Winner of the National Book Critics Circle Award in Criticism
The first comprehensive selection in any language of the non-fiction--much of it appearing here in English for the first time--of “one of literature’s most fertile and original minds” (San Francisco Chronicle)
A Penguin Classics Deluxe Edition with flaps and deckle-edged paper
It will come as a surprise to many readers that the greater part of Jorge Luis Borges’s extraordinary writing was not in the genres of fiction or poetry, but in various forms of non-fiction prose. His thousands of pages of essays, reviews, prologues, lectures, and notes on politics and culture—though revered in Latin America and Europe as among his finest work—have scarcely been translated into English.
Selected Non-Fictions presents a Borges almost entirely unknown to American readers. Here is the dazzling metaphysician speculating on the nature of time and reality and the inventions of heaven and hell, and the almost superhumanly erudite reader of the world’s literatures, from Homer to Ray Bradbury, James Joyce to Lady Murasaki. Here, too, the political Borges, taking courageous stands against fascism, antisemitism, and the Perón dictatorship; Borges the movie critic, on King Kong and Citizen Kane and the Borgesian art of dubbing; and Borges the regular columnist for the Argentine equivalent of the Ladies’ Home Journal, writing hilarious book reviews and capsule biographies of modern writers.
Like the Aleph in his famous story—the magical point in a basement in Buenos Aires from which one can view everything in the world—Borges’s non-fictions are a vortex for seemingly the entire universe: Dante and Ellery Queen, Shakespeare and the Kabbalah, the history of angels and the history of tango, the Buddha, Bette Davis, and the Dionne Quints.
Selected Non-Fictions presents more than 160 of these astonishing writings, from his youthful manifestos to his last meditations on his favorite books. More than a hundred of these pieces have never before appeared in English, and all have been rendered in brilliant new translations by Esther Allen, Suzanne Jill Levine, and Eliot Weinberger. This unique selection presents Borges as at once a deceptively self-effacing guide to the universe and the inventor of a universe that is an indispensable guide to Borges.
For more than seventy-five years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 2,000 titles, Penguin Classics represents a global bookshelf of the best works throughout history and across genres and disciplines. Readers trust the series to provide authoritative texts enhanced by introductions and notes by distinguished scholars and contemporary authors, as well as up-to-date translations by award-winning translators.
About the Author
Jorge Luis Borges was born in Buenos Aires in 1989 and was educated in Europe. One of the most widely acclaimed writers of our time, he published many collections of poems, essays, and short stories before his death in Geneva in June 1986. In 1961 Borges shared the International Publisher’s prize with Samuel Beckett. The Ingram Merrill Foundation granted him its Annual Literary Award in 1966 for his “outstanding contribution to literature.” In 1971 Columbia University awarded him the first of many degrees of Doctor of Letters, honoris causa (eventually the list included both Oxford and Cambridge), that he was to receive from the English-speaking world. In 1971 he also received the fifth biennial Jerusalem Prize and in 1973 was given one of Mexico’s most prestigious cultural awards, the Alfonso Reyes Prize. In 1980 he shared with Gerardo Diego the Cervantes Prize, the Spanish world’s highest literary accolade. Borges was Director of the Argentine National Library from 1955 until 1973.
Eliot Weinberger (editor/co-translator) is an essayist and translator. His books of essays include Works on Paper, Outside Stories, Nineteen Ways of Looking at Wang Wei, and Karmic Traces. His translations include the Collected Poems 1957–1987 of Octavio Paz, Bortes’ Seven Nights, and Bei Dao’s Unlock. In 1992, he was named the first recipient of the PEN/Kolovakos Award for his work promoting Hispanic literature in the United States.
Esther Allen (co-translator) has translated numerous works from Spanish and French, including The Book of Lamentations by Rosario Castellanos.
Suzanne Jill Levine (co-translator) is the author of The Subversive Scribe and the biography Manuel Puig and the Spider Woman: His Life and Fictions. She is a professor of Latin American literature at the University of California in Santa Barbara, where she also directs a Translation Studies doctoral program. She has translated more than two dozen books, including works by Puig, Cortazar, Donoso, Sarduy, Bioy Casares, and Cabrera Infante.
“Dizzying in scope and dazzling in execution . . . Should throw even the most dedicated Borges fan for a loop.” —The New Yorker
“Superb . . . Indispensable to both the longtime Borges reader and the newcomer.” —The Wall Street Journal
“Intelligently selected and magically translated . . . Borges’s uniqueness in 20th-century letters is rooted in an almost monstrous combination: encyclopedic knowledge, razorlike critical judgment and a ravishing appreciation for the magical and pagan dimension in every situation.” —The New York Times
“A remarkable achievement, offering the general reader and Borges aficionados alike a rapturous glimpse into one of literature’s most fertile and original minds.” —San Francisco Chronicle
“If any recent essay collection can be considered revelatory, it is Borges’s Selected Non-Fictions.” —Phillip Lopate, Lingua Franca
“Sheer delight . . . Witty and elaborate, in turn intimate and magisterial . . . His is the literature of eternity.” —Peter Ackroyd, The Times (London)
“A cornucopia of wit, wisdom and critical insights.” —George Steiner, The Times Literary Supplement
“Beautifully translated and scrupulously edited . . . This book will in turn illuminate and puzzle, excite admiration and exasperation. Borges would be delighted with such a result.” —The Spectator
“A genuine addition to the Borges canon . . . Borges’s bravura performances raise criticism to the power of poetry and are as exciting and imaginative as his celebrated verse and fiction.” —The Daily Telegraph
“Selected Non-Fictions is the most important volume of Borges’s writings to appear since Ficciones. . . . This volume should become as essential to the English-language canon as those by Eliot and Pound.” —Roberto González Echevarría, Yale University
“Borges’s essays are unforgettable, most of all for their originality, their diversity, and for the writing itself. Humor, restraint, insight—and then, suddenly, something bizarre . . . All comparisons are deceptive: Borges, above all, resembles Borges.” —Octavio Paz