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Borges, Jorge Luis

stories century magic history

(Argentinian, 1899–1986)

Born in Buenos Aires and educated in Geneva, Borges is often cited as the father of magic realism and his spectacularly idiosyncratic short stories, collected in Fictions (1945), The Aleph and Other Stories (1949), and Labyrinths (1953), explore, among other things, violence, the puzzles of detective fiction, the relationship between fiction, truth, and identity, and the cyclical nature of time. Many of his best stories are labyrinthine in form, metaphysical in speculation, and dreamlike in their presentation of life as an ‘amber’ of memories, perhaps being ‘dreamt elsewhere’.

Start with ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’, a pseudo-essay purporting to refer to reality. It tells the discovery of archive fragments belonging to the meticulously catalogued history of an entire, fictional planet, named Tlön. This history was started by an eighteenth-century atheist determined to prove to a non-existent God that man can create his own world and, after generations of secret development, is released into the real with almost insane results.

Then try ‘Funes the Memorious’ which explores the existential predicament of a man with a perfect memory, and just relish the awesome imaginative reach of ‘The Aleph’, which speculates upon a point in space where all experiences are some-how focused and simultaneously available. These are tales of breathtaking inventiveness, and Borges is justly regarded as one of the most original writers of the twentieth century.

Vladimir Nabokov, John Barth, Italo Calvino. See MAGIC REALISM  RP

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