Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby Spoonary » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:40 pm

Ok, so I just finished reading Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius and I have also read a bit about what it's all supposed to signify, but I just don't feel equipped with the necessary historical and theoretical knowledge to discuss it :roll:

It was odd... I found it hard to stay focussed and interested, due to the encyclopedic nature of the story, so it was a bit of a slog for a short story. I did, however, appreciate Borges' turn of phrase and tongue in cheek comments in parts.

Does anyone have any other thoughts or opinions about this story? I'm glad to hear I'm not the only one who found it a bit tricky to get through. Hopefully, the rest of the collection will go more smoothly, maybe? :?
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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby iguanamon » Wed Mar 21, 2018 9:44 pm

I've found the first two stories too literary for me. It's not my cup of tea at all. I am dropping it. Borges is a great writer but I've never been a fan of this type of literary introspection.

Yo me voy a leer otra cosa.
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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby Systematiker » Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:32 am

One thing that this has taught me so far is that I don't feel that I have the writing ability in Spanish to discuss things the way I would like (which is why this, too, is in English). I mean, that's the root of what I've been working on in Spanish anyway, but my reactions to several of the pieces (I'm about halfway through, though I read the first one twice) have made me want to express things in a manner that I'm too uncertain about. So yeah.

I mean, I've got some thoughts, but I'm (1) pretty sure I'd make a hash of it in Spanish and (2) as I've said elsewhere I don't want to be that guy in a book group (I'm used to teaching using Shared Inquiry for lit, plus I've got background in a lot of the stuff Borges plays with, so I don't want to overstep, because I like y'all, and I'd rather y'all don't decide I'm a pretentious bore).
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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby Stelle » Fri Mar 23, 2018 12:43 am

Systematiker wrote:I mean, I've got some thoughts, but I'm (1) pretty sure I'd make a hash of it in Spanish and (2) as I've said elsewhere I don't want to be that guy in a book group (I'm used to teaching using Shared Inquiry for lit, plus I've got background in a lot of the stuff Borges plays with, so I don't want to overstep, because I like y'all, and I'd rather y'all don't decide I'm a pretentious bore).


well, i’m still waiting for my book from the library, so I’m just a curious bystander as of now. But for what it’s worth, I’d like to hear your thoughts! I quite like pretensious bores!
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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby Spoonary » Sat Mar 24, 2018 6:54 pm

Go on Systematiker, don't hold back. The whole point of this thread is to share our thoughts about the book, in English or Spanish (however rough that English or Spanish may be). I'm pretty sure I won't be able to respond to your literary observations with anything worthwhile, but that doesn't mean I wouldn't like to know your thoughts on this book. :)
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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby Systematiker » Sat Mar 24, 2018 8:10 pm

Ok, so a couple “text inquiry” style questions for the text itself, if these are worth discussing:

Que importancia tiene la frase con que la busca empieza? Si “por uno de esos gnósticos, el visible universo era una ilusión o (más precisamente) un sofisma”, es que nuestra realidad por el narrador también sería nada más que una reflexión en un espejo?

Que tipo de existencia tiene Tlön? Es una existencia literaria o contrafatual de verdad una existencia?

And followed by some other thoughts I’ve had, which I’m gonna do in English, both for facility and tomorrow literally starts the busiest week of the year for me so if I don’t do this now I won’t do it:

Borges drops both Berkeley and Meinong in section II, and given the way he (or the narrator!) talks about Tlön it can’t be coincidental. In a very superficial sense, is Berkeley there to give an allusion to the idea that the fact that we perceive Tlön as a possible, if not extant, world means that it has being in some sort of meaningful way? Berkeley is best known for esse est percipi, that is, to be is to be perceived, and in his system he denies that there’s even any matter at all (everything is an idea, and has existence because it is being perceived continually, not least by its creator). So that seems to be connected to the idea that the well-told story about Tlön means that it has “reality”, even if it’s just reality as an idea perceived by its cult of creators and now us the readers. But then he mentions Meinong, and subsistence, and that sort of being is the sort of being that gets ascribed to literary characters if you’re going to assert that they’re real.

Although he does it in the context of talking about a language, it’s supposed to be a language that expresses subsisting things that might not be existing things, and it’s translatable at least by experience (psychology as the science!), so we as readers are faced with the subtext claim that since we can perceive Tlön as a created fiction, we perceive Tlön being real (but not existing, just subsisting) like an incomplete object. And since the story itself is percived by multiple readers, but told in the first person (note the allusion he makes to first person in the beginning), it’s a transferable or interpersonal experience of a reality, not just one person’s odd idea (even if we don’t believe the assertion that a group created and shapes Tlön).

