Saturday, July 24, 2010
Between the publication of El Aleph (1949) and El informe de Brodie (1970), Borges did not release an all-new, all-short story collection (he did have several stories in the mid-1950s appear in revised editions of El historia universal de la infamia and Ficciones). In his memoir on Borges, The Lesson of the Master, translator/collaborator Norman Thomas di Giovanni remarked on how non-confident Borges had become after his blindness became near-total, that he thought he was incapable of composing any more prose stories due to the limitations brought on by his blindness. According to di Giovanni, it could some encouragement from him and others around Borges for Borges to attempt writing a series of prose stories. But between 1969 and early 1970, Borges wrote eleven stories that form perhaps his most underrated collection, El informe de Brodie/Brodie's Report.
Although some of the staples of Borges' earlier prose efforts appear (knife fights, labyrinths, doubles), the stories here are more reflective in nature, yet several are more direct in their approach and their content than the majority of Borges' earlier fictions. One thing that is interesting is that two stories, "La intrusa" and "El evangelio según Marcos," contain direct or indirect allusions to passages from the Bible.
A highlight of this collection is the titular "Brodie's Report." It is a summary of an imaginary account of a second person, Dr. David Brodie, who spent time among the Yahoos. Here, Borges utilizes one of his favorite narrative modes, the forged encyclopedia/reference report, to explore issues of language, culture, religion, and social relations. It is as fine of a story as any that might be found in Ficciones or El Aleph, but yet it does not often receive as much acclaim for what it accomplishes. Perhaps it is because there is some repetition in theme in a few of the other stories. Maybe it is because it is a "late period" work and such often are dismissed, for whatever reason, when compared to an author's earlier works. Regardless of the reasons why, El informe de Brodie often is relegated to the back corners of any discussion of Borges' work and that is a shame, considering how solid and sometimes spectacular these stories are. Highly recommended.