- BORGES, Jorge Luis
- (1899-1986)Argentine short-story writer, poet, essayist and university professor, known primarily for his work outside the sf field. Though much of his fiction is local and drawn from Argentine history and events, Borges is best known in the English-speaking world for his short fantasies. Ficciones (coll 1944; rev 1961; trans Anthony Kerrigan 1962 US) and El Aleph (coll 1949; rev 1952) contain his most important short stories, including most of those considered closest to sf. Most of the contents of these books, with some additional material, can be found in English in Labyrinths (coll trans 1962; rev 1964). Another translated collection - the author collaborating on the translation - is The Aleph and Other Stories 1933-1969 (coll trans with Norman Thomas di Giovanni 1970 US), which is not a translation of El Aleph, containing a quite different selection of stories.JLB has argued that "the compilation of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance" and claims to have read few novels himself - and then only out of a "sense of duty". His stories are accordingly brief, but contain a bewildering number of ideas. Many are technically interesting, exploiting such forms as fictional reviews and biographies to summarize complex and equally fictional books and characters, or using the precise styles of the fable or the detective story to encapsulate involved ideas.Among his most famous fantasies are: "The Library of Babel" (1941), which describes a vast library or Universe of books containing all possible combinations of the alphabet, and thus all possible gibberish alongside all possible wisdom; "The Garden of Forking Paths" (1941), which examines the potentials of ALTERNATE WORLDS; "The Babylon Lottery", which details the history of a game of chance that gradually becomes so complex and universal that it is indistinguishable from real life; "Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" (1941), which chronicles the emergence in and takeover of everyday life by an entirely fictional and fabricated world; "The Circular Ruins", which portrays a character dreaming and giving life to a man, only to realize that he in turn is another man's dream; and "Funes, the Memorious" (1942), which describes a man with such perfect memory that the past is as accessible to him as the present. (All the above appear in Ficciones.) The profound influence of these - and other stories - on Gene WOLFE is reflected in The Book of the New Sun (1980-83), where they are all made use of.JLB's interest in METAPHYSICS is apparent in these stories, and his examination, through FANTASY, of the nature of reality associates his fiction with that of many modern US authors, such as Philip K. DICK, Thomas PYNCHON and Kurt VONNEGUT Jr. He is an important influence on the more sophisticated recent sf writers, especially those dealing with ABSURDIST themes and paradoxes of PERCEPTION. His interest in puzzles and labyrinths is another stimulus that has led him to fantasy and the detective story as media for expressing his ideas in fiction.JLB has published other collections of stories and sketches, some on the borderline of fantasy, as well as a fantastic bestiary, Manual de zoologia fantastica (1957 Mexico; exp vt El libro do los seres imaginarios 1967; the latter trans Norman Thomas di Giovanni and JLB as The Book of Imaginary Beings 1969 US). With Silvina Ocampo (1903-) and Adolfo BIOY CASARES he also edited a fantasy collection, Antologia de la Literatura Fantastica (1940; rev 1965; further rev 1976; trans as The Book of Fantasy 1976 US; rev 1988 with intro by Ursula K. LE GUIN), and revealed a first-hand (if inaccurate) knowledge of sf by including H.P. LOVECRAFT, Robert A. HEINLEIN, A.E. VAN VOGT and Ray BRADBURY in his Introduction to American Literature (1967; trans Keating and Evans 1971). Translation of JLB's work into English is complex, and there is no definitive collection. A number of his early works have been reprinted in sf anthologies.PROther works: Historia universal de la infamia (coll 1935; trans Norman Thomas di Giovanni as A Universal History of Infamy 1972 US); Seis problemas para Don Isidro Parodi (coll 1942; trans Norman Thomas di Giovanni as Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi 1981 US) with Adolfo Bioy Casares; Cronicos de Busto Domecq (coll 1967; trans Norman Thomas di Giovanni as Chronicles of Bustos Domecq 1976 US) with Bioy Casares; El hacedor (coll 1960; trans M. Boyer and H. Morland as Dreamtigers 1964 US); Antologia personal (coll 1961; trans Anthony Kerrigan as A Personal Anthology 1961 US); El informe sobre Brodie (coll 1970; trans Norman Thomas di Giovanni as Doctor Brodie's Report 1972), his last collection of original work; El libro del arena (coll 1975; trans Norman Thomas di Giovanni as The Book of Sand 1977 US; exp 1979 UK); Borges: A Reader (coll 1981); Atlas (coll 1984; trans Anthony Kerrigan 1985 US).About the author: Jorge Luis Borges (1970) by M.S. Stabb; Jorge Luis Borges: An Annotated Primary and Secondary Bibliography (1984) by D.W. Foster; A Dictionary of Borges (1990) by Evelyn Fishburn and Psiche Hughes.See also: LATIN AMERICA.
Science Fiction and Fantasy Encyclopedia. Academic. 2011.