Borges Works
Nonfiction

Selected Non-Fictions

Edited by Eliot Weinberger; Tranlsated by Esther Allen, Suzanne Jill Levine, and Eliot Weinberger.

1. Viking, 1999, ISBN 0-670-84947-2; Hardcover $40.00. [Browse/Purchase]

2. Viking, 2000, ISBN 0-14-029011-7; Paperback $17.00. [Browse/Purchase]

Published in 1999 by Viking-Penguin as the final volume in a set of three major Borges collections, Selected Non-Fictions won the National Book Critics Circle Award for Criticism in 2000. It is an honor well deserved, as this collection is perhaps the most important Borges-related work to be published in a long time. Until now, English translations of Borges' essays were rare, the most common being Other Inquisitions. Additional essays, lectures, reviews, and articles were spread out over several books, and many have been unpublished in English translation.
It would be next to impossible to collect all of Borges' nonfiction; but this volume does an excellent job in presenting an overview of his work, ranging from his early pieces of journalism to his later lectures and prologues. Arranged chronologically, Borges' most important works are all present -- "A History of Eternity," "The Total Library," "A New Refutation of Time," "Kafka and his Precursors" -- as well as lesser known gems such as a review of King Kong and a prologue to Ray Bradbury's The Martian Chronicles. Although there are a few puzzling omissions -- such as the "Autobiographical Essay" of 1970 and Borges' commentary on H.P. Lovecraft -- Selected Non-Fictions is an essential book for Borges enthusiasts, as well as anyone interested in metaphysics, literature, and journalism.

Discusión

Published in 1932, Discusión is a collection of essays dealing with metaphysics, literature, and film criticism. Although the complete book has not been translated into English, some if its essays may be found in Labyrinths and Selected Non-Fictions.

Historia de la eternidad

Published in 1936, the History of Eternity is a collection of essays that deal with metaphysical concepts such as the nature of time and space. Although the complete book has not been translated into English, some if its essays may be found in Labyrinths and Selected Non-Fictions.

Other Inquisitions (1937-1952)

Translated by Ruth L. Simms.

University of Texas Press, 1964, ISBN 0-292-76002-7; Paperback $19.95. [Browse/Purchase]

Published in 1952 as Otras inquisiciones, these pieces constitute Borges' central work of essays, and are a mesmerizing and mind-expanding romp through the world of literature, math, metaphysics, religion, and language. Great authors are examined and compared like pieces of fruit; time is refuted and then reacquired; infinity and eternity are manipulated like pieces on a chessboard; and throughout all these amazing speculations, Borges maintains his trademark style of wit, self-doubt, and compassion. This is a book that can transform the way a person looks at the world!
From the introduction by James E. Irby:

This work, here translated into English for the first time, is Borges' best collection of essays, and forms a necessary compliment to the stories of Ficciones and El Aleph, which have made him famous. Otras inquisiciones was first published in 1952, but its pieces had appeared separately (most of them in Victoria Ocampo's review Sur or in the literary supplement La Nación) over the preceding thirteen years. The title harks back to Borges' first volume of essays, published in 1925, when he was only twenty-six. Those original Inquisiciones now seem to him affected and dogmatic avant-garde exercises; he will not have the book reprinted and buys up old copies to destroy them.

Contents:

  • The Wall and the Books
  • Pascal's Sphere
  • The Flower of Coleridge
  • The Dream of Coleridge
  • Time and J. W. Dunne
  • The Creation and P. H. Gosse
  • Dr. Américo Castro is Alarmed
  • A Note on Carriego
  • Our Poor Individualism
  • Quevedo
  • Partial Enchantments of the Quixote
  • Nathaniel Hawthorne
  • Note on Walt Whitman
  • Valéry as a Symbol
  • The Enigma of Edward FitzGerald
  • About Oscar Wilde
  • On Chesterson
  • The First Wells
  • The Biathanatos
  • Pascal
  • The Meeting in a Dream
  • The Analytical Language of John Wilkins
  • Kafka and his Precursors
  • Avatars of the Tortise
  • On the Cult of Books
  • The Nightingale of Keats
  • The Mirror of Enigmas
  • Two Books
  • A Comment on August 23, 1944
  • About William Beckford's Vathek
  • About The Purple Land
  • From Somebody to Nobody
  • Forms of a Legend
  • From Allegories to Novels
  • The Innocence of Layamon
  • For Bernard Shaw
  • The Modesty of History
  • New Refutation of Time
  • Epilogue

Seven Nights

Translated by Eliot Weinberger.

