Borges - Criticism: General Criticism 1965-1989

contaminated by unreality....

General Criticism, 1965-1989

Borges the Labyrinth Maker

Ana María Barrenechea

Translated by Robert Lima. Foreword by Borges.

New York University Press, 1965, Hardcover, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy]

“Professor Barrenechea’s book has taught me many things about myself.” So writes Borges in the foreword to this early book of criticism about his work. A discussion of common themes found in his major stories, Barrenechea’s book represents the first real attempt to outline a “Borgesian cosmology.” Although her constant use of quotations becomes a bit distracting, it is a useful if somewhat pedantic work. The chapters are as follows:

1. Borges: Life and Works
2. The Infinite
3. Chaos and the Cosmos
4. Pantheism and Personality
5. Time and Eternity
6. Idealism and Other Forms of Unreality
7. Conclusion

The Narrow Act: Borges’ Art of Allusion

Ronald Christ

Preface by Borges.

1. New York University Press, 1969, Out of print.

2. Lumen Press, 1995, ISBN 0930829344; Paperback, $15.00. [Browse/Purchase]

The first study of Borges in English, Christ’s The Narrow Act contains a preface by Borges himself, who later remarked that “of the many books dealing with my work, [The Narrow Act] the best, the most intelligent, and the most carefully done. In fact, I would call it a remarkable piece of readable and meaningful scholarship.” It was revised in 1995 by Ronald Christ, who corrected several errors and included an extensive interview he conducted with Borges in 1966 for the Paris Review.

From the publisher:

In The Narrow Act, Ronald Christ studies the relationship of English and American literature to the writings of Jorge Luis Borges. At the same time, he reveals the inner workings and fundamental literary principles of Borges’ fiction. The Narrow Act was the first book written on Borges work in English, and it remains indespensible for any reader who wants to understand the great Argentine writer.

The Cardinal Points of Borges

Lowell Dunham & Ivar Ivask

University of Oklahoma Press, 1971, ISBN 080610984X; Paperback, $22.95. [Browse/Search for a copy]

A collection of papers from the International Symposium on Borges, held at the University of Oklahoma, December 5-6, 1969. The contents are as follows:

1. “Browning resuelve ser poeta,” by J.L. Borges. (“Browning decides to be a poet,” translated by N.T. di Giovanni.)
2. “Encyclopaedia Britannica,” by J. Guillén.
3. “Humilde irrealidad,” by J. Guillén.
4. “Elogio de la sombra,” by J. Guillén.
5. “A modest proposal for the criticism of Borges,” by Ronald Christ.
6. “In the labyrinth,” by Emil Rodríguez Monegal.
7. “The four cardinal points of Borges,” by Donald A. Yates.
8. “Borges and the idea of Utopia,” by J.E. Irby.
9. “Oxymoronic structure in Borges’ essays,” by Jaime Alazraki.
10. “The visible work of Macedonio Fernández,” by J.C. Murchison.
11. “At work with Borges,” by N.T. di Giovanni.
12. “Appendix: Pedro Salvadores,” by J.L. Borges.
13. “Borges in Oklahoma 1969,” by Ivar Ivask.
14. “Toward a bibliography on Jorge Luis Borges (1923-69),” by R.L. Fiore

Jorge Luis Borges

Jaime Alazraki

1. Columbia University Press, 1971, ISBN 0231032838; Hardcover, $16.00. [Browse/Purchase]

2. McDougal Littell & Co., 2000, ISBN 0618048235; Hardcover, $15.95, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy]

A book on Borges by Jaime Alazraki, a Professor at Columbia University and well-known Borges scholar. A review of this book would be welcome.

Jorge Luis Borges

George R. McMurray

Ungar, 1980, ISBN 0804426082; Hardcover, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy]

A review or any additional information about this book would be welcome.

Borges and His Fiction: A Guide to His Mind and Art

Gene H. Bell-Villada

1. University of North Carolina Press, 1981, ISBN 0807840750; Hardcover, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy]

2. University of Texas Press, 2000, ISBN 0292708785; Paperback, $18.00. [Browse/Purchase]

Although its title is amusingly ambitious, Bell-Villada’s book is a highly readable and insightful look at Borges’ life, the themes explored by his major works, and the impact he made on modern literature. Like his outstanding introduction to García Márquez, García Márquez: The Man and His Work, Bell-Villada’s Borges and his Fiction is written in a lucid, conversational style that avoids both condescension and academic inscrutability. His enthusiasm for Borges is pleasingly evident, and by focusing on the core fictions that form the foundation of Borges’ reputation, he ensures a sense of relevance for the general reader. If you are planning to read one book about Borges, this would be an excellent first choice.
From the publisher:

Since its first publication in 1981, Borges and His Fiction has introduced the life and works of this Argentinian master-writer to an entire generation of students, high school and college teachers, and general readers. Responding to a steady demand for an updated edition, Gene H. Bell-Villada has significantly revised and expanded the book to incorporate new information that has become available since Borges’ death in 1986. In particular, he offers a more complete look at Borges and Peronism and Borges’ personal experiences of love and mysticism, as well as revised interpretations of some of Borges’ stories. As before, the book is divided into three sections that examine Borges’ life, his stories in Ficciones and El Aleph, and his place in world literature.

