Short stories can be deeply unsatisfying,as was often the case with Murakami’s collection of birthday stories,but Borges’s works repeatedly stun the reader,leaving him mesmerized and flabbergasted by the twist,which is so typical of him,and the idea that all these complexities of vast scope are derived from the imagination of one single man.
Borges’s serious countenance can be very intimidating to new readers.I knew he was an excellent author,as he was nominated countless times for the Nobel Prize – which he would have won,were it not for his support for the notorious Pinochet and Rafael Videla.However I apprehended the complexity of his works.
The first story,”Tlon,Uqbar,Orbis Tertius”,confirmed my doubts.It was a really complex piece,which had my brains racking.I had to double read almost all paragraphs and the words used were abstruse.All the same,I was stunned by Borges’s ability to conceive a world which no other human being would have been able to envision.
I must admit that I was worried that I would not enjoy reading Borges as much as I had expected.At one moment I wondered if I picked the correct translation.But I was proved wrong by the ensuing stories which are as broad in setting,tone,and format,as Borges’s knowledge is.Each story took me by surprise,despite my attempts at anticipating things!In the end,I relished Borges’s complexity and didn’t mind fetching the dictionary numerous times a day.According to the translator,he had to make use of heavy syntaxes and difficult words,for even in Spanish,Borges is difficult to read.Indeed Borges wouldn’t be Borges if reading his works were a cup of tea.
It is extremely difficult to pick a favourite from this collection,as all stories are of a baffling magnitude.For instance,one of the simplest stories,Emma Zunz would have been the highlight of any other author’s anthology.Nonetheless,since all stories are different from one another,it is natural that some,although they were good,failed to absorb me – ” ”Deutsches Requiem” and ”Averroes’s Search” didn’t seduce me.
I think I revelled in reading Borges because he is strongly reminiscent of Kafka and is almost obsessed with infinity.He offers us a new perspective on what could be or can be.He suddenly makes us see the world in all its multi-dimensionality.He also had this knack to always surprise his readers at the end of his stories.”The Garden of the Forking Paths” and ”The House of Asterion” are two such stories which awed me by their endings!
Honestly you can hardly go wrong with this book.Just as one owes oneself to read Tolstoy in his lifetime,one needs to have Borges’s collection on his bookshelf.Jorge Luis Borges is not only one of the best short-story tellers of all time; he is a phenomenon of literature!
Note: As well as his short stories,are included in Labyrinths other works by Borges,such as little essays and parables he wrote when he turned progressively blind.If you want only the short stories,you can buy Ficciones.