The OF Blog: Borges Month: The Book of Imaginary Beings (1957-1969)

Thursday, July 22, 2010

Borges Month: The Book of Imaginary Beings (1957-1969)

Most of the time, I have given the Spanish original for Borges' works read.  In the case of this curious bestiary, El libro de los seres imaginarios, I have chosen to list the American title of The Book of Imaginary Beings (despite my having just read the Spanish 1967 edition for this) because it contains four more original stories that were added by Borges and his American translator/collaborator, Norman Thomas di Giovanni.  I am currently awaiting for my copy to arrive sometime in the next week, so I can see which four additions were made.

Too often, Borges is viewed as this mystical genius.  Although there is much truth to this title, there is the connotation that his works are too distant and "tough" for the "average" reader to comprehend.  I always like to hold this amusing collection out as an example that much of Borges' writings were intended for those readers who like to let their imaginations roam free, unhindered by cumbersome elegance that detracts from their ability to enjoy a simple tale.

Most of the entries that appear here (for a better summation, including links to the creatures described, click on this Facebook fan page) are from other stories and legends.  Borges describes them in a matter-of-fact, casual fashion.  After all, haven't you seen a Baldanders or Behemoth roaming the streets of your hometown recently?  It is this combination of seeing these creatures (and I believe in the edition that I ordered, the 1970 American one, there should be illustrations; there are none in the most recent Argentine edition that I currently own) and reading short passages about them that somehow manages to bring a smile to my face.  There is little to be said in way of analysis; Borges was just merely "reporting the facts, ma'am" here, with only a few entries that could be said to be wholecloth inventions.  The Book of Imaginary Beings is simply Borges at play and his play is a beautiful thing to behold.


Jason said...

Larry-- Do you have opinions about Borges translations? You're certainly qualified to. :)

Decades ago I read Labyrinths translated by Irby, Yates, etc. The experience was magical. Recently I tried Hurley, and it felt clunky and contrived. I was afraid that I had outgrown Borges, but returning to Irby and Yates, I found (to my relief) that it was just the Hurley I didn't like.

What do you think of Hurley's work, and do you have recommendations for those of us (an apparent minority) who don't like it? Thx.

Lsrry said...

I haven't read the Hurley translation in 6-7 years, but I didn't like them. Been even longer for the Irby and Yates (2002?) and remember liking them a bit better. I would imagine that if you can find the out-of-print di Giovanni translations from the late 60s/early 70s for Borges' late-period works, that would be best, since Borges worked with di Giovanni on those translations. said...
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