Tony's Reviews > Labyrinths: Selected Stories and Other Writings

Labyrinths by Jorge Luis Borges
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Feb 09, 2010

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Read in February, 2010

Borges, Jorge Luis. LABYRINTHS. (1964; this ed. 2007). ***. This work by Borges is divided into three parts. The first part contains a series of fictions (short stories) that for the most part leave one baffled as to what one has read. Although they are called fictions, they are really approaches to fiction – or, indeed, a deconstruction of the fictional techniques used by this author and by writers in general. Borges, born in Argentina in 1899, was an extremely well-read man and a polyglot. His readings – at least those that he refers to in his writings – are mainly in philosophy, ethics, religion, and turn-of-the-century fiction from around the world. The stories in some way use the metaphor of the labyrinth, or, in many cases, a mirror, as the core of the tale. Some of the fictions can be read on a fairly simple level; others are multi-dimensional and multi-leveled, and probably require re-reading to further understand them. His reasoning in many of the tales teeters on the edge of the absurd, much like the old religious debates on the number of angels that can dance on the head of a pin. Dipping into the tales themselves, I found that several of them were more accessible to me than others. These included: “Tion, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius,” “The Garden of Forking Paths,” “The Library of Babel,” and, “Death and the Compass.” The second section of the book contains “Essays,” which – on the whole – are easier to read and understand, although he does continue to use obscure references and obfuscating reasoning in many of them. The final section is called, “Parables.” These are typically one-page works that expand on one thought and become opinions rather than parables, per se. If you are the kind of reader that likes to put a lot of effort into reading a writer, and, in many cases re-reading him, then this is the book for you. My take is that writing is only as good as the thinking behind it. Sometimes writers think too much.

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