ― This is another satirical review piece, purporting to review four (non-existent) works written by a (fictional) author. Borges playfully explores the labyrinth concept in different ways in each of these works. This story, frankly, didn’t leave much of an impression on me.

“The Library of Babel” ― One of Borges’ most famous stories, “The Library of Babel” posits a universe in the form of a library made out of connected hexagonal rooms, each room filled with books and the barest necessities for life. Each book contains 410 pages, with 40 lines of 80 letters each. There are 25 letters and punctuation marks in the alphabet. The Library contains every possible combination of those letters. Most of the books are complete gibberish, of course, but like the Infinite Monkey Theorem says, if you have enough monkeys banging away on typewriters for long enough, eventually they’ll write Hamlet. But life for the people dwelling in this library is profoundly frustrating, even depressing, since only a vanishingly small percentage of the books make any sense at all. Borges explores the ways that people react to this, with several nods to religion and philosophy. Mathematicians have had a field day with this book’s concept, figuring out how many books such a library would contain. Per Wikipedia’s article on this story, there would be far more books in this library (1.956 x 10 to the 1,834,097th power) than there are thought to be atoms in the observable universe (10 to the 80th power).

“The Garden of Forking Paths” ― Dr. Yu Tsun, a Chinese professor of English, is living in Great Britain during WWI. Dr. Yu is spying for Imperial Germany for a psychologically complicated reason: he wants to prove to his prejudiced German chief that a person of his race, a “yellow man,” can save the German armies. Yu discovers that an MI5 agent, Richard Madden (an Irishman who also has equivocal feelings about the nation he is serving, due to his nationality) has captured another German spy and is on the verge of finding him. Dr. Yu goes on the run. The plot is thickened by the fact that Dr. Yu has just found out the location of a new British artillery park. How can he pass that information to his German handler before he’s captured? This is the first story in this book that has a substantial plot to go along with the play of ideas; hence, I enjoyed reading it more than the previous tales. The concepts in it are not as mentally challenging, although the labyrinth imagery and philosophical conjectures resurface toward the end. Still, “The Garden of Forking Paths” was straightforward enough that my brain cells didn’t hurt too much trying to wrap themselves around the story.

Part Two: Artifices

“Funes the Memorious” ― Borges, as narrator, meets up with a young Uruguayan boy, Ireneo Funes, who has the ability to tell you exactly what time it is without looking at a clock. When Borges returns to this village three years later, Funes is now crippled from being thrown by a wild horse, but his mind is unimpaired. The narrator realizes that Funes also now has an infallible memory, with perfect recall. But the depth and detail of Funes’ memory makes it impossible for him to grasp general, abstract ideas.
To think is to forget a difference, to generalize, to abstract. In the overly replete world of Funes there were nothing but details, almost contiguous details.
This tale was, again, a little too opaque and short on plot for me to really enjoy. The brain cells were grumbling a little.

“The Form of the Sword” ― In this story, which deals with themes of identity and betrayal, the narrator is passing through a town and asks an “Englishman” whom he meets there (actually an Irishman) about the terrible, crescent-shaped scar across his face. The Irishman tells a story of his involvement in the battle for Irish independence, and his dealings with a disagreeable, cowardly man named John Vincent Moon. There’s a twist to this tale, echoing the Irishman’s portentous comment that “[w]hat one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men.”

“Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” ― A man named Ryan researches the death of his great-grandfather, an Irish nationalist hero named Fergus Kilpatrick, who was assassinated and is now viewed as a martyr to the cause of Irish independence. Something about the manner of Fergus Kilpatrick’s death strikes Ryan as enigmatic, a series of events that are like “circular labyrinths” (that image again!), oddly echoing elements from Macbeth and Julius Caesar, Shakespeare’s classic tragedies of betrayal. In “Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” the conceptual aspects of this tale don’t override the compelling plot, and this was one of the stories I really loved.

“Death and the Compass” ― Erik Lönnrot, a highly intellectual detective, works to solve a strange set of murders by figuring out the pattern underlying them and the clues left by the murderer, referencing the unspeakable Hebrew four-letter name for God. Lönnrot foresees a final murder, but can he prevent it? As Lönnrot explores the house where he has deduced the final murder is to occur, once again we have maze-like imagery:
On the second floor, on the top story, the house seemed to be infinite and growing. The house is not this large, he thought. It is only made larger by the penumbra, the symmetry, the mirrors, the years, my ignorance, the solitude.
This detective story had enough philosophy in it to make it intriguing and give it more depth than a typical mystery, but not overload my brain cells, which are feeling like they’re now on a roll.

“The Secret Miracle” ― A Jewish playwright is arrested by the Nazis and sentenced to die by firing squad. All he wants is the ability to finish up a play he has been working on, his masterpiece. A divine voice tells him that he will be granted the time to do this — even though he is set to die the next day. But God works in mysterious ways, and the playwright is able to weave “a lofty invisible labyrinth in time.”

“Three Versions of Judas” ― In yet another mock literary review, Borges reviews three imaginary works by Nils Runeberg about Judas, the betrayer of Christ. Borges-as-Runeberg recasts the character and nature of Judas in three different, heretical ways, including as a righteous man who knowingly accepted his role as the person who would force Jesus to declare his divinity, and even as another incarnation of God Himself. He challenges our comfortable religious views.

“The End” ― A shopkeeper, who has suffered a paralyzing stroke and is lying on a cot, sees and overhears a confrontation between a Negro man, who has been hanging around the shopkeeper’s store, playing his guitar and waiting, and a man who rides up to meet him. Their conversation makes it clear that the black man has been waiting seven years for this meeting. As mentioned in an editor’s footnote, this brief, bleak story is essentially a coda to a famous Argentine 19th century epic folk poem, “Martin Fierro,” about the life of a violent gaucho. In a famous scene in the poem, Fierro crudely provokes a black man and then kills him in the resulting knife fight. Several years later, in this story, Fierro is an aging man with some regrets for the life he has lived, and whose free and lawless gaucho way of life is passing. Once I really grasped the connection between the poem and this story, it became one of my favorites in this collection.

