Literary Saloon
Site of Review.

Trying to meet all your book preview and review needs.

the Best
the Rest
Review Index




to e-mail us:

support the site

In Association with Amazon.com

In association with Amazon.com - UK

In association with Amazon.ca - Canada

the Complete Review
the complete review - publishing

Borges and the Literary Marketplace

Nora C. Benedict

general information | our review | links | about the author

To purchase Borges and the Literary Marketplace

Title: Borges and the Literary Marketplace
Author: Nora C. Benedict
Genre: Non-fiction
Written: 2021
Length: 277 pages
Availability: Borges and the Literary Marketplace - US
Borges and the Literary Marketplace - UK
Borges and the Literary Marketplace - Canada
directly from: Yale University Press
  • How Editorial Practices Shaped Cosmopolitan Reading
  • With numerous illustrations and tables

- Return to top of the page -

Our Assessment:

(--) : thorough look at Borges' literary work and influence beyond his writing

See our review for fuller assessment.

The complete review's Review:

       Borges and the Literary Marketplace is yet another reminder that Jorge Luis Borges was a tremendously influential literary figure beyond just as a writer. Nora C. Benedict's thorough study focuses on his role -- or rather, various roles -- in opening a larger literary world to Argentine readers in the 1930s and 1940s, and shows in how many ways he was involved in doing that.
       The book is neatly divided into chapters focusing on these different roles. After beginning with a look at 'Borges and the Book' she does consider 'Borges as Author', then: 'Borges as Critic and Collaborator', 'Borges as Editor and Anthologist', 'Borges as Publicist and Promoter', and finally: 'Borges as Publisher'. There is, of course, overlap, among both the various activities as well as the books he was trying to interest his audience in, but the range of his activities is quite remarkable.
       Benedict focuses very much on the book (and magazine) as physical object -- more so, often, than on content (though as she notes, there are various connections between the two). So also, there are numerous illustrations, especially of book covers, interspersed in this volume, as she points out and compares everything from layout and typography to the quality of paper and book-pricing. So also, for example, she looks at the initial publication of Ficciones very much from a publishing, rather than literary standpoint, including noting that:

Thus, even though Ficciones is intended for a markedly elite audience, it is no more costly than most other editions produced by Editorial Sur during the 1940s. What is more, Ficciones does not appear to have sold as well as other works, such as Albert Camus's La Peste [The Plague] (1948), which not only sold out and went through multiple editions, but also increased in price with each new edition. This example highlights the fact that there is not yet an interest in Borges's works or following of readers, whether of the middle, lower, or upper class.
       Benedict closely tracks -- including in several tables -- the overlap between books that Borges reviewed and that were then later published in various venues. These show, once again, many of the books and authors he was long interested in -- familiar now to those who have long followed Borges, but largely new to the scene in which he was introducing them in that time. Here, as throughout, Benedict's survey is a detailed one -- and extends to, for example, a breakdown of the nationalities of the authors Borges focused on, noting then also how, for example:
Borges shows a marked preference for English-speaking countries (England, the United States, Ireland, and Scotland), while Spain and any other Spanish-speaking countries are sorely underrepresented.
       Helpfully quoting both in the Spanish original (where applicable) and then English translation throughout, Benedict's very documentary overview also, for example, compares Borges' reviews of the same text in different publications (El Hogar and El Sur, for example), showing how he presented texts differently to different audiences.
       The collaboration with Adolfo Bioy Casares was, of course, a very important one for Borges, and Benedict shows how it extended beyond writing, too, with their anthologies and publishing ventures. The vital role of Victoria Ocampo in Argentine letters of the times is also well presented, with both her Sur magazine and Editorial Sur publishing house tremendously significant in the time. (An Appendix lists the 'Books Produced by Editorial Sur (1933-1951)', and it is a very impressive list indeed.)
       Benedict's focus on the physical side of publishing (over the content) also makes for a fascinating look at the publishing industry in Argentina in those times (basically, the 1930s through early 1950s), with publishers that were very attentive to the (physical) quality of their products (such as Ocampo in her various ventures) and others who were ... less so, such as Editorial TOR -- "synonymous with cheap paperbacks, usually of extremely poor quality", and more concerned with selling as much as possible, without too much concern for the literary quality either. Benedict nicely traces how Borges moved between these different venues too, publishing in a wide variety of publications and under various publishers and in this way reaching different audiences. (His own publishing ventures, which didn't get too far -- Benedict goes so far as to call one effort, Editorial Oportet & Haereses: "an apocryphal firm" --, also make for some amusing stories.)
       More documentary than analytic -- though a decent measure of analysis and interpretation does come up --, Borges and the Literary Marketplace is more an academic and reference work than casual-biographical read. In its detail and thoroughness it offers an excellent overview of Borges' literature-related involvement from the 1930s through the 1950s, including some discussion of his writing (and translations), but really focusing beyond that. It makes for an interesting picture of especially publishing in Argentina in those times, and a useful context for Borges' life and work.
       Borges and the Literary Marketplace is hardly a work to reach for for someone just beginning to look into Borges' life and work, but for those familiar with these offers yet another layer of information and context. Beyond that, it is a useful look at an example of, as Benedict has it in her subtitle: 'How Editorial Practices Shaped Cosmopolitan Reading' (in that particular time and place), and should be of considerable interest to those interested in publishing and the history of publishing.
       Borges and the Literary Marketplace is a fine work of secondary literature, and a valuable guide to Borges' literary activities (beyond his writing) during the period covered here.

- M.A.Orthofer, 5 December 2021

- Return to top of the page -


Borges and the Literary Marketplace: Nora C. Benedict: Jorge Luis Borges: Other books of interest under review:

- Return to top of the page -

About the Author:

       Nora C. Benedict teaches at the University of Georgia.

- Return to top of the page -

© 2021 the complete review

Main | the New | the Best | the Rest | Review Index | Links