Archive for November, 2015

Review: Ficciones

Monday, November 16th, 2015

I’ve been skirting reading Borges for some time.  Several authors I greatly enjoy point to him as an influence.  Those pointers are always delivered in the sort of hushed tones that one reserves for the influential and unique. A close friend recently recommended Borges’s work and that was the kick I needed to actually go get some.  Hushed tones from Warren Ellis are one thing, but no reason for avoiding the experience sounded good when I tried to say them out loud.

The short stories in Ficciones turn out to be witty and playful in an intellectual sense.  Borges takes an idea and runs as far as he can with it, often under the guise of a literary review. Creating a fictional writer who exemplifies whatever odd approach he wants to explore and then critiquing that author seems the long way around, but the structure is generally powerful and engaging.  He manages to convey the idea of taking himself too seriously and not seriously at all in the same constructs.

It helps that his writing is both technically brilliant and fantastically dense. The first paragraph or two of one of his stories often contains the whole of the story.  The remaining pages simply illuminate it from other angles, as a hologram.  Most of these are master classes in composition and structure.  Often this is where I say an author makes that look easy.  Not Borges.  It looks like he worked hard to get these stories perfect.

Overall, these stories are rewarding and entertaining on many levels, but expect to invest time to reap those benefits.

Strongly recommended.