Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Ficciones was our book club selection for February.  One of the members of my book club is from Argentina and likes to introduce us to South American authors.  Ficciones is a thin collection of short stories that I thought I could read in no time.  Unfortunately, these were all pretty heady stories, and I could only read one or two at a time if I wanted to understand them.  I ended up finishing the book only two days before book club, which is unusual for me as I like to read them early enough to finish in plenty of time.

It became apparent in book club that some of us liked the book and some of us really didn’t.  I was in the dislike camp except for a few stories that really grabbed my interest.  We found that those of us who didn’t like the book all had the same translation.  Once we figured this out, we compared passages and found that our translation was extremely inferior to the one everyone else had.  If you decide to read this one, DO NOT get the book with the cover at the top of this post.  The translation is horrible.

The stories I really enjoyed were “The Garden of Forking Paths” and “The Form of the Sword.”  When I finished reading both of these stories, I marvelled at the creativity of the story.  In The Form of the Sword, you just shake your head at the end realizing that you have been making an assumption the whole story.  Once you realize that this assumption was false, the meaning of the story is turned on its head.

Borges is a great writer, but I unfortunately had to read him through the fog of a poor translation.  I may go back and re-read some of the stories I didn’t like in the better translation to see if I change my mind.

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3 thoughts on “Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

  1. I’ve heard from several sources that Borges is a great writer — particularly of the short story. I should prioritize looking into his books. What’s the best way to a-priori try to know if a translation is a good one?

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