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Selected Non-Fictions

4.44  ·  Rating details ·  2,221 ratings  ·  108 reviews
It will come as a surprise to some readers that the greater part of Jorge Luis Borges's extraordinary writing was not in the genres of fiction or poetry, but in the various forms of non-fiction prose. His thousands of pages of essays, reviews, prologues, lectures, and notes on politics and culture—though revered in Latin America and Europe as among his finest work—have sca ...more
Paperback, 560 pages
Published November 1st 2000 by Penguin Books (first published 1999)
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Average rating 4.44  · 
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Jul 07, 2017 rated it it was amazing  ·  review of another edition
Recommended to Gwern by: Kevin Kelley
Shelves: favorites
Moved to ...more
Spencer Orey
Really difficult to read? It's hard to tell how much of that is the translation and how much was Borges's brilliance. At some points, I felt like I was deciphering incredible wisdom. At other points, I wasn't able to rise to the challenge. I think this is one of those books that reads very differently depending on your ability to read it. I'll try again when I'm a bit wiser. ...more
Jan 24, 2014 rated it it was amazing
Another Borges book. Another 5 stars.

I mean this man is so brilliant I'm starting to turn into a dithering fanboy when reading his books.

Now, I've only actually owned this book for a couple of days, and to be honest I've only read a few of the hundred plus essays in here, but this isn't exactly a book to be read from beginning to end. In fact that seems like a pretty pointless exercise. You can gain so much from reading so little of Borges' writing that it seems like I may as well write a revi
Nick Tramdack
Mar 25, 2011 rated it really liked it
Borges is brilliant, though he does tend to repeat himself. So rather than try to review this collection, I'll use this box to give instructions for the game of "BORGES BINGO", usable not only on nonfiction but also his fiction and poetry.

The grid is 5X5. Of course, the center box is "LABYRINTH" (free space). Fill the 24 boxes around it with the following motifs/moves/topics, in random order. Whenever a topic gets mentioned in the book you're reading, check it off. First to 5 wins!

Mar 05, 2012 added it
Shelves: essays
I've been a Borges fan for as long as I can remember. We like to imagine Borges as this sort of hermetically sealed creature, but these nonfiction pieces totally demystified him for me. Turns out he loved crummy Westerns and detective movies, for instance. You also get to see his whole process, and you see in some of these pieces the ideas that would eventually coalesce into The Library of Babel, The Aleph, and all the other stories for which he would become known. While I'd previously imagined ...more
Lady Mayfair
Poem of the Gifts
Jorge Luis Borges

No one should read self-pity or reproach
into this statement of the majesty
of God; who with such splendid irony
granted me books and blindness at one touch.


This is the most important Book I've read so far in my life.

These essays are so unforgettable, most of all for their originality and/but also for the Disarming Writing itself.

It begins simple, timid even, as if undressing a lover, there is restraint, then humour, insight - and then, suddenly, something biza
May 16, 2008 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: criticism, essays
Man I love this! I read Borges for the same reason I read Valery: for straight talk about the essential questions, the "modest mysteries," of reading and writing. ...more
Whatever words he put his mind to he mastered. As a child he read the Encyclopedia Britannica while his father studied in the library. A curiosity and fascination with all things makes his non-fiction as interesting and wondrous as his fiction and poetry. Reading this you will learn more than a little and be entranced at the same time. Oh, and feel like you've spent time with a wise friend. ...more
Justin Evans
Oct 21, 2013 rated it really liked it
Dear editors of 'selected' editions,

no, you don't need to include that. I recognize that you're fascinated by the idea that someone opposed fascism, but by and large, that's only worth a footnote. You also don't have to include this. Sure, it's interesting every now and then to see what a favorite author thinks about a book, but not *every* book. Don't you see, editor, what a disservice you're doing to these people? Just choose the very best, and leave the rest for later volumes.

On the other h
Roger DeBlanck
Jan 25, 2012 rated it it was amazing
Shelves: non-fiction
The knowledge Borges brings to his non-fiction writings draws upon sources vast and obscure. His scope makes parallels between the ancient past and dreams of the future. He charts such subjects as the histories of angels, dreams, archetypes, languages, and ideas, these among many epistemological topics. He presents coincidence and irony as governed by forces beyond the human sphere, yet Borges rejects transcendent order. He chooses instead to be captivated with the human origin of immortality. H ...more
Dec 15, 2013 rated it it was amazing
I just spent my last review (slightly) bashing Borges's poetry, so I feel I should sing some of my praises for Borges the essayist.

Has any man ever been more well-read! Borges appears to have a deep acquaintance with every major Western author of the last three thousand or so years. That he accomplished this feat while being blind for nearly half of his life, having to depend on others to read works aloud for him, is even more astonishing.

I think Borges's most significant contribution to liter
vi macdonald
Jun 06, 2016 rated it really liked it
These essays are everything a collection of essays should be and then some.

