Tags: jorge luis borges


Book Review: Borges and the Eternal Orangutans, by Luis Fernando Verissimo

'Murder, She Wrote' with Jorge Luis Borges in place of Angela Lansbury and Lovecraftian demons among the suspects.

New Directions Publishing, 2000, 135 pages

From the back cover:

Vogelstein is a loner who has always lived among books. Suddenly, fate grabs hold of his insignificant life and carries him off to Buenos Aires, to a conference on Edgar Allen Poe, the inventor of the modern detective story. There Vogelstein meets his idol, Jorge Luis Borges, and for reasons that a mere passion for literature cannot explain, he finds himself at the center of a murder investigation that involves arcane demons, the mysteries of the Kabbala, the possible destruction of the world, and the Elizabethan magus John Dee's "Eternal Orangutan," which given all the time in the world, would end up writing all the known books in the cosmos. Verissimo's small masterpiece is a literary tour de force and a brilliant mystery novel rolled into one.

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Verdict: Highly recommended for fans of literary murder mysteries, especially if you're a fan of Edgar Allen Poe, H.P. Lovecraft, and Jorge Luis Borges. If you are not familiar with any of them, however, you may simply find this story exceedingly strange. (But hie thee hence and read some Borges!)

Book Review: Labyrinths, by Jorge Luis Borges

One-line summary: A collection of short stories and other writings by an author woefully unfamiliar in the English-speaking world.


Goodreads: Average: 4.46. Mode: 5 stars.
Amazon: Average: 4.5. Mode: 5 stars.

If Jorge Luis Borges had been a computer scientist, he probably would have invented hypertext and the World Wide Web.

Instead, being a librarian and one of the world's most widely read people, he became the leading practitioner of a densely layered imaginistic writing style that has been imitated throughout this century, but has no peer (although Umberto Eco sometimes comes close, especially in Name of the Rose).

Borges's stories are redolent with an intelligence, wealth of invention, and a tight, almost mathematically formal style that challenge with mysteries and paradoxes revealed only slowly after several readings. Highly recommended to anyone who wants their imagination and intellect to be aswarm with philosophical plots, compelling conundrums, and a wealth of real and imagined literary references derived from an infinitely imaginary library.

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Verdict: This collection is not light reading. Even the shortest stories will require your full attention. But it's literary mind candy that spans science fiction, fantasy, horror, detective mysteries, literary critique, philosophy, theology, linguistics, and epistemology. I am frankly not sure I absorbed more than a fraction of what Borges was putting out, man -- it was, like, totally radical. Should you read this? Yes! It made my brain hurt, but in a good way. It also made me wish I could read Spanish in the same way that Haruki Murakami makes me wish I could read Japanese -- I am sure there is a lot that is lost in the translation.

This was the first book I completed for the books1001 challenge, and you can see this and other brilliant reviews there. We have 111 participants now, dedicated to reading and reviewing every book on the 1001 Books You Must Read Before You Die list by the end of the year. Come join us!