Contribution (Critical Survey of Mystery & Detective Fiction, Revised Edition)
Jorge Luis Borges’s primary contribution to the detective genre is his recognition and exploitation of the fact that the genre is the quintessential model for pattern and plot in fiction. An admirer of the stories of Edgar Allan Poe since childhood, Borges saw that Poe’s development of the detective story was closely related to his theories of the highly patterned short-story genre in general; he also knew very early in his career that G. K. Chesterton’s Father Brown detective stories were built on the paradoxical union of a highly rational plot with a mystic undercurrent.
Although few of Borges’s short fictions are detective stories in the conventional sense, many of them make specific reference to the genre and use detective-story conventions to focus on the nature of reality as a highly patterned fictional construct. Borges was influential in showing that detective fiction is more fundamental, more complex, and thus more worthy of serious notice than critics in the past had thought it to be.
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Other Literary Forms (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
Though most famous for his work in short fiction, Jorge Luis Borges also holds a significant place in Latino literature for his work in poetry and the essay. In fact, Borges would be considered a major writer in Latino letters for his work in these two genres (the vast majority of which was produced before the Argentine writer branched into short fiction) even had he never written a single short story. Borges’s early poetry (that for which he earned his reputation as a poet) is of the ultraist school, an avant-grade brand of poetry influenced by expressionism and Dadaism and intended by its Latino practitioners as a reaction to Latino modernism. Borges’s essays, as readers familiar with his fiction might expect, are imaginative and witty and usually deal with topics in literature or philosophy. Interestingly, because of the writer’s playful imagination, many of his essays read more like fiction than essay, while, because of his propensity both for toying with philosophical concepts and for fusing the fictitious and the real, much of his fiction reads more like essay than fiction. It seems only fitting, however, that for a writer for whom the line between fiction and reality is almost nonexistent the line between fiction and essay should be almost nonexistent as well.
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Achievements (Critical Survey of Short Fiction, Second Revised Edition)
It is virtually impossible to overstate the importance of Jorge Luis Borges within the context of Latino fiction, for he is, quite simply, the single most important writer of short fiction in the history of Latino literature. This is true not only because of his stories themselves, and chiefly those published in Ficciones, 1935-1944 and El Aleph, but also, just as important, because of how his stories contributed to the evolution of Latino fiction, both short and long, in the latter half of the twentieth century.
Borges was the father of Latino’s “new narrative,” the type of narrative practiced by the likes of Julio Cortázar, Gabriel García Márquez, Carlos Fuentes, Mario Vargas Llosa, and others. Latino fiction prior to Borges was chiefly concerned with painting a realistic and detailed picture of external Latino reality. Borges’s imaginative ficciones (or fictions) almost single-handedly changed this, teaching Latino writers to be creative, to use their imagination, to treat fiction as fiction, to allow the fictional world to be just that: fictional. Borges’s works also taught Latino writers to deal with universal themes and to write for an intellectual reader. Without Borges, not only would the literary world be without some superb stories, but also Latino narrative in the second half of the twentieth century would have been radically different from what it evolved to be.
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Other literary forms (Critical Survey of Poetry: World Poets)
Jorge Luis Borges (BAWR-hays) is best known for his short stories, especially those written during the period when he made each the exploration of a metaphysical paradox, often with the pretense that he was summarizing some larger work. These metaphysical themes pervade most of his poems, which give them even more condensed treatment.
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Achievements (Critical Survey of Poetry: World Poets)
The best measure of the achievement of Jorge Luis Borges is his enormous influence on world literature and literary criticism, especially on Latin American Magical Realism and North American fantasy. Borges, along with Samuel Beckett, received the International Publishers’ Prize (Prix Formentor) in 1961. Other recognitions include the Ingram Merrill Foundation’s Annual Literary Award (1966), various honorary degrees (beginning in 1971 with Columbia University), Israel’s Jerusalem Prize (1971), Mexico’s Alfonso Reyes Prize (1973), the Nebula Award for Best Short Story (1975), a Special Edgar Allan Poe Award from the Mystery Writers of America (1976), the World Fantasy Award (1979), Spain’s Miguel de Cervantes Prize (1979, shared with Gerardo Diego), the International Balzan Prize (1980), France’s Cino Del Duca World Prize (1980), the Ingersoll Foundation’s T. S. Eliot Award for Creative Writing (1983), and the National Book Critics Circle Award in criticism (1999). Argentina honored him with the directorship of its National Library from 1955 to 1973. He became a member of the French Legion of Honor in 1983.
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Discussion Topics (Magill's Survey of World Literature, Revised Edition)
Explain why some critics call Jorge Luis Borges’s short stories “essayistic fiction.”
In what ways does the postmodernistic concern with the processes of literature’s construction resemble the manner in which other activities are studied today?
Are Borges’s labyrinths constructed difficulties or a reflection of the complexities of modern life? Give reasons for your answer.
Elaborate either a positive or negative response to the following: Playfulness, one of the qualities of Borges’s fiction, is an impediment to success in serious literary work.
Consider whether the discussions of Borges’s fiction assist the reader in also understanding his poetry.
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Bibliography (Critical Survey of Mystery & Detective Fiction, Revised Edition)
Aizenberg, Edna, ed. Borges and His Successors. Columbia: University of Missouri Press, 1990. Collection of essays by various critics on Borges’s relationship to such writers as Italo Calvino and Umberto Eco, his influence on such writers as Peter Carey and Salvador Elizondo, and his similarity to such thinkers as Michel Foucault, Paul de Man, and Jacques Derrida.
Bell-Villada, Gene H. Borges and His Fiction: A Guide to His Mind and Art. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981. An excellent introduction to Borges and his works for North American readers. Provides detailed commentary concerning Borges’s background, his many stories, and his career, all the while downplaying the Argentine writer’s role as a philosopher and intellectual and emphasizing his role as a storyteller. A superb study.
Christ, Ronald. The Narrow Art: Borges’ Art of Allusion. New York: New York University Press, 1969. An important study of how Borges relinquishes circumstantial reality to reach the primordial world of myth. For Borges, the fantastic is not characteristic of another world, but rather is the covert essence of this world. Shows how Borges’s fiction is intertextually related to the mythic, fantastic, literary tradition.
Frisch, Mark F. You Might Be Able to Get There from Here: Reconsidering Borges...
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