“The Sect of the Phoenix” ― There is a group of people in all societies and times, tied together by the Secret that they share, which Borges coyly never reveals. Is it sexual intercourse? Or perhaps more particularly, homosexual sex?

In the prologue to Artifices, Borges comments:
In the allegory of the Phoenix I imposed upon myself the problem of hinting at an ordinary fact ― the Secret ― in an irresolute and gradual manner, which, in the end, would prove to be unequivocal; I do not know how fortunate I have been. Of “The South,” which is perhaps my best story, let it suffice for me to suggest that it can be read as a direct narrative of novelistic events, and also in another way.
“The South” ― This is one of my favorite stories in this collection, as well as Borges’. The main character is Juan Dahlmann, a mixture of German and Spanish ancestry, whose life is mundane but who dreams vaguely of a more romantic life, inspired by the Flores side of his heritage and the Flores ranch in the South that he owns but has never visited. One day Dahlmann brushes his forehead against something in a dark stairway and realizes afterwards that he is bleeding. He develops a life-threatening infection and is taken to a sanitarium for treatment. After many excruciatingly painful and feverish days, he recovers, and decides that he will take a trip to his ranch to convalesce. He travels out of the city on a train, feeling as though he is traveling into the past, and has an unexpected confrontation as he nears his final destination. Or does he? You decide, but several clues in the text ― a mysterious cat, a spitball that brushes his face, a dagger tossed to him by an old gaucho ― have led me unequivocally to my own conclusion. The brain cells, by the way, were completely engaged by this tale, which was complex and layered enough to make me think, but didn’t lose me in a labyrinth of difficult-to-grasp ideas.

Repeated labyrinth imagery, scenes of deception, and challenges to our perceptions of what is real echo throughout the stories of Ficciones. These stories are often elusive, twisting out of your grasp or revealing unexpected depths just when you think you’ve got a handle on them. Even the lightest stories have several layers and hidden meanings to unpack. If you’re interested in philosophical ideas and are up for a literary challenge, I highly recommend Ficciones. The 1962 English translation by Anthony Kerrigan and other translators is excellent.
Profile Image for Morgan.
373 reviews16 followers
September 23, 2017
Ok, I'd tried to read Labyrinths years ago and found it dry and dull. I thought that perhaps I just wasn't in the proper state of mind, or perhaps wasn't well read enough to get it. I'd also come off of a Calvino kick, so Borges felt boring. Fast forward to me thinking that I really should commit to Borges and give him a real chance.

I have to say that hard a hard time with this book. I only really like one story The Babylonian Lottery. The Circular Ruins, The Library of Babel, The Garden of Forking Paths and The Secret Miracle being alright and scant few others like An Examination of Herbert Quain and The End only fair.

Most of the time I feel like I'm stuck as some shitty academic after-party listening to the drunken rambling of a self-indulgent lit professor trying to make himself believe that he is the smartest guy in the room. I get the references, but most of this just isn't that interesting. It all comes across as clinical, with a tone of little Jack Horner self satisfaction staring at his thumb saying "What a good boy am I."

Let me write you a Borges story:

I could write a longer story dear reader, but instead I will keep to laconic prose. I met Arkadiusz Juhász when he threw a crust of bread at my head and laughed in that way that he does. At the time, I was simultaneously reading De Natura Deorum, Hasidic Kabbalah, and Discours de Métaphysique. [Fill page one with nonsense that isn't all that important to the story, feels otherworldly, and serves only to offset and confuse the reader]. At dinner Arkadiusz Juhász described the labyrinth in his mind. He had an experience the likes of which you will never have. Jews are mysterious. He solved a puzzle that he created for himself and figured out that he is Shakespeare and everyone wrote Henry V for it has always existed. There is a long history of naming a thing, but in reality everything is the same. Arkadiusz Juhász felt disjointed from the world and wandered and time passed with little result. Perhaps he was in a sanitarium with black circling walls. Arkadiusz Juhász has written a collection of essays to describe the effect of his travels. Here is the list: Darkest Jungles 1898; The Diminishing Return 1900; Checkers and the Vanishing Point 1904; The Breadbox 1904; The Unhappy Happenstance 1906 (unfinished); Ur Nuts 1907; Life in a Ziggurat 1909 (never actually written); The Aching Feather 1910; Critical Analysis of Being Spanish 1912 (writen in Portugese and German). [Describe some of these essays]. Arkadiusz Juhász confessed to me that he was really a war criminal. But, I later found out that he may not have been. Arkadiusz Juhász died of a brain hemorrhage in 1951.
Profile Image for Steven  Godin.
2,385 reviews2,258 followers
December 5, 2018
There can be at times circumstances that affect your thoughts on what's being read. Or even just the way that you read it. This is one of those very occasion where I will undoubtedly benefit reading again. It's clear to see why Jorge Luis Borges is regarded as one of the 20th century's most inventive writers, and Ficciones is a collection of small stories that are on a grand scale, but my overall problem was going through three or four at a time and finding them hard to digest, jumping from one to another just didn't work for me. And only read the last few days apart giving me a chance to fully think about about them, this worked so much better, but still left me feeling a bit dumbfounded. Also was not reading the best translated version, so that didn't help either.

Borges never compromised himself by writing a novel but instead left a whole library of delicately structured maze-like speculations. Each one is like the Tardis – little time-machines of the imagination and far bigger within than they appear on the outside, and there is certainly plenty to keep one occupied: writers, dreamers, heretics, young men with impossible memories, other worlds revealed by secret encyclopedias, traitors transformed by betrayal, conspirators that plot their own downfall: 17 pieces, none longer than 25 pages; none shorter than a lifetime. It's difficult to pick a favourite but 'Death and the Compass' and 'The Sect of the Phoenix' were two that I read twice.

