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the Complete Review
the complete review - fiction


Jorge Luis Borges

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To purchase Ficciones

Title: Ficciones
Author: Jorge Luis Borges
Genre: Fiction
Written: (1941-44)
Length: 156 pages
Original in: Spanish
Availability: Ficciones - US
Fictions - UK
Ficciones - Canada
Fictions - France
  • Note that this review refers to the 1993 Everyman's Library edition (volume 166), published 1993, with an introduction by John Sturrock. This edition is also available in a Grove Press paperback which includes the same stories, in the same translations, but lacks the introduction by Sturrock and the chronolgy -- and is not much less expensive than the more attractive hardcover version.
  • First published in English 1962.
  • Translated by Alastair Reid, Anthony Kerrigan, Anthony Bonner, Helen Temple and Ruthven Todd.
  • All these stories can also be found in Borges' Collected Fictions, translated by Andrew Hurley (see our review).
  • Includes a Chronology and Select Bibliography
  • Note that the UK edition, Fictions, uses Andrew Hurley's translations (also found in Collected Fictions)

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Our Assessment:

A : many Borges highlights in a handy volume

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
The New Yorker . 18/8/1962 Naomi Bliven
NY Times Book Rev. A 27/5/1962 Mildred Adams
Time . 22/6/1962 .
TLS . 21/9/1962 .

  Review Consensus:

  Acknowledged as classic stories by a great master, but lots of complaints about the overlap between this volume and Labyrinths, as well as complaints about the translations.

  From the Reviews:
  • "Some of the translations are incredibly rough and ready. Spanish constructions are rendered literally in English with (...) bizarre results (.....) Señor Borges, a careful and subtle writer, deserves better treatment." - Times Literary Supplement

Please note that these ratings solely represent the complete review's biased interpretation and subjective opinion of the actual reviews and do not claim to accurately reflect or represent the views of the reviewers. Similarly the illustrative quotes chosen here are merely those the complete review subjectively believes represent the tenor and judgment of the review as a whole. We acknowledge (and remind and warn you) that they may, in fact, be entirely unrepresentative of the actual reviews by any other measure.

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The complete review's Review:

       With the award of the Formentor Prize (shared with Samuel Beckett) in 1961 and the 1962 publication of the English translation of Ficciones (and, concurrently, the very similar Labyrinths) the shooting star that was Borges finally made his mark in the English-speaking world. The slim volume Ficciones, collecting two books of stories (The Garden of Forking Paths (1941) and Artifices (1944)), had an enormous impact, and even decades later it easy to see why. Much of Borges' best is collected here -- from the brilliant idea behind Pierre Menard, Author of Don Quixote (in which part of Don Quixote is written anew), to the prototypical Borgesian story of books and infinity, The Library of Babel, to the haunting Funes, the Memorious and The South.
       All of Borges' great themes -- time, infinitude, mirrors, libraries, memory, language, but also duels, honour, and fate -- can be found here. The seventeen short tales provide an excellent introduction and survey of his work. Much of Borges is elsewhere -- in later collections (most notably The Aleph), as well as in his poetry and his non-fiction work (see our review of his Selected Non-Fictions) -- but this handy little volume collects many of Borges' finest and most memorable creations.
       The Collected Fictions (see our review), offering most of the fiction output (all except that written in collaboration with Adolfo Bioy Casares), translated by a single hand (Andrew Hurley's), can overwhelm with its weight. Borges is a pleasure that can be hard to take in too large doses: his fictions are so dense and compact that they are best lingered over, and taking him up a few stories at a time seems preferable to plunging into the collected works. Thus there is a reason to opt for taking up Ficciones, rather than lugging around the Collected Fictions.
       Ficciones is also of interest for historical reasons -- it was this volume, in these translations, that made the initial (and great) impact. A number of translators were involved, and while their work is somewhat uneven their versions hold up quite well.
       The Everyman's Library edition also includes a short and fairly useful introduction by John Sturrock (as Hurley's Collected Fictions does not, assuming familiarity with the author). There is also a Select Bibliography -- very select, and, as far as the "Other Books by Borges Translated into English" goes disappointingly selective (and now, with the publication of Viking's three volumes of Borges' fictions, non-fictions, and poetry, woefully out of date).
       There is also a Chronology, three timelines (Author's Life, Literary Context, Historical Events) running side by side by side, which is of some interest. Fairly detailed, it does, however, miss some significant points, including failing to mention publication of Borges' books in English translation (surely of interest to readers of this volume). The Literary Context is also a bit bizarre -- understandably emphasizing authors from Latin and South America, and those who were influenced by Borges, but also for some reason making particular note of Primo Levi.
       There are no editorial notes, aside from Borges' own (unlike Hurley's half-baked efforts in the Collected Fictions). The stories certainly can be enjoyed just as they are, though knowing more about Borges' references does enhance the pleasure.
       There's much to be said for having all of Borges in one volume, but this handy sampling can also be highly recommended.

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Ficciones: Reviews: Jorge Luis Borges: Other books of interest under review:

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About the Author:

       The great Argentinian author Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was awarded the 1961 Prix Formentor, as well as the Jerusalem Prize. A talented poet and essayist he is best known for his short fiction.

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