counter A Universal History of Iniquity - Free Download Books
Hot Best Seller

A Universal History of Iniquity

Availability: Ready to download

In his writing, Borges always combined high seriousness with a wicked sense of fun. Here he reveals his delight in re-creating (or making up) colorful stories from the Orient, the Islamic world, and the Wild West, as well as his horrified fascination with knife fights, political and personal betrayal, and bloodthirsty revenge. Sparkling with the sheer exuberant pleasure of In his writing, Borges always combined high seriousness with a wicked sense of fun. Here he reveals his delight in re-creating (or making up) colorful stories from the Orient, the Islamic world, and the Wild West, as well as his horrified fascination with knife fights, political and personal betrayal, and bloodthirsty revenge. Sparkling with the sheer exuberant pleasure of story-telling, this wonderful collection marked the emergence of an utterly distinctive literary voice. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 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.


Compare

In his writing, Borges always combined high seriousness with a wicked sense of fun. Here he reveals his delight in re-creating (or making up) colorful stories from the Orient, the Islamic world, and the Wild West, as well as his horrified fascination with knife fights, political and personal betrayal, and bloodthirsty revenge. Sparkling with the sheer exuberant pleasure of In his writing, Borges always combined high seriousness with a wicked sense of fun. Here he reveals his delight in re-creating (or making up) colorful stories from the Orient, the Islamic world, and the Wild West, as well as his horrified fascination with knife fights, political and personal betrayal, and bloodthirsty revenge. Sparkling with the sheer exuberant pleasure of story-telling, this wonderful collection marked the emergence of an utterly distinctive literary voice. For more than seventy years, Penguin has been the leading publisher of classic literature in the English-speaking world. With more than 1,700 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.

30 review for A Universal History of Iniquity

  1. 5 out of 5

    Glenn Russell

    From his early years the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges lived among books and languages, classical literature from many civilizations and cultures: Chinese, Persian, Nordic, Spanish, to name several. His greatest childhood memory was his father's library; he was reading Shakespeare in English at age 11; by the time he was an adult, Borges turned his mind into one vast library. Therefore, it is a bit ironic this bookish man chose to write an entire collection of tales about men of sheer act From his early years the Argentinian writer Jorge Luis Borges lived among books and languages, classical literature from many civilizations and cultures: Chinese, Persian, Nordic, Spanish, to name several. His greatest childhood memory was his father's library; he was reading Shakespeare in English at age 11; by the time he was an adult, Borges turned his mind into one vast library. Therefore, it is a bit ironic this bookish man chose to write an entire collection of tales about men of sheer action and where the action is immorality, wickedness, injustice and evil. And ‘A Universal History of Iniquity’ is a jewel. Unlike Borges's baroque writings, these nine short tales are straight-forward and make for easy reading. For the purposes of this review and to convey the flavor of the book, here are quotes with brief comments on two of the tales. The Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan At the very beginning, Borges writes, "The almost-child who died at the age of twenty-one owing a debt to human justice for the deaths of twenty-one men - "not counting Mexicans." Yes, this is a tale of Billy the Kid. Iniquity, indeed; Borges gives us several vivid, memorable images of what it is like to kill for the hell of it. For instance, one notorious Mexican gunslinger and outlaw walks into a bar, a shot rings out, (no need for a second shot) and Billy picked up the conversation where he left off. And then in the words of Borges, "That night Billy lays his blanket out next to the dead man and sleeps - ostentatiously - until morning." Monk Eastman, Purveyor of Iniquities Here is a description of noted personalities from this urban tale, "The chaotic story takes place in the cellars of old breweries turned into Negro tenements, in a seedy, three-story New York City filed with gangs of thugs like the Swamp Angels, who would swarm out of the labyrinthine sewers on marauding expeditions; gangs of cutthroats like the Daybreak boys, who recruited precocious murderers of ten and eleven years old; brazen, solitary giants like the Plug Uglies, whose stiff bowler hats stuffed with wood and whose vast shirttails blowing in the wind of the slums might provoke a passerby's improbable smile, but who carried huge bludgeons in their right hands and long, narrow pistols; and gangs of street toughs like the Dead Rabbit gang, who entered into battle under the banner of their mascot impaled upon a pike. Its characters were men like Dandy Johnny Dolan, famed for his brilliantined forelock, the monkey-headed walking sticks he carried, and the delicate copper pick he wore on his thumb to gouge out his enemies' eyes: men like Kit Burns, who was known to bite the head off live rats; and men like blind Danny Lyons, a towheaded kid with huge dead eyes who pimped for three whores that proudly walked the streets for him." I have included the long quote above for a specific reason: Borges was fascinated by the image and concept of labyrinths his entire life. However, such a labyrinth of unending perversion and violence was one Borges would never himself experience directly; rather, as a bookish, literary man, Borges entered this twisted human sewer through his imagination. And please keep in mind Borges was strongly influenced by the nineteenth century German philosopher, Arthur Schopenhauer. The nastiness and brutality of life outlined by Schopenhauer made an indelible impression on the sensitive author. My guess is anyone reading this review is light-years away from entering a world where teenagers kill for the hell of it or cutthroat gangs hack and slice one another to pieces under the banner of an impaled dog or rabbit. But such worlds existed aplenty in the 19th and early 20th century and they still exist today. How to experience these violent worlds for yourself? One easy answer: let Jorge Luis Borges give you a guided tour. Young Jorge Luis Borges - Can you imagine young Borges as part of the New York City kids gang in the photo at the top?

