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the Complete Review
the complete review - conversations

Jorge Luis Borges:

Jorge Luis Borges
(edited by Richard Burgin)

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To purchase Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations

Title: Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations
Author: Jorge Luis Borges
Genre: Conversations
Written: (1998)
Length: 253 pages
Availability: Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations - US
Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations - UK
Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations - Canada
  • Edited by Richard Burgin
  • Part of the University Press of Mississippi Literary Conversations Series
  • Includes 16 conversations and interviews with, among others, Willis Barnstone, Norman Thomas di Giovanni, John Simon, and Alastair Reid

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Our Assessment:

B- : decent though unremarkable collection

See our review for fuller assessment.

Review Summaries
Source Rating Date Reviewer
Rev. of Contemp. Fiction A Summer/1999 David William Foster
St. Louis Post-Dispatch A 17/1/1999 Howard Schwartz
Virginia Quart. Rev. . Summer/1999 .

  Review Consensus:

  Uncritical, banal enthusiasm.

  From the Reviews:
  • "Since there is a balance between interviews that focus on the purely literary aspects of his work and those (especially by Latin Americanists) that wish to place Borges in a cultural and historical context, Burgin provides an excellent and informative balance of material." - David William Foster, Review of Contemporary Fiction

  • "Not only is this collection of conversations with Borges a wonderful introduction to his world, but it is also a Borgesian enterprise in itself, a labyrinth of past dialogues that still echo in these pages." - Howard Schwartz, St.Louis Post-Dispatch

  • "Burgin collects 16 of the best interviews which reveal much about Borges the man and Borges the myth." - Virginia Quarterly Review

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:

       Borges, blind in his later years, when he became an international success, spent much of his time on the international academic and publicity circuit. For a man who was so painfully shy when younger (having someone else read his lecture when he was first invited to deliver one) he eventually submitted gladly to being put on display and being interviewed. A large number of published interviews exist, as do several published collections. This particular collection of sixteen, from between 1966 and 1985, provides a reasonably useful selection of them.
       The pieces vary greatly, from personal reminiscences (with lots of dialogue) to formal (and casual) interviews to an academic colloquy. Among the most bizarre is a question and answer period at NYU where there are questions -- of sorts -- from those in attendance. There is some decent repartee here, but it is a sadly squandered opportunity.
       Some of the conversations are with people with whom Borges has had something of a continuing relationship. Selden Rodman's piece, or one of those by Willis Barnstone, offer description as well as dialogue, painting a somewhat fuller picture.
       There are useful or interesting bits and pieces throughout, though the dialogues and interviews are fairly uneven in quality.
       As with any such selection (as opposed to one long interview) there is some overlap as Borges repeats his standard lines and covers his favourite subjects. Editor Burgin makes some effort to avoid the overlap, and does try to offer as many varied pictures of the man as is possible.
       The veneration for Borges leaves few critical questions (the only challenging ones -- generally about Borges' politics -- are too broad or ignorant to be of much interest). The interviews make a useful complement to Borges' own work, and to the biographies and critical studies, but by themselves they are of limited interest.

       Note that the attractive Literary Conversations Series volume is marred by some slipshod editing that calls the entire enterprise into question. Speaking of the series of detective novels he helped edit Borges' is quoted as saying "we went on to Michael Innis," where the author in question was, of course, Michael Innes. (Surely when a name appears in a text it is the obligation of the editor to determine that it is correctly spelt ?) Elsewhere Hawthorne's name is misspelt (given without the "e"), and Edgar Allan Poe's middle name is inconsistently spelt throughout, sometimes (correctly) as "Allan", elsewhere (including in the index) as "Allen." The gravest sin of all, where Burgin and his cohorts lose all credibility, is in the misspelling of James Joyce's work. For a university press to allow "Finnegan's Wake " to be cited -- with an apostrophe ! -- is a sin against all of literature. A pox on them !

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Jorge Luis Borges: Conversations: 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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