New Directions, 1980, ISBN 0-8112-0905-9; Paperback $8.95. [Browse/Purchase]

Seven Nights contains seven lectures given by Borges in Buenos Ares in 1977. Exploring a wealth of eclectic territory, they are titled after the principle subject of each lecture: "The Divine Comedy," "Nightmares," "The One Thousand and One Nights," "Buddhism," "Poetry," "The Kabbalah," and "Blindness." All make excellent reading, with each topic receiving its share of Borges' illuminating wit.

This Craft of Verse

Edited by Calin-Andrei Mihailescu.

1. Harvard University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-674-00290-3; Hardcover $22.95. [Browse/Purchase]

2. Harvard University Press, 2000, ISBN 0-674-00587-3; 4 CD Set $24.95. [Browse/Purchase]

A published version of the Charles Eliot Norton lectures delivered at Harvard from 1967-1968, this volume collects six lectures that loosely revolve around the subject of poetry. The reason these lectures had to wait all these years for publication is delightfully Borgesian -- they were lost, until a recent discovery of them on tape allowed their transcription!
The Garden has a full description and review of This Craft of Verse online as a "New Book Feature." Here also is the Kirkus review:

An elegant and deftly woven five-part lecture series that uses philosophic, etymological, and personal inquiry to offer an erudite and coherent exposition on the power and limitations of language with regard to the crafting of poetry. Argentine magical realist Borges delivered these lectures at Harvard in 1967-68 and the tapes were subsequently lost. Edited by Harvard professor Calin-Andrei Mihailescu, these heretofore unpublished lectures provide a uniquely personal glimpse into the questions and riddles that preoccupied one of the most fascinating literary minds of the 20th century. The first four lectures grapple with the problematic notions of metaphor, translation, narration, and time, while the fifth ("A Poet's Creed") is an autobiographical account of his literary awakening and development (complete with a reading list). For these investigations, Borges draws on a mind-boggling body of works, from Keats, Baudelaire, Plato, and Cervantes to Rafael Cansinos-Asséns, Omar Khayyám, Chuan Tzu, and Lucan, and from literary traditions as disparate as Norse mythology, the Kabbalah, and Indian philosophy. Perhaps most impressive is the way Borges manages, through a delicate balance of humility and clarity, to make his vast literary resources available to a lay audience. It is that same humility, however, manifest in the self-effacing disclaimers that qualify so many of his observations ("I am sure you know much more about these things than I do," "I think you are quite mistaken if you admire my writing," etc.), that interrupts the otherwise almost seamless marriage of logic to reference, painting this collection with a disconcerting veneer of artifice. His engaging and seemingly simple tone is a double-edged sword that both renders him accessible and simultaneously diffuses the impact of some of his boldest and most interesting arguments-such as postmodernism signifying the death of the novel and the history of literature impeding the appreciation of beauty. A fascinating journey that weaves together the familiar and the unfamiliar in literature to cast old questions in a new light and supplement our understanding of a complex literary mind.
-- Copyright © 2000 Kirkus Associates, LP.


The "Borges Works" Pages

Borges Works Main Page -- Back to the Main Page, where you will find the standard Garden of Forking Paths menu.

Fictions and Artifices -- Short stories; the core Borges works.

Poetry -- Brief notes for Borges' poetical works.

Collaborations -- Works of fiction and nonfiction created in collaboration with others.

Interviews -- Collections of interviews or conversations.

Bibliography -- A list of Borges' short stories with their original titles and publishing information.


--Allen B. Ruch
29 January 2003


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