Monday, June 30, 2014

“Ficciones” by Jorge Luis Borges (Part 1)

“Ficciones” is a combination of two previously released collections of stories from Jorge Luis Borges. The first half was published originally in 1941. Most of his stories here are not your typical plot driven story, but more like fictional essays. They are exercises in speculation. The ideas considered here have become a bit more common in speculative fiction, but they likely have their origins here.

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius 

The discussion of an imaginary country, invented and developed by intellectuals that led to an even more audacious project—the creation of an entirely imaginary world, down to the details of culture and even languages. As fanciful as this idea was at the time, this idea has become a reality many times over, with fans of several fictional worlds collaborating to develop entire languages and cultures.

Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote 

A review of an imaginary author’s attempt to write a work that already exists. Not to translate it, nor even to copy it word for word, but to recreate the creative event. It borders on the absurd when Borges contrasts a paragraph from Cervantes, with the same paragraph from Menard (a word for word duplication); and then proceeds to praise the nuances Menard managed to insert in the work. Beyond the absurdism, there is thought given to the way cultural and historical context influences art.

Las ruinas circulares 

The story of a man who dreams another man into existence, without that creation knowing that he is the product of a dream. That man is in turn sent out into the world to carry out a similar task, raising questions about the original man. Was he too just the product of another’s dreams?

La lotería en Babilonia 

This “story” (more of a description, really) relates the development of a lottery that comes to control an entire culture. Beginning with the normal awarding of a prize, it devolves into a system that controls everything from who will have a successful life down to who will be allowed to live. In the extreme, the drawing is no longer even certain to be occurring, and people simply have to trust the decisions of the company that runs the lottery to be honest and right. It is a study, really, of religious systems and the institutions that drive culture.

Examen de la obra de Herbert Quain 

The review of a deceased writer’s works, all very strange and almost interesting. Ultimately, this story leaves me asking why bother.

La biblioteca de Babel 

A metaphor for reality where the universe is a giant library where all the possible random books of a certain length exist. The search for meaning and order drive its occupants to madness, and without a designer or at least any communication from one it is a bleak perspective on the world indeed.

El Jardín de los senderos que se birfucan 

This story is incidental and unimportant, however, a concept introduced in it has had huge repercussions. Is this the first suggestion of a multiverse in fiction, where every decision by every character occurs and generates infinite alternate versions of reality?

1 comment:

  1. If you like fantasy you probably will fall in love with this book and search for more Borge's works. If you don't like fantasy you may be hooked by a prose rich in images and a powerful literary and philosophical imagination.
    Give this book a chance, you will not be disappointed!

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