With this book, I have to admit defeat, or at least a change of plan. I wanted to review every book I read on this site, but I can’t review this. How to reduce the life work of one of the most brilliant writers of the 20th century to a single blog post? It can’t be done.
If I had skimmed the book or felt more neutral about it, it might be possible. But I loved this book. I read it first when I got a copy from the library a few years ago, and now I own it and re-read it on a regular basis. The stories are mostly very short, too, so there are dozens of them. I just have so much to say about all of them that a blog post just won’t do it.
So my plan is to review each story separately. This is a slightly crazy plan – if I actually do it, it will take months to complete, and my readers will probably be thoroughly sick of Borges. But it’s something I’d like to do. And don’t worry, I’ll be reading and reviewing other stuff as well!
If I have to summarise very briefly what I love about this book, it’s that it completely redefines what short stories can be. Many of them are not stories – they take non-fiction forms, or deliberately misquote from other books. He plays with form and narrative structure, writes mysteries and detective stories as high literature, and has stories with no real plot at all, just ideas played with at length. And throughout, the voice is compelling and assured, so that you stick with him through all the experiments and deceits and frustrations, just because you want to hear what he has to say next.