I am sure this collection will grow on me, and multiple readings built up over time will no doubt chance my perception from reading the first time, into something very special indeed!
Profile Image for Lizzy.
305 reviews166 followers
July 12, 2017
“Blind to all fault, destiny can be ruthless at one's slightest distraction.”
Reading Jorge Luis Borges is a bewildering experience and a challenge all in one. There is no logically understanding the mazes Borges creates, but that is what fantastical-realism is all about. Ficciones is a labyrinth, beautiful and witty, of ideas and feelings that mock and conquers the reader.

Borges can speak for himself, who am I to explain his brilliance and imagination?
“When it was proclaimed that the Library contained all books, the first impression was one of extravagant happiness. All men felt themselves to be the masters of an intact and secret treasure. There was no personal or world problem whose eloquent solution did not exist in some hexagon. The universe was justified, the universe suddenly usurped the unlimited dimensions of hope. At that time a great deal was said about the Vindications: books of apology and prophecy which vindicated for all time the acts of every man in the universe and retained prodigious arcana for his future. Thousands of the greedy abandoned their sweet native hexagons and rushed up the stairways, urged on by the vain intention of finding their Vindication. These pilgrims disputed in the narrow corridors, proffered dark curses, strangled each other on the divine stairways, flung the deceptive books into the air shafts, met their death cast down in a similar fashion by the inhabitants of remote regions. Others went mad ... The Vindications exist (I have seen two which refer to persons of the future, to persons who are perhaps not imaginary) but the searchers did not remember that the possibility of a man's finding his Vindication, or some treacherous variation thereof, can be computed as zero.”
A masterpiece, not to be missed!
Profile Image for Steve.
251 reviews875 followers
March 22, 2013
              Infinity         Sophistry             Penumbra
          Symbolic               LABYRINTH                 Heresiarch
              Prefigured         Philology             Nihilism
                                        Maze             Allegorical

This may not be the prettiest word cloud ever constructed, but I think it’s a fair representation of the Ficciones experience. Much of the time spent trying to solve the stories’ puzzles involves bandying these concepts about. I can’t honestly say I understood them all, but moments when something did click were exciting because the ideas behind them were subtle and cryptic. Comprehension somehow boosts us to a higher plane. The ultimate in advancement, if it can be imagined, is the universal infinitude of all experience.*

The more grounded me says, Steve, aren’t you kinda, like, talkin’ out your ass? And the more grounded me answers, yes. However, I contend that Borges himself, if asked, might have said the same thing (though surely more artfully). For him, I think, it was the mind-bending absurdity of the questions he posed rather than some metaphysical (and unattainable) truth of the matter that excited him. It’s hard to describe these stories to anyone who hasn’t read them, and harder still to back what I’m saying by way of example. Instead what I’ll attempt is a bit of Borges-inspired logic that may not have been the exact point of his stories, but occurred to me as a result of reading them.

If we take as a given that time is infinite, then every possible set of realities would have a chance to play out. If in one iteration I typed an O here, I could in another type an X, with all else being the same. Every single permutation imaginable could occur as each Big Bang and collapse in infinite time came to fruition. Imagine the implications! Borges did, at least in a way. In one story he imagined a near infinite library containing books with every possible letter combination. In such a place, a man could conceivably find the story of his life, though practically speaking, and without Google, it would be damned difficult. Borges also considered a single book that could contain all knowledge, made possible by pages that were infinitesimally thin. (Zeno’s paradox, as Borges mentioned, can be explained in a similar way where infinitely many infinitely small increments can be summed to something we can observe in the physically limited world.) To Borges, a labyrinth is a similar metaphor of life. Each person has a complex set of turns in a ridiculously intricate path that I think represents every decision we face – right, left, X, O, date, dump – whatever. It’s this kind of thing that the man of many places (he lived in Argentina, Switzerland and Spain) and many languages (he translated Wilde, Shakespeare, Kafka, Poe, Hesse, Gide, Whitman and Woolf among others) would have resonate for its universality and unboundedness.

While I have huge respect for the man, I also feel like I’m not his ideal audience. For instance, his philological references exposed me for the literary dilettante that I am. He could also come across as a bit too academic for my taste, and at times even tedious. I will not challenge its status as a classic, though. In fact, I truly enjoyed the quasi-logical extremes he went to in pursuit of intellectual entertainment, imaginative possibilities and hard won ah-ha moments.

*I liken this to the “total consciousness” that the Dalai Lama promised groundskeeper Karl Spackler in Caddyshack.
Profile Image for David.
30 reviews18 followers
June 30, 2008
The peer pressure from my intellectually superior friends finally shamed me into reading this (as I had no Borges under my belt). Obviously from the 5 stars, I'm glad I caved in. This is a collection of 17 of his "best" short stories, held together merely by the thread that they are like nothing else you've ever read or even thought about.

Not every story is perfection, but all are surprising, irritating, challenging and somehow rewarding. Standouts are "Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote" - a man who dedicates much of his life to the recreation of Don Quixote word for word, a stunningly insightful satire. Also, "The Circular Ruins" which challenges the reality of religion and even self-awareness. "Funes, the Memorious" about a man cursed with perfect memory, and "The South", a somewhat autobiographical and deceptively simple narrative that is actually an experiment in structure.

Borges uses very direct, sparse but extremely detailed language. His characters are full baked from the beginning, so he wastes no time on development - it's all about the idea, the innovation, not the plot. If you read one of these tales out of context you might mistake it for a non-fictional essay, albeit with quirks.

