Selected Nonfictions: Volume 1

Jorge Luis Borges, Author, Andrew Hurley, Translator, Eliot Weinberger, Abridged by
Jorge Luis Borges, Author, Andrew Hurley, Translator, Eliot Weinberger, Abridged by Viking Books $40 (560p) ISBN 978-0-670-84947-5
Reviewed on: 08/02/1999
Release date: 08/01/1999
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Reviewing a book that seeks to validate the existence of ghosts through testimony by the upper crust of British society, Borges writes: ""the Honorable Reginald Fortescue became a firm believer in the existence of `an alarming spectre.' As for myself, I don't know what to think: for the moment, I refuse to believe in the alarming Reginald Fortescue until an honorable spectre becomes a firm believer in his existence."" In this compilation of nonfiction prose, the third of Viking's magisterial three-volume collection of Borges's complete works, a new, fuller Borges emerges, as the writer becomes a joker; the fabulist shows himself to be a rationalistic skeptic; and the alleged conservative skewers upper-class pretensions. We also find the familiar man of letters in such classic essays as ""A New Refutation of Time"" and ""Kafka's Precursors"" (which foreshadows the most interesting ideas of Harold Bloom in a mere two and a half pages). Among the gems to appear in English for the first time are slyly brilliant literary essays, such as an appreciation of Flaubert's enigmatic novel, Bouvard and P cuchet, and an authoritative critical history of the translations of the 1001 Nights. Other newly available aspects of Borges's oeuvre are trenchant critiques of Argentinean anti-Semitism; contemporary reviews of such works as Citizen Kane, Absalom, Absalom and Finnegan's Wake (Borges finds it incomprehensible); and capsule literary biographies for a woman's magazine. While the translations capture Borges's unfailingly elegant style, the editing at times seems overly academic: certain sentences, even paragraphs, are repeated, and certain topics (particularly time and eternity) are overrepresented, a tendency that makes the book rather difficult to read straight through. Even so, this is a volume of inexhaustible delights. First serial to Grand Street. (Sept.)
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