  2. 5 out of 5

    Vit Babenco

    It is literally impossible to overvalue Jorge Luis Borges’ influence on the modern intellectual literature – however much we think he did, he did even more. Similar to sounds, skilfully combined by a composer into a harmonious sequence, turning them into melody, simple words, cunningly used by an artful author, become intellectual music. The runaway expected his freedom. Lazarus Morell’s shadowy mulattoes would give out an order among themselves that was sometimes barely more than a nod of the hea It is literally impossible to overvalue Jorge Luis Borges’ influence on the modern intellectual literature – however much we think he did, he did even more. Similar to sounds, skilfully combined by a composer into a harmonious sequence, turning them into melody, simple words, cunningly used by an artful author, become intellectual music. The runaway expected his freedom. Lazarus Morell’s shadowy mulattoes would give out an order among themselves that was sometimes barely more than a nod of the head, and the slave would be freed from sight, hearing, touch, day, infamy, time, his benefactors, pity, the air, the hound packs, the world, hope, sweat, and himself. A bullet, a knife, or a blow, and the Mississippi turtles and catfish would receive the last evidence. Telling the tales of villainy Jorge Luis Borges turns reality into a baroque ornament of wickedness, grotesquely adding to evil supernatural features so that it becomes even more sinister. An ingenious addition even a wee bit of magic to reality unfailingly turns it into a magnetizing object of art.

  3. 4 out of 5

    Mike Puma

    Briefly: A catalog, a biographical dictionary of vile people with a worldwide range, real and/or imagined (imagined, certainly, even the real). This owes a debt to Marcel Schwob’s Imaginary Lives and to which J. Rodolfo Wilcox owes a debt for having enabled The Temple of Iconoclasts (which I’ll now return to liking quite a lot), and more recently, providing premise for Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas (which I read first, bassackwards, I).4 stars for a fun, creepy read, made more Briefly: A catalog, a biographical dictionary of vile people with a worldwide range, real and/or imagined (imagined, certainly, even the real). This owes a debt to Marcel Schwob’s Imaginary Lives and to which J. Rodolfo Wilcox owes a debt for having enabled The Temple of Iconoclasts (which I’ll now return to liking quite a lot), and more recently, providing premise for Roberto Bolaño’s Nazi Literature in the Americas (which I read first, bassackwards, I).4 stars for a fun, creepy read, made more enjoyable with the inclusion of a mini-bio of Billy the Kid. (Americans like to think our bad guys are as bad as anyone else’s)