Anyway, I'm recommending this to anyone who doesn't mind risking confusion and discomfort in the the pursuit of something truly unique and intellectually delicious.
Profile Image for Mariana.
392 reviews1,699 followers
July 4, 2018
No tengo idea de cómo demonios se puede reseñar a un genio.

Los relatos en este libro me hicieron pensar, a tal grado que llegué a darme cuenta de que no era una buena opción leerlos antes de irme a dormir porque me quedaba dándoles vueltas por un buen rato. Leer a Borges tiene el curioso efecto de hacerme sentir ignorante, inculta. Un autor que derrocha referencias a otras obras literarías, filosóficas, matemáticas, que constantemente usa palabras en otros idiomas y todo con perfecta naturalidad. Aunque entiendo que para algunos puede ser frustrante, a mí me provoca una admiración tremenda.

Historias en las que las líneas de tiempo parecen fundirse, en que los sueños se vuelven realidad, las bibliotecas son infinitas y laberínticas, los más simples misterios ocultan mucho más de lo que jamás uno puede imaginar... Sin duda cada uno de los cuentos de este volumen merecen ser leídos más de una sola vez y poniendo mucha atención.

Directo a mi pila de libros que volveré a leer.
Profile Image for Jacob Overmark.
204 reviews9 followers
September 29, 2017
A dream within a dream

It was a fascinating first-acquaintance with Borges, an author who has been staying with me for a long time, a house-ghost, a little of this and a little of that, a glimpse into my subconscious and all legends and myths in one place.

Cleverly wrought essays on Swedish scholars and secret societies planting false information and a lot of babble –

I clearly get the impression that Borges never minded hearing himself speak, and being spoken of.
The best short stories are the ones set free of time and space, stories that easily could weave into each other if they were allowed to, they are dreamlike labyrinths of the mind.

3 stars for too much “Listen to me I´m a genius”. 4 stars for stylistic mastery, 4 stars for the great influence on world literature. Rounded up to 4 stars.
Profile Image for Axl Oswaldo.
332 reviews146 followers
February 2, 2022
"Quizá me engañen la vejez y el temor, pero sospecho que la especie humana - la única - está por extinguirse y que la Biblioteca perdurará: iluminada, solitaria, infinita, perfectamente inmóvil, armada de volúmenes preciosos, inútil, incorruptible, secreta."
- La biblioteca de Babel

Promedio, calificación de los 16 cuentos: [3.5/5]

Experiencia lectora: [3/5]

Promedio total: [3.25/5]

Me gustaría empezar mi reseña diciendo que puedo ver la pulcritud, la maestría y la belleza con la que estos cuentos fueron escritos. No cabe la menor duda de que Borges era un genio de las letras, y uno de los mejores escritores en habla hispana que ha habido; de hecho, si alguien me preguntara hoy día si me siento orgulloso de ser hablante nativo del español, mi respuesta sería muy clara y concisa: "sí, entre otras cosas, porque puedo leer a García Márquez, a Rulfo y a Borges en su idioma original".

Dicho lo anterior, y dejando un poco de lado la parte objetiva, esta recopilación de cuentos me ha parecido algo muy diferente a lo que suelo leer, y la sorpresa que me llevé no fue la más grata en términos generales. Esto, sin embargo, no es algo extraño que suceda ante una recopilación donde habrá cuentos que se convertirán en tus favoritos, y otros que no serán para nada de tu agrado. Más o menos, esto fue lo que me sucedió aquí.

De los 16 cuentos que encontramos en Ficciones —siendo honesto no sé si la definición de cuento sea la más próxima a lo que hallamos en este libro: más pareciera ser una serie de ideas o pensamientos que nos llevan o aproximan hacia algo, donde uno puede encontrarse con elementos de carácter científico, filosófico, sociológico, cultural, humanístico, entre otros. Las ideas se entrelazan o unen a través de un hilo conductor, dando como resultado un todo, que tampoco me atrevo a definir, pero donde la experiencia lectora es de lo más enriquecedora—, solo hay tres de ellos que me fascinaron: La biblioteca de Babel, Funes el memorioso y El sur.

Hablando de El sur, mi cuento favorito del autor por mucho, fue una experiencia tan cercana con mi yo del pasado que vive en Buenos Aires. Me recordó a aquellos días en que tomaba el subte hacia Constitución con el fin de tomar posteriormente el tren en dirección hacia el sur, principalmente para dirigirme a La Plata a visitar a algún amigo o simplemente para pasar un agradable fin de semana.
Otra memoria (insustancial debo admitirlo) vino a mi mente mientras lo leía: recuerdo una ocasión en la que le dije a una amiga la ubicación de la calle donde vivía en Buenos Aires, y ella —recuerdo muy bien sus palabras—, ella me dijo: "vivís a dos calles del sur", a lo que yo pregunté, "¿qué significa eso del sur?" "Vivís a dos calles de Rivadavia, ahí donde empieza el sur". No sé si ella había leído el cuento de Borges, o es que en definitiva el sur de la ciudad comienza a partir de la emblemática Rivadavia, pero el recuerdo nadie me lo quita; trivial, puede ser, pero el hecho de que este cuento me haya hecho volver a vivir en una ciudad a la que quiero tanto como lo es Buenos Aires, para mí ya tiene su lugar asegurado entre lo mejor que he leído en la vida.

Es una pena que aquí tenga que valorar la experiencia de todo en su conjunto, y es que hubo cuentos que me parecieron confusos, interesantes sí, pero donde me sentía agobiado por tanta información y hechos mencionados. Borges, como he dicho antes, se nota que era un genio al momento de tomar su pluma y escribir, ya que sus ideas van más allá de lo tradicional, de una lectura convencional; se nota que le pide un esfuerzo extra al lector y uno debe ceder ante ello o perderse en el camino.
Quizá en mi caso, me perdía en el camino y volvía, para enseguida volverme a perder. Ahora mismo recuerdo uno de los cuentos, El milagro secreto, del que no entendí casi nada, pero de verdad, nada. Lo tuve que leer dos veces, y no sé si ya estaba agotado o fue demasiado para mí, pero quedé exactamente igual (si alguien fuera amable de explicármelo, agradecido estaré).