The contents are as follows:

Preface to the Revised Edition
Preface to the 1981 Edition
Part I: Borges’ Worlds
Buenos Aires and Beyond
A Sort of Life, a Special Mind
What Borges Did for Prose Fiction
Part II: Borges’ Fictions
The Apprentice Fiction Maker
Ficciones I: Doubles, Dreamers, and Detectives
Ficciones II: The World within a Book
El Aleph I: Doubles and Puzzles
El Aleph II: Tales of Action and Violence
El Aleph III: The Visionary Experience
Part III: Borges’ Place in Literature
Dreamtigers and Later Works: A Tentative Summation
Literature and Politics North and South
Borges as Argentine Author: And Other Self-Evident (If Often Ignored) Truths
Selected Bibliography

Paper Tigers: The Ideal Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges

John Sturrock

Oxford University Press, 1977, ISBN 0198157460; Hardcover, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy]

An influential work when it was first published, Sturrock approaches Borges from a structuralist angle, holding up his stories as exemplars of pure “fictionality” – Borges is seen as the master of the “think-piece,” or “stories about ideas instead of people.” By de-emphasizing characterization, Sturrock claims that Borges privileges pure artifice and creativity over the compromising demands of literary realism or psychology. Although Sturrock makes a very convincing argument, numerous critics have faulted him for failing to see the more human elements in Borges’ work. Still, it is a very thought-provoking and insightful analysis, and Paper Tigers is long overdue for a reprinting.A review of this work would be welcome!

The Literary Universe of Jorge Luis Borges: An Index to References and Allusions to Persons, Titles, and Places in his Writings

Daniel Balderston

Greenwood Press, 1986, ISBN 0-313-25083-9; Hardcover, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy]

Volume 9 in the “World Literature, Bibliographies and Indexes” series, Balderston’s concordance is quite useful, but sadly out of print.
From the publisher:

Balderston’s compilation is defined by its subtitle. The work is a comprehensive labor of literary love providing for the dedicated Borges fan or scholar the location in his works of allusions to people, titles, and places. The most impressive facet of the compilation, apart from the sheer enthusiasm necessary to undertake and complete it, is the breadth and depth of Borges’ knowledge, which encompasses all cultures and all ages. The index gives a sense of Borges’ encyclopedic mind. Aside from attesting to Borges’ brilliance, the index will be useful for students of Hispanic literature and of Borges himself....

Jorge Luis Borges

Harold Bloom, ed.

Chelsea House, 1986, ISBN 0-87754-721-1; Hardcover, $37.95. [Browse/Purchase]

Part of Bloom’s “Modern Critical Views” series, this is a collection of essays and papers on Borges with an introduction by Harold Bloom.

Borges the Poet

Carlos Cortinez

University of Arkansas Press, 1986, ISBN 0938626485; Paperback, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy]


Jorge Luis Borges: The Morgan Lectures
Thorpe Running
Arturo Echavarría Ferrari
José Miguel Oviedo
Willis Barnstone
Ramona Lagos
Jaime Alazraki
Graciela Palau de Nemes
María Kodama
Christopher Mauer
Kenneth Holditch
Julie Jones
María Luisa Bastos
James M. Hughes
Carlos Cortínez
D.L. Shaw
Dionisio Cañas
Nicholas Shumway
Joan White
Ana Cara Walker
Thomas E. Lyon
Alice Poust
Miguel Enguídanos
Daniel Balderston
Francisco Cevallos
Robert Lima

A review or any additional information about this book would be welcome.

The Poetry and Poetics of Jorge Luis Borges

Paul Cheselka

Peter Lang, 1987, ISBN 0820403180; Hardcover, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy]

Also known by the catchy title of: “American University Studies, Series II: Romance Languages and Literature, Vol. 44.” A review or any additional information about this book would be welcome.

The Meaning of Experience in the Prose of Jorge Luis Borges

Ion T. Ageana

Peter Lang, 1988, ISBN 0820405957; Hardcover, Out of print. [Browse/Search for a copy]

Also known by the even more catchier title of: “American University Studies, Series II: Romance Languages and Literature, Vol. 71.” A review or any additional information about this book would be welcome.

Borges and His Sucessors: The Borgesian Impact on Literature and the Arts

Edna Aizenberg

University of Missouri Press, 1989, ISBN 082620712X; Hardcover, $42.50. [Browse/Purchase]

From the publisher:

In the first book devoted to the impact made by Borges on the contemporary aesthetic imagination, Aizenberg brings together specially commissioned essays from international scholars in a variety of disciplines to provide a wide-ranging assessment of Borges’ influence on the fiction, literary theory, and arts of our time.

John Canup writes:
Interesting not merely for the essays, but also for the two Borges lectures, “The Book of Job” and “Baruch Spinoza.” The frontispiece photo shows Borges, with cane, seated in his apartment, beneath a painting by his sister and above the Borgesian cat (pure white, and thus perhaps deaf? a blind poet with a deaf cat) – doubtless the one that chewed to pulp the sleeve of Paul Theroux’s wool jacket in The Old Patagonian Express, Chapter 20, “The Buenos Aires Subterranean.”

Go To:

Criticism Main Page – Returns you to the Main Criticism page and the Quick Reference Card of titles.

Biography –Borges biography, conversations and anecdotes.

General Criticism 2 – General literary criticism or commentary on Borges and his writing from 1990 to the present.

Contextual Criticism – Borges criticism with a specific angle: existential, psychological, Latin American, religious, mathematical, etc.

Comparative Criticism – Studies of Borges in relation to other authors or artists.

Bibliography – An alphabetized bibliography of Borges criticism.

Variaciones Borges – Takes you offsite to the homepage of Variaciones Borges, the biannual international journal for Borges studies.

–Allen B. Ruch
7 July 2004

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