The indescribable beauty of Borges poetry and prose is combined with some absolutely brilliant essays that would have earned this book five stars even without the gorgeous writing. I didn't ever think I'd be able to say that an essay made me tear up because of the writing, but once again Borges has grabbed me by the hand and shown me that there's no point having any expectations when it comes to anything if he's involved.
Harold Griffin
Jun 22, 2010 rated it really liked it
A cornucopia of numerous wonderfully odd but interesting pieces of often very short fiction. I've been unable to read this cover-to-cover, because it takes too much effort and concentration. I also find that, like Updike, Borges sometimes confuses and annoys me by interjecting a little too much of his wide and obscure learning into his stories, so that many allusions are lost to me. While I perhaps know too little to appreciate them as they should be appreciated, I keep going back for more. The ...more
Spencer Rich
Apr 17, 2013 rated it really liked it
As this collection is chronological, it starts off with some typical problems of young writers--wanting to show off their linguistic expertise and stating opinion as fact. However, as he matures, he reaches the same kind of dizzying heights that he achieves with his fiction.
Nov 21, 2011 rated it it was amazing
St. Thomas Aquinas referred to Averroes as "The Commentator." With respect to the style and intellectual scope of the modern and ancient worlds, I feel a similar awe towards Borges. ...more
Feb 03, 2021 rated it really liked it
A lot going on in this book. I loved some of the essays, liked many others, and couldn’t relate to some. Borges was certainly a genius and I’m thankful for being able to enjoy his work.
Natalia Mosashvili
Apr 17, 2017 rated it it was amazing
The source of fascination, captivating versatility of universe, rendering things in mysterious ways,
the scope of the modern and ancient worlds is beyond description, gorgeously written, dazzling and illuminating!!!
Feb 10, 2018 rated it it was amazing
"The Nothingness of Personality" is the first essay in this collection, and it might also be the best. It's a calmly executed manifesto that suggests how Borges was able to conquer every form of literature thus far discovered by mankind: essay, fiction, and poetry. The first essay lays out Borges' intent to write anti-individualistic literature. Some of the strongest essays in this collection are original insight into language itself. Far from taking a reductive approach, Borges found completely ...more
May 09, 2021 rated it it was amazing
I have an incredibly hard time imagining a critic more perfect than Borges.
One of the most inspiring books I've read.
Nov 14, 2017 rated it it was amazing
I must confess I have always been under a misapprehension when it comes to reading Borges. His writing is said to be convoluted and it could be. However, I would not be able to be the judge of that since I have never read his stories or prose or essays in Spanish that is why I decided to read this translation, which has left me suitably impressed. The reason why I have embarked on reading him – in English at least – boils down to my curiosity being piqued by a friend. This friend of mine always ...more
Jennifer Jang
Feb 05, 2020 rated it it was amazing
Borges’ nonfictions are just as fantastical as his fictions.
In this collection, I didn’t read the book reviews, prologues, Dantesque essays, nor film criticisms.

The translators of The One Thousand and One Nights p. 92
Ramón Llull’s Thinking Machine p. 155
A New Refutation of Time p. 317
The Scandinavian Destiny p. 377
A History of the Tango p. 394

“In this feat of Manco [One Hand] Wenceslao - as Suaréz is now known - certain mild or polite touches (his trade as rope maker, his scruples abo
Sep 09, 2012 rated it really liked it
Shelves: nonfiction
Brilliant, illuminating, but not, despite Maria Kodama's best efforts on the jacket, something for the casual Borges reader. A deep intimacy with not only the man himself, but also his idols and their work is required to get the most out of this volume. Carlyle, Kafka, and Dante I could manage; Bloy and the half-dozen translations of The Arabian Nights Borges could quote from memory, not so much. Borges' adoration of Faulkner and disdain for Joyce's "unreadable" later works will probably be the ...more
Vinay Ayilavarapu
Jan 27, 2019 rated it really liked it
Shelves: essays
Kafka and his precursors - 5 Stars
Verbiage for Poems - 4 Stars
An Overwhelming Film (Citizen Kane) - 5 Stars
The Enigma of Shakespeare - 5 Stars
Our Poor Individualism - 4 Stars
Pascal's Sphere - 5 Stars
The Enigma of Shakespeare - 4 Stars

Dantesque Essays

1. Prologue - 4.5 Stars
2. The Noble Castle of the Fourth Canto - 4.5 Stars
Sep 10, 2017 rated it really liked it
Borges is playful, erudite, and brilliant, but this collection lacks the vitality of his fiction.
Jul 06, 2021 rated it really liked it
Though repetitive at times, this slice of Borges large body of non-fiction articles, is mostly good. I would lie if I claimed to have read everything, but to do so, especially in one, straight-through, go would be a mistake. Some articles are different formulations of the same idea and should be read together, others are very unlikely to be interesting to the contemporary reader. The translation seems excellent all throughout. If you have any passion at all for The Divine Comedy, you owe it to y ...more
Billy Jones
May 07, 2021 rated it liked it
I feel that Borges articulates ideas much more interestingly and concisely in his fiction than in his non-fictional writings. There is much in the way of esoterica and recondite information which lies somewhat incongruously next to film reviews and pieces of literary criticism. Nevertheless, I liked certain parts of the book, particularly 'The Argentine Writer and Tradition' for its interrogation of perceptions surrounding what a national literature should be. 'Kafka and His Precursors' was anot ...more
Mitchell McInnis
It's perhaps obscene to give a brilliant writer like Borges a three-star rating, but upon closer inspection, I didn't feel that much of his nonfiction stands the test of time. The whole perspective-from-a-distant-shore. Most of it has that precocious non-polish to it that plays well in magazines, then is best used to wrap fish and chips. ...more
Apr 08, 2018 rated it really liked it  ·  review of another edition
I was brought to this collection by recommendation, and, with no particular topical interest, started reading chronologically. This was probably a mistake. I found the earlier essays, while sometimes carrying an interesting idea, to be somewhat ponderous, with the feeling that the author was self-conscious and a little bombastic.

Probably for this reason, I set the book aside for a good while, only occasionally picking it up, to read an essay perhaps every few weeks. Eventually, however, the mat
Mar 11, 2021 rated it really liked it
A grand choice to spend a few days immersed in the world of Borges, fiction or non-. Even when it's just book reviews and the like, I find him so inspiring, making me see magic in everything and delighting in words. ...more
Sep 19, 2017 rated it it was amazing
Borges' most overlooked quality as a writer was his exceedingly sharp bullshit detector. ...more
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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 wo ...more

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