No me gustaría decir que Borges no es para todos, Borges es de hecho para todos los lectores, para quien quiera aproximarse a su literatura y encontrarse ante una experiencia única y singular. Lo que sí diré es que Borges no es para todos los momentos; uno debe ser consciente de que quizá acercarse a su obra no será para un momento en el que te apetezca leer algo rápido, o en el que, por razones externas o internas, será complicado para ti mantener la concentración al 110%.

Leer a Borges es una experiencia que debemos vivir al menos una vez en la vida; yo había leído una mínima parte de su poesía, pero ahora que me acerco a su narrativa no me arrepiento de nada. Quizá la respuesta es simple: no fue mi momento. Estoy dispuesto a esperar lo que tenga que esperar para reencontrarme con el autor en el futuro, y que esta vez sí, habiendo leído más a otros autores y teniendo un criterio más amplio, pueda disfrutar de su obra como debe de ser.
Profile Image for Jimena.
194 reviews60 followers
February 15, 2023
Jorge Luis Borges es sin lugar a dudas uno de los autores que más respeto me suscita. Su pluma, endiabladamente compleja e intelectualmente estimulante, siempre nos garantiza un enorme disfrute estético pero también un desafiante ejercicio de inteligencia.

Leer a Borges requiere compromiso, atención y a veces paciencia porque el esmero con que construye los textos y la profundidad de la que los dota no son para tomarse a la ligera ni para comprenderse con una lectura superflua. Ficciones es un extraordinario exponente de su capacidad literaria y de lo abrumadora y magnánima que era su mente. Es una sucesión de relatos que, aunque breves, contienen tanta belleza y tantos ocultos significados que uno tiene la sensación de haber leído un centenar de páginas y de necesitar, urgente e irremediablemente, volver a ellas hasta que todos los caminos que se bifurcan desnuden su verdad.
Profile Image for Matthew Ted.
716 reviews594 followers
August 16, 2021
94th book of 2020.

My copy of Ficciones arrives on June 11th through the letterbox. It is raining, and the light is silvery in the house. I turn the parcel over to find it is open, nicely, cut open, along the Sellotape’s line. This is a photograph of my parcel the way I found it.


Perhaps, the Sellotape came away of its own accord. Perhaps, someone opened it, hoping for something worth more than a book; its general shape could have been a DVD or a video game. In any case, I consider a fictional scenario where the box arrives empty. That my copy of Ficciones had been stolen on its way to me.

His name is George – he is somewhere between twenty and thirty years old. He has never heard of Jorge Luis Borges; he is not a thief, nor does he consider himself to be one. Fate means little to him and nor does chance, for now. Though, principally, the reason he decided to steal the book from the parcel (he was hoping for a new video game or Blu-ray to sell on) was because Jorge was very close to his own name. This does not occur to him as being anything to do with Fate. At best, it is a coincidence. Later that night, he lies down in bed beside his girlfriend and wonders who he has stolen the book from. He imagines someone his own age (I am younger than George), a professor of some sort (untrue), a man who reads books that George would never himself decide to read (probably true). He had smuggled the book under his coat and slid it into his bedside table at home along with tissues, crinkly likes leaves, condoms, mints, and other random tack that belonged nowhere else. Presently, he imagines me with steel-rimmed glasses, clumsy-footed, maybe married, he cannot decide, but above all, rather irritated by his missing book. Only the latter of these imaginings are true. George falls asleep creating me in his mind. Elsewhere, I am falling asleep, creating George in my own mind. We are two spiders spinning our own respective webs, unaware that we are in the same corner, and our threads are tangling.

The rain continues for several days. I ring the Post Office a number of times about my missing parcel, or rather, the book missing from my parcel, but the lady on the phone is uninterested. I call a final time, hoping to catch a more cooperative answerer, but it is only her again, droning into the phone. I give up. George is across town, watching his girlfriend get dressed for the day, scratching his head, itching to open the book in his bedside table. My book. She leaves. He has the day off. George makes himself a cup of instant coffee, sits down at the kitchen table, and he begins reading Ficciones.


The reading is heavy, but George persists. It is unlike anything he has ever read before. Steam rises from his mug in front of the book, obscuring some words, spinning others through a haze. Meanwhile, I watch the rain and wonder about my book. I have other things to keep me company; I read Sebald. I make a cup of coffee, and unknowingly, George and I sit drinking coffee at the same time. George stops reading after “The Circular Ruins,” because it sets fear worming in his stomach. To be dreamed by another. He is currently dreaming about the owner of this book, and wonders if he is also dreaming about him (we know that I am), and that if this was Borges’ dreamlike universe – possibly George wouldn’t exist. Maybe he shouldn’t have taken the book, he thinks. He puts it aside, looking at it as if it were some unpredictable animal. For the next twenty minutes he pads about his home barefooted, touching the counters, the walls, straightening the picture frames; he goes about ensuring that he is real, and he is not in some labyrinth, or trapped in a world of mirrors, a world with Fate, no Fate, a world of wizards, city bombings, a world where some men don’t exist at all. That night his niece is on the phone and she asks him, “Uncle George, what happens if you put two mirrors facing each other?” He is so shocked by the question that he hangs up the phone.

“The Babylon Lottery” sets George’s mind on the prospects of chance. He begins to daydream about the chance of him stepping off the train one morning and finding himself face-to-face with me, his tormentor, his apparition, his “haunter.” I say to him (in his daydream) “You’re the man who stole my book!” and, on seeing my book in his hand, I say, “That’s my book!” All at once, George panics; for a moment he considers giving me the book to free himself from my haunting, but instead he flees. He runs from the station, down the road, into the next, he keeps running until he is sure I cannot catch him. Of course, my body travels so far, but my mind travels further – he knows this. In his office he slips Ficciones into his desk drawer and wishes he could lock it. He continually has the sensation that I am stood behind him, that my hand is reaching over his shoulder, prising at the drawer.

