Kristyn's Reviews > Collected Fictions

Collected Fictions by Jorge Luis Borges
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Feb 16, 2011

it was amazing

Published in 1998, Jorge Luis Borges' Collected Fictions brings all of his short works together in one mind-bending, though-provoking volume. Widely regarded as one of the great writers of Latin America, his short stories are as interesting today as they were when first published in French in the 1950's.

Collected Fictions is not a book written for those looking for an easy read. This is not due to Borges' writing style – indeed, his prose is lyrical and flows beautifully, and his descriptions are neither spare nor overwhelming. Rather, it is the subjects of his stories that are not meant for the casual reader. Borges delights in writing about impossibilities – infinite libraries, books that have neither a beginning nor end, meeting one's doppelganger and slowly becoming less certain who is the original – these are all topics that Borges gleefully investigates in his works.

And investigate he does, with sudden quirks in the story that are so unexpected as to seem almost impossible – but when you're already reading a story of the impossible, those quirks don't seem so very out of place. Borges plays with the reader's perception of reality, and with apparent ease – he seamlessly grafts the impossible nature of these worlds onto concrete details that help it masquerade as reality. It is easy to think that, if he were as gifted with maths as he is with fiction, Borges would have become the new Einstein.

Of the stories that are presented in Collected Fictions, there are a few that stand out as works of fiction. The Garden of Forking Paths, The Library of Babel, and The Book of Sand are among these, each presenting a logical impossibility that nevertheless feels as though it ought to be possible, just through Borges' seamless integration. The Garden of Forking Paths tangles with ideas of alternate realities, parallel time-lines, and the choices a person makes, all couched in a detective/war story. The Library of Babel places us in a completely different world, where the only thing is the Library itself, and the infinite books it possesses – almost all of them gibberish, but with the occasional word or sentence that is translatable. The Book of Sand again deals with books and the concept of infinity, but this time is singular. There is only one book, without beginning and without end, and the man who comes to posses it finds that his the awe with which he first regarded it eventually comes to horror – he cannot stop thinking about the impossibility of the book, and so eventually hides it away.

Although Collected Fictions is just over five hundred pages long, each work of fiction is short, with few over ten pages. This allows the reader a period of rest after reading one – a moment for them to reflected on the nature of the story, on their perceptions on reality, and perhaps to reread it to further understand what, exactly, is happening in these miniature universes Borges has so carefully constructed. So well-crafted are his stories and so elegant his prose, it is a sad wonder that Borges was never recognized by the Nobel committee – he is, as I firmly believe, one of the finest writers of his age.
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