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Selected Non-Fictions (1999)

af Jorge Luis Borges

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Jorge Luis Borges' reputation is quite rightly forged on his unique, cultured and labyrinthine short stories, but any reader lucky enough to become aware of this writer's work knows that many of those same stories take the form of essays – laconic commentaries on imaginary books being one delightful staple. Consequently, opening The Total Library, a collection of Borges' actual non-fiction essays from across his whole career, is not just a task for the completist but a rewarding and harmonious counterpart to his fiction.

It is, sometimes, a heavy task. Because the book does cover Borges' whole career (from 1922 to 1986), there's a prodigious amount of material, and to be honest a fair bit of it (particularly the early stuff) is inessential, even though it's never unwelcome. And though Borges is often expanding on topics that are so intelligently exciting for the reader when adapted into his fiction, the lack here of that uniquely Borgesian fantastical twist on the topic can sometimes feel like you are missing out on a crucial x-factor.

However, if the reader is able to separate their love for Borges' fiction from Borges the essayist – even though that reputation for quality fiction may be what brought them here – they will find plenty to sate them. Borges' essays lack the moreish pugnacity of a polemicist or the entertainment of a journalistic wit – when he does express a contrary opinion, such as his analysis that Edgar Allan Poe's 'The Raven' is not a good poem (pg. 493), it doesn't raise the reader's hackles but instead feels like when you disappoint your favourite teacher. His essay on the baseless myth that Shakespeare didn't write his own plays (pp463-73) – which in my personal view is a conspiracy theory that arose simply because some posh Brits from the 19th century onwards couldn't accept that a man of the lower classes could write so well – is simultaneously gracious and yet completely dismissive of such nonsense.

So Borges is too gentlemanly to be an attack-dog, but for those who appreciate a more cerebral approach, this is a fine book. You could hardly hope for anyone more learned, lucid and – crucially for an essayist – independent in their thought. Some of Borges' strongest essays here are those from 1937-1945 condemning support for Nazism in Argentina; criticism of Hitler might not seem particularly courageous or contrarian to us in the here and now, but there was much support for Germany in Borges' country at the time, and his eloquent essays in support of Britain and the Anglo-Saxon culture, calling out his countrymen's own fascism, are admirable. Elsewhere, there are the familiar erudite Borgesian topics, but also stray thoughts on pop culture (including brief pieces on King Kong and a sci-fi novel by Ray Bradbury) and a touchingly personal one on his experience of progressive blindness. It won't be a surprise for regular readers of this author to learn, but Borges is a charming and original companion on just about any topic. ( )
  MikeFutcher | Apr 16, 2023 |
Whatever words he put his mind to he mastered. As a child he read the Encyclopedia Britannica while his father studied in the library. A curiosity and fascination with all things makes his non-fiction as interesting and wondrous as his fiction and poetry. Reading this you will learn more than a little and be entranced at the same time. Oh, and feel like you've spent time with a wise friend. ( )
  Gumbywan | Jun 24, 2022 |
I have an incredibly hard time imagining a critic more perfect than Borges.
One of the most inspiring books I've read. ( )
  schumacherrr | Feb 21, 2022 |
Borges displays how wonderful and heavenly literature can be. His expansive reading encourages Borges' readers to glimpse the wonders that the classics contain. We are challenged to read and discern more, so that we might more thoroughly understand and appreciate his wealth of comprehension and love for the word.
I was especially taken by his treatment of the mystic Swedenborg. This opened up a fabulous philosophical/religio/visionary world I had never heard of before.
  ivanfranko | Jan 3, 2022 |
How can it be anything otherwise. Great words from a great man, putting his life and work in context. ( )
  Alan.M | Apr 16, 2019 |
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Jorge Luis Borgesprimær forfatteralle udgaverberegnet
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Buckley, PaulOmslagsdesignermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
Levine, Suzanne JillOversættermedforfatternogle udgaverbekræftet
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Mere end 150 af Borges ikke-fiktive tekster, hvoraf nogle ikke tidligere er udgivet på engelsk.

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