By this point, I have bought a new copy of Ficciones, and read it with thoughts of George in the back of my mind. On June 22nd, I receive a letter. The handwriting is unfamiliar to me, and so is the name of the sender. It is long and meandering, and I cannot work out what it is all about. There is something about ‘Majesty’, one of the oldest oak trees in England, and something else about Claudius’ death by mushrooms. These facts mean nothing to me, nor do they correlate to one another. In the conclusion of the letter it informs me that a certain man named George, who lives in my town of W., has my copy of Jorge Luis Borges, and encloses his address. It is signed without a surname, only the forename: Louis.

The following day, the 23rd, I leave the final story unread, and set out to George’s address. Of course, I cannot fathom a number of things. Who is Louis? How does he know my address? And above all, how is the imaginary man I invented as the book thief, now real, living, and across town? The house is another Victorian terrace like my own. White bay windows, dark tea coloured walls. George tells me that he’s been expecting me, and first and foremost, he is sorry. He lets me in. We, as if old friends, discuss the book over coffee. It transpires that he hasn’t read the final story either. So, at his kitchen table, we sit side by side and read "The South." On finishing, I tell him he can keep the book, I now have my own. Awkwardly, at the door, I tell him that I thought I imagined him, until a random man sent me a letter saying where he lived. This distresses George. He also received a letter from a Louis, saying that the man he had stolen the book from was very much real, and not how he had imagined. The end of the letter told him that his address had been leaked. We are both aware of how Borges-like our days have become. I put my coat on and stand on the porch. George asks me, “Did I exist before I took the book?” I tell him I don’t know. I tell him that I am not sure if I existed before I bought the book. Before that is certainly hazy. Neither of us know who Louis is, either. Back at home, I open my new copy and find it has changed. It is the same book, but inside is a story about a character named George, who steals a book, written by a writer named Louis. Across town, George is investigating his own changed copy of Ficciones. His is now about a character called Matthew who has a book stolen from him, also written by a Louis. Both men are satisfied, for they believe that the other does not exist, and that they do.
Profile Image for Vesna.
206 reviews110 followers
January 12, 2023
I recall Borges as my literary idol in my college days, reading incessantly one story after another then moving on to his essays and parables, all of which placed him among a few of my all-time favorites. While I remember distinctly the circumstances that made me fall in love with each of my favorite books, their significance at different points in my life (and the reason why I will not reread them - they belong to my past), my memory fails me about what exactly attracted me to Borges’ writing except that it had a spell on me. Because of this vagueness a couple of years ago I decided to break my rule and revisit one of my all-time favorite books, Ficciones, and the result was disappointing. A couple of stories into it, I found it too cerebral and purposeful, as if echoing Luis Buñuel’s dislike of Borges as intellectual exhibitionist, the dislike that puzzled me at the time. Similar to his story about Menard’s Don Quixote, the text was exactly the same and, in my case, even the writer was the same. What was then different? Well, I had to admit, the reader, I was not the same as my younger self.

Still, I decided to stop reading and leave my revisit of Borges for some other time which happened the other day as his “The Garden of Forking Paths” was a weekly read in The Short Story Club. To my relief and excitement, I loved, loved, loved it! Immediately dropping my reading plans for this month (the plans I always change anyway), I reached for my copy of Ficciones and felt as if I read it in one breath though it took me three days. Most of the stories I read more than once, just about when finishing it, returning to it again and sometimes still again, each time uncovering another angle for he was a wizard in layering his stories with manifold dimensions and subplots. Is “The Babylon Lottery” a political allegory of the totalitarian society, a philosophical parable about the uncertainty in life, or the verdict on human nature? I found it fits each of these takes.

If the number of my repeated readings corresponds to the degree of my fascination with the story, then these stories motivated me to reread them the most (call them my “favorites”) - I’ll list them in the order they appear in the collection:

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote
The Circular Ruins
The Babylon Lottery
The Library of Babel
The Garden of Forking Paths
Theme of the Traitor and Hero
Three Versions of Judas
The South

To complete my Borgesian immersion, I then watched Bertolucci’s film The Spider’s Stratagem, which adapts and expands Borges’ “Theme of the Traitor and Hero” to an antifascist (imaginary) episode in Mussolini’s Italy. In the original story, the action “transpired” in Ireland but as Borges wrote, it can transpire in “any oppressed or stubborn country”, which is just about anywhere, depending on the point of its history. I would highly recommend it, not only for Bertolucci’s brilliant version of Borges’ parable about the myth-making in history and historiography, but also for the stunning cinematography and the imagery that paid tribute to De Chirico’s metaphysical paintings and Magritte’s surrealism while, at the same time, having the visual deceptive symmetries, inversions, and paradoxes to perfectly reflect the imagery and narrative of Borges’ metaphors.

Bertolucci’s Borgesian connection to De Chirico in the opening sequences like here:
Bertolucci, The Spider’s Stratagem (De Chirico)

… and to Magritte, mostly in the film’s later part as the plot with its subplot unravels, like here:
Profile Image for Dolors.
527 reviews2,219 followers
August 26, 2016
“You who read me, are You sure of understanding my language?” Jorge Luis Borges, “The Library of Babel”

Even though I read Borges’s “Collected Fictions” in Spanish, my native tongue, I have to confess I didn’t understand half of it. Presumptuous of me to think I would. Famous for being the founder of postmodernist literature and influenced by the work of fantasists such Edgar Allan Poe and Franz Kafka, whom I adore, I was naive enough to assume I would be able to untangle Borges’s labyrinthine, almost rigorously mathematical style to form a coherent opinion of his short narratives. I was also deceived by the apparent simplicity of the tales which turned out to be complex, condensed and thought provoking meditations about philosophical and existential issues.

