Selected Poems

Jorge Luis Borges, Author, Alexander Coleman, Editor
Jorge Luis Borges, Author, Alexander Coleman, Editor Viking Books $40 (576p) ISBN 978-0-670-84941-3
Reviewed on: 03/29/1999
Release date: 04/01/1999
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-14-058721-0
Paperback - 496 pages - 978-0-14-118111-0
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After a few decades devoted to the luminously precise prose for which he is known in the States, Borges (1899-1986), who began his career writing poetry, returned to it with fervor. This edition makes available for the first time in English an overview of every phase of his poetic oeuvre. Although his earliest book (1923's Fervor de Buenos Aires) represents a youthful Borges more directly concerned with the specific, local and vernacular, he develops his mature themes--time, imagination, and identity--throughout. Taken together, the poems distill those concerns, which famously preoccupy him in the brief ficciones. And, like the fictions, they are almost disturbingly comprehensible. One peak of the collection is 1960's The Maker, showing Borges at his most defined and refined, presenting sophisticated riffs on Arisosto, Luke and ""The Other Tiger"" with elegance and gusto. The poems of 1969's In Praise of Darkness confront encroaching blindness, old age and the possibility of ethics, reaching beyond the expectations created by Borges's mastery of the fantastic and the metaphysical. The result is poems at times as moving as Stevens's ""The Rock."" The translations, edited by New York Univ. professor emeritus Coleman, and realized by varying hands as accomplished as W.S. Merwin, Mark Strand and Charles Tomlinson, are for the most part fluid, although the occasional infelicity, revealed by the original en face, does rankle. Still, gratitude is the only proper response to this invaluable volume, the second of three planned releases. First serial to Harper's and the Los Angeles Times Book Review. (Apr.)
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