On Writing

Jorge Luis Borges, edited by Suzanne Jill Levine, Penguin, $15 paper (192p) ISBN 9780143105725
Translator-editor Levine has distilled the critical writings of one of the 20th century's most distinguished men of letters into a serious treatise on style and the power of words. Included are essays written in the 1920s, the 1980s, and every decade between, providing a mirror that reflects not only Borges's artistic evolution, but much of the century. Broken into seven sections, the slim volume begins with a collective manifesto on aesthetics written when Borges was just 22, revealing a young writer already in serious contemplation of the artistic philosophies that would define his life: "Two aesthetics exist: the passive aesthetic of mirrors and the active aesthetic of prisms." He goes on to discuss literary pleasures found in English, French, Irish, and American writing; the ‘20s found him occupied with Joyce and the mythic fiction of Turkestan; the ‘30s with Woolf, Eliot, Valéry, and Faulkner. He gives serious consideration to the often-dismissed detective story, highlighting Poe, Adolfo Casares, and Ellery Queen. Many of the essays included were written in the ‘20s, when Borges was still a young writer working hard to establish his place in the literary community. (June)
Reviewed on: 08/16/2010
Release date: 06/01/2010
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