Borges’s enormous erudition, which might be appealing to others, worked the other way round for me, leaving me mostly frustrated by the multitude of literary allusions from cultures around the globe which I struggled to connect with the meaning of his surrealist inventions. It seems this proved to be too much of a strenuous task for my ignorant self.

The blurred line between reality and dream challenged comprehension in tales such as “Tlon, Uqbar and Orbis Tertius” where Borges depicts an ideal, metaphysic world made real by the power of imagination.

The same idea is reinforced in “The Circular Ruins” , in which a man is able to create a son only dreaming about him. Later, after the man accomplishes his goal, much to my astonishment, he discovers that he in turn is being dreamt by someone else. The tittle, which also notes the mythical temple where the man appears out of nowhere (maybe time travel?), might also carry the analogy of the infinite repetition which can be seen in a circle, a geometric figure which has no end and no beginning. Like the act of this neverending regression of dreaming and creating process presented in the story.

I was most disturbed by the oppressive idea “The Library of Babel” conveyed to me. We are introduced to a Library whose cataloguing system consists of hexagonal and identical galleries to classify the infinite books it contains. The inhabitants of this Library know the answers to all their questions lay somewhere, among the books, although the probability of being able to find those answers is close to impossible. The central conflict of the individual intellect and the physical manifestation of the infinite chaos is portrayed with negative connotations, pointing out the futility of trying to establish order in a chaotic universe, which reminds me of the insignificance of human beings.

"The Babylon Lottery” follows the same line of thought in presenting a detached narrator who depicts life as a labyrinth through which a man wanders without control over his own fate, which is governed by ruthless uncertainty. Here again there seems to appear the issue of trying to put order in a fragmented, indecipherable universe ruled by randomness.

My favorite one was “The secret miracle” probably because I could identify with the need of Hladík, a Jewish poet and the main character, to freeze time when he is arrested and condemned to death by the Nazis. I found the way Borges manages to portray the subjectivity of time simply brilliant, especially in the scene where Hladík is being executed. Everything seems to end in a second for the rest of world except for Hladík whose prayer is answered in the form of a precious year in which everything becomes paralysed so that he can mentally finish the last act of his half-written play. “Funes the Memorious” is similar in the way it deals with the curse of having an extraordinary memory to absorb details and subtle changes at a precise moment but not the capability of abstraction needed to control our acts.

It is in “The South” , “The Shape of the Sword” and “Three versions of Judas” where Borges’s metafiction is most palpable with the multiplication of character identity, combining historical facts with detectivesque narrative techniques.

I think I can sense the lurking forces behind Borges’s mathematical concision, audacious adjectives and unusual ideas, I think I grasp his need to defy understanding to make his point about incomprehensible concepts such as infinite, time and reality. I even feel strongly attracted to the notion that reality can be seen as a mere convention and that the true nature of things is vacuous, existing only in conditional relationship with other things. It is language which ultimately creates illusion and builds meanings. And it is the dreamer who creates reality as the writer creates the possibility of a reader.

The problem is that all these feelings didn’t implode in within me, I had to struggle against Borges’s detached, metallic style to get them through. Maybe I shouldn’t have read all the tales in one sitting, maybe Borges is that kind of author to read sparsely, one story at a time, like a rare, exquisite delicatessen to let all the flavors fuse and wholly impregnate the senses. It might not be very orthodox, but these three stars are meant to be a rating referred to my own inadequacy to truly enjoy this novel rather than directed to the novel itself, which I am not that fool to recognize as a genuine, exceptional work of art.
Profile Image for Carlos.
102 reviews91 followers
December 17, 2022
Okay... So I need to choose my words and sentences in a careful way so nothing will be misunderstood in this review: I think this is one of the Latin American masterpieces. However, it is not easy to read it or to understand it, or in which way to understand it. Borges reminds me so much of Kafka in the way he writes and what he writes about. Also, it is not possible for me to read Borges' books only once, since I needed to re-read the stories twice or three times if necessary.
The meaning behind his stories and messages are so strong that you need to stop reading for few minutes and "digest" what you have just read, which is what happened to me after reading Kafka, for example.
I think this is the most difficult rating since I have been active on Goodreads, because it definitely does not deserve 3 out of 5 stars, but for now I will give it 3 because I feel I am not able to digest this whole book yet. I will take some time, I will read it once again in the next few weeks and most likely I will change the rating of this book. I just need time to assimilate all the meaning in this masterpiece and then I will be able to change the number of stars in this review.
Profile Image for Mateo.
15 reviews11 followers
January 9, 2009
Todavía no supero este libro. Creo, el mejor de todos los libros de cuentos Borgianos. Todavía no supero que los habitantes de tlön no crean en el espacio y su lenguaje este compuesto de una sucesión infinita de verbos. Todavía no supero la concepción de un empresa como la Pierre Menard, que buscas escribir el Quijote, me rindo a ayudarle en lo que pueda. Todavía no supero la daga, ni los laberintos, ni los tigres, ni el sur, ni las bibliotecas, ni al otro...

Todavía no supero a Borges.
Profile Image for Nickolas the Kid.
306 reviews70 followers
August 19, 2018
Έδιτ 1

Στις "Μυθοπλασίες" ο Μπόρχες μας οδηγεί στον μαγικό του κόσμο και η διαδρομή περνάει μέσα από λαβύρινθους, καθρέφτες, ψευδεπίγραφα και μαθηματικούς γρίφους!
Κάθε διήγημα είναι και μια πνευματική άσκηση για τον αναγνώστη. Ο Μπόρχες μας καλεί να λύσουμε τους γρίφους και να εξερευνήσουμε μαζί του τον χρόνο και τον χώρο.

