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Labyrinths: Selected Stories & Other Writings - Jorge Luis Borges, Donald A. Yates, James E. Irby, André Maurois Borges and I

The other one, the one called Borges, is the one things happen to. I walk through the streets of Buenos Aires and stop for a moment, perhaps mechanically now, to look at the arch of an entrance hall and the grillwork on the gate; I know of Borges from the mail and see his name on the list of professors or in a biographical dictionary. I like hourglasses, maps, 18th century typography, the taste of coffee and the prose of Stephenson; he shares these preferences, but in the vain way that turns them into the attributes of an actor. It would be an exaggeration to say ours is hostile relationship; I live, let myself go on living, so that Borges may contrive his literature, and this literature justifies me. It is no effort for me to confess that he has achieved some valid pages, but those pages cannot save me, perhaps because what is good belongs to no one, not even to him, but rather to the language and to tradition. Besides, I am destined to perish, definitively, and only some instance of myself can survive in him. Little by little, I am giving over everything to him, though I am quite aware of his perverse custom of falsifying and magnifying things. Spinoza knew that all things long to persist in their being; the stone eternally wants to be a stone, and the tiger a tiger. I shall remain in Borges, not in myself (if it is that I am someone), but I recognize myself less in his books than in many others or in the laborious strumming of a guitar. Years ago I tried to free myself from him and went from the mythologies of the outskirts to the games with time and infinity, but those games belong to Borges now and I shall have to imagine other things. Thus my life is a flight and I lose everything and everything belongs to oblivion, or to him.

I do not know which of us has written this page.


This is a parable from Jorge Luis Borges's Labyrinths. I read Ficciones last year and was enchanted. Labyrinths is more vintage Jorge Luis Borges but because he was no longer novel to me, this one didn't pack quite the same punch. Reading Borges is, to me, more like being in an Escher drawing than a labyrinth, but in any case, it is a somewhat surreal experience. His stories play with time and place and identity. They often masquerade as philosophy or literary criticism or history. They are rarely straightforward. They are almost always a delightful ride. Characters sometimes crop up unexpectedly from other stories.

This collection also contains essays and very short pieces labeled parables. These are also fascinating, although I will admit that some of the essays were dense with philosophy and made me feel a little slow. I really enjoyed his essay about Argentine literature and what it should be. The parables were like delicious little pieces of expensive chocolate--needing to be savored rather than gobbled.

This is a great place to start with Borges if you want to get the flavor of many types of his writing. It contains many of his best stories (many of which are also in Ficciones).