Our mere encounter with it means it has, at least if the types of idealism he name-drops have truth to them, some reality, and our perception of it is a part of the shaping. That means, however, that simply knowing about it changes us, because we become part of the group that shapes Tlön. So the well crafted narrative, beyond having a sort of narrative reality, has the ability to “reach out” of that reality and change us - our interpretations of the text happen in the context of the text interpreting us, at least a little bit. The reality of the stories we tell, if we tell them well, shapes the reality we live in, because someone has to read or hear those stories.
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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby Spoonary » Sun Mar 25, 2018 11:39 am

Thank you for sharing your observations, Systematiker. Themes of creation and what it takes to make something real seem to follow on through the next couple of stories in the collection too:

Pierre Menard, autor del Quijote
This was another literary critique, about the ownership of ideas and the creation of meaning, as far as I could tell. I struggled with it about as much as I did with Uqbar and I don't think my not having read Quijote helped. :? The thing about these kinds of texts is that you really have to be 'in the know' in order to appreciate them fully. The way I see it, I'm already starting off on the back foot by reading a text in a non-native language. Not being able to follow the thread of what the author is going on about, despite understanding the majority of the words and grammatical structures used is frustrating! But still, I keep plodding on. :roll:

Las ruinas circulares
Thankfully, this story was much less literary than the others, although I'm sure it's no less meaningful. It was definitely a welcome change though. I also have to say that, while reading this one, I couldn't help but think of Mary Shelley's Frankenstein, for obvious reasons (if you've read the story).

On a side note, I have no idea how they expected us to read this book in our second year at uni :lol:
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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby Spoonary » Mon Apr 02, 2018 12:32 pm

Is anyone still reading or is it just me? :P

Tú, que me lees, ¿estás seguro de entender mi lenguaje? (La biblioteca de Babel)
No, Jorge, no estoy segura. :roll:

I haven't actually reached the 50% mark I set myself as a goal for this week just yet, but I have just read 3 stories in a row so I thought I would stop and write something about them before I crack on with the actual jardín de senderos que se bifurcan.

La lotería en Babilonia
I thought this story was fairly interesting (yep, you're just getting personal opinions from me, not literary musings) and quite easy to follow. That said, and it's probably due to my sub-par Spanish, but I am finding a lot of Borges' stuff to be a bit nonsensical in parts. I know it's all about the satire etc. but I have found myself thinking "Was that spanner in the works really necessary Jorge? Just tell me a story, pal." :lol:

Examen de la obra de Herbert Quain
I really don't have a lot to say about this one. I'm not sure I was really paying attention while reading it. :|

La biblioteca de Babel
Yeah I actually quite liked this story. I find libraries really aesthetically pleasing and enjoyed the labyrinthine qualities of this one. The idea that every book that could ever possibly exist could be in one place, but that you would never be able to find what you wanted due to the lack of order was particularly interesting. Borges gets a thumbs up from me for this one. :)

Yes, I'm struggling to get through this book, despite its short length, but when I have finished I'm sure I'll feel a real sense of accomplishment.

I can see some of you are getting more out of this book than I (particularly you, Systematiker) but I hope there aren't too many struggling to find the energy to pick it up. Let me know how it's going, guys. This is supposed to be a group effort :)

..............................
Edit: I have just finished El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan and with it, the first half of the book.

I have to say that El jardín was probably the story I enjoyed the most so far, as everything was told in a pretty straightforward way which I was able to follow without much effort. Also, it had a whole Secret Garden-meets-Girl on the Train vibe going on which I appreciated. :)
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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby Systematiker » Mon Apr 02, 2018 9:39 pm

Spoonary wrote:Is anyone still reading or is it just me? :P


Well, you’re not alone...I was just not able to do much this last week. I’ve read through the same point you have, but I haven’t had a chance to get on here and muse any. I’ll have some thoughts up here sometime this week - probably not going to manage all of them, maybe I’ll just comment on the ones I’ve liked best :D
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Re: Let's read: Ficciones by Jorge Luis Borges

Postby kanewai » Thu Apr 05, 2018 2:52 am

I struggle with Ficciones - I'm not sure if it was too literary for my tastes, or if my Spanish skills weren't ready for Borges. I'll be following you all to see how this goes.

(and hopefully be ready if there's another installment of "Let's read" - it's a great idea)
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