Ένας μάγος φτιάχνει έναν καινούργιο άνθρωπο/μαθητή από όνειρα, ο ίδιος ο Μπόρχες με τον Μπιόι Κασάρες ψάχνουν για μια φανταστική χώρα που ίσως υπάρχει, ένας συγγραφέας θέλει να ξαναγράψει τον Δον Κιχώτη, το σύμπαν παρουσιάζεται ως μη πεπερασμένη βιβλιοθήκη, ένας Κινέζος χάνεται στον κήπο με τα μονοπάτια που διακλαδώνονται και πάει λέγοντας… Αυτές είναι μερικές από τις ιστορίες με τις οποίες, ο συγγραφέας με αριστοτεχνικό τρόπο γραφής και λεπτό χιούμορ φτιάχνει έναν μαγικό κόσμο γεμάτο εικόνες συμβολισμούς και οφθαλμαπάτες…

Ο Μπόρχες σε κάνει να θέλεις να διαβάσεις. Να ανατρέξεις σε βιβλιοθήκες και να ψάξεις για την θρησκεία, την φιλοσοφία, την μυθολογία… Κι αυτό για μένα είναι μια από τις μεγαλύτερες επιτυχίες των "μπορχεσιανών" διηγημάτων!


ΥΓ: Πως να μην δώσει κανείς 5 αστεράκια σε ένα βιβλίο που ξεκινάει με συζήτηση του συγγραφέα με τον φίλο του Μπίοι Κασάρες για την χαμένη πόλη Uqbar που δεν υπάρχει σε καμιά εγκυκλοπαίδεια παρά μόνο σε έναν χαμένο τόμο ενός παλιού εγγράφου...

***Εξαιρετική η μετάφραση του Αχιλλέα Κυριακίδη
Profile Image for P.E..
762 reviews529 followers
October 16, 2021
Hipertrofia universal del signo

La edición consta de dos partes, en el original y en francés:

El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote
Las ruinas circulares
La lotería en Babilonia
Examen de la obra de Herbert Quain
La biblioteca de Babel
El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan

Funes el memorioso
La forma de la espada
Tema del traidor y del héroe
La muerte y la brújula
El milagro secreto
Tres versiones de Judas
El fin
La secta del Fénix
El Sur


L'édition comprend les textes dans l'original et en traduction française :
Le Jardin aux sentiers qui bifurquent
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
L'Approche d'Almotasim
Pierre Ménard, auteur du Quichotte
Les Ruines circulaires
La Loterie à Babylone
La Bibliothèque de Babel
Examen de l'œuvre d'Herbert Quain
Le Jardin aux sentiers qui bifurquent

Artifices :
Funes ou la mémoire
La Forme de l'épée
Thème du traître et du héros
La Mort et la boussole
Le Miracle secret
Trois versions de Judas
La Fin
La Secte du Phénix
Le Sud
Profile Image for Usha.
138 reviews7 followers
July 1, 2020
Oh boy! It appealed more to my engineering brain than the literary. Short stories were a puzzle of metaphors and verbs. It was a stop and study approach in between consulting the dictionary and Google. I tried to make sense, than, I just left it all to my imagination and enjoyed Borges' brilliance. It was a bewildering journey but an absolutely fascinating one. It took 9 days to read less than 200 pages.
Profile Image for Sandra.
914 reviews249 followers
August 15, 2015
E’ difficilissimo commentare questo libro. La maggior parte dei lettori lo definisce un capolavoro assoluto, un “classico contemporaneo”. Per me è stata una lettura assai complessa. Borges è uno scrittore per un lettore “erudito” –che non sono io-. Mi mancano le conoscenze letterarie di base per capirlo a fondo. E così scrivo di quel poco che sono riuscita a comprendere.
Innanzitutto il titolo: andando avanti con la lettura ho capito il perché del titolo. Finzioni significa astrazione dalla realtà e immersione nell’immaginifico, nel fantastico. Non c’è nulla di concreto nei racconti contenuti in questo volume: il simbolismo e l’astrazione permeano ogni storia, a tal punto che la realtà fantastica sembra più vera della realtà stessa.
L’emozione che ha suscitato in me la lettura di questi racconti è stata senz’altro l’ammirazione di fronte al Genio che scrive storie con una forza immaginifica insuperabile, che trascina il lettore in un mondo che sembra privo di logica ma che invece trova nella creatività dell’intelletto umano una logica superiore. Il mio atteggiamento di fronte ai brevi ma memorabili racconti è stato un “ohhhh” di meraviglia, come una bambina davanti a una cosa nuova mai vista prima. E così è stato per il racconto “Pierre Menard, autore del Don Chisciotte”: un don Chisciotte che sembra identico a quello di Cervantes ma è invece diverso perché “opera sotterranea,infinitamente eroica, impareggiabile”. Ugualmente per “la biblioteca di Babele”, una biblioteca dove c’è tutto ciò che è possibile esprimere in tutte le lingue del mondo, biblioteca che perdurerà anche dopo che la specie umana si sarà estinta: illuminata, solitaria, infinita, perfettamente immobile, armata di volumi preziosi, inutile, incorruttibile, segreta. E che dire de “la morte e la bussola”? Un breve racconto giallo che è, a mio parere, perfetto nella struttura .
Al termine di questa lettura sono arrivata alla conclusione che è un libro da rileggere più e più volte, che va meditato e riflettuto. E che importa se alcuni racconti non li ho capiti, se ci sono riferimenti filosofici a Platone, Kant, Leibniz, Schopenhauer,Berckeley i cui nomi sono vaghe ombre nella mia mente, ricordo degli anni di liceo e nulla più, che importa se ci sono richiami ad autori stranieri che ignoro! Mi sono detta:”li capirò alla prossima rilettura…”
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