  4. 5 out of 5

    Cecily

    "Reading... is an activity subsequent to writing - more resigned, more civil, more intellectual" (the closing words to the preface of the first edition). I have the Complete Fictions (with copious translator's notes), but am splitting my review of that into its components, listed in publication order: Collected Fictions - all reviews. This is the first, published in 1935. I had read several profound and passionate reviews by friends, and felt the building lure of Borges, aided by a growing awarene "Reading... is an activity subsequent to writing - more resigned, more civil, more intellectual" (the closing words to the preface of the first edition). I have the Complete Fictions (with copious translator's notes), but am splitting my review of that into its components, listed in publication order: Collected Fictions - all reviews. This is the first, published in 1935. I had read several profound and passionate reviews by friends, and felt the building lure of Borges, aided by a growing awareness of how influential he was to many other writers. I came to Borges with high expectations. I'm glad I had first dipped into several pieces from later volumes (thanks for the suggestions, Steve) before reading these. Although I give this only 3*, I'm assured of greater (much greater) things to come. This is a collection of semi-fictionalised, but mostly straightforward accounts of exotic and infamous criminals around the world, plus one story that is not based on fact. Borges describes them as Baroque exercises, bordering on self-parody, and partially inspired by G K Chesterton. He defines Baroque as "the final stage in all art, when art flaunts and squanders its resources". They're well-written, and quite original in many ways, but crime fiction and biography are not favourite genres of mine, hence only 3* for my enjoyment. The Cruel Redeemer of Lazarus Morell Morell is a poor white man, with a scam to help slaves escape plantations to freedom. I know that labyrinths recur throughout Borges' work, and the first mention is on the second page, in relation to the Mississippi delta. The Improbable Imposter Tom Castro 5* This story reminded me of Patricia Highsmith's Talented Mr Ripley. Tom is an opportunist, who with the encouragement of a friend, presents himself as the long-lost son of a titled lady. Part of the plan is that he looks SO unlike the other man, he couldn't possibly be an impostor. "In a few days she had recaptured the recollections her son had invoked." The Widow Ching - Pirate Early Chinese girl power and a pirate code (based on a real one) that prohibits rape. Plausible pseudo-history - then dragons (which turn out to be kites). Monk Eastman, Purveyor of Iniquities A New York gangster, with eventual connections to the Kelly Gang, via "labyrinthine sewers". The Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan Billy the Kid frequents labyrinths and by 14, kills for mindless thrills (and sometimes other rewards). "He never fully measured up to the legend of himself." The Uncivil Teacher of Court Etiquette Kotsuké no Suké For Samuri, honour can mean being "granted the privilege of suicide". Hakim, The Masked Dyer of Merv "The earth we inhabit is an error, an incompetent parody. Mirrors and paternity are abominable because they multiply and affirm it." (This is paraphrased in the truly wonderful Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius, which is the first story of the next volume.) Man on Pink Corner This is a first-person story of knife fighters, not based on on a real person, and the translator's notes point out that the "pink" of the title refers to a rough area of Buenos Aires, and the lack of definite pronoun conjures a painting (perhaps Edward Hopper). In the final sentence, the unnamed narrator makes it clear he's telling the story to Borges - an early nod to the way Borges later blends levels of reality. There is another version of this in Brodie’s Report. Both include the line “Rosendo, I think you’re needing this” as a woman hands him his own knife, from up his sleeve. Et Cetera This section contains even shorter pieces, some of which probably presage later works: A Theologian In Death A theologian in a mysterious and unfamilar house of many rooms is in denial of his own death. Maybe. The Chamber of Statues A fairytale-like allegory of death, via series of locked rooms, from 1000 nights. The Story of the Two Dreamers The power of dreams. The Wizard that was Made to Wait 5* Fairytale repetition: a wizard teaches magic to a priest on the promise of reward for his son, perpetually postponed. The Mirror of Ink Visions in a different sort of mirror. Rorschach might approve. Mahomed's Double Lots of them! In the light of Rushdie and Charlie Hebdo, I'm not sure this would go unchallenged if published for the first time now. Index of Sources Another layer of fiction, or at least blurring the boundaries. Quotes • “Onto an alluvium of beastlike hopelessness and African fear there had sifted the words of the Scripture.” • "The female soil, worn and haggard from bearing that impatient culture's get, was left barren." • Facial "features of an infinite vagueness". • Writing "free of any scruples as to the way words ought to be spelled". • Kosher "calves whose throats had been slit with righteousness". • "History (which, like a certain motion picture director, tells its story in discontinuous images)" • Leaving a bar "in the drunken dizziness of the tango, like they were drowning in that tango".

  5. 4 out of 5

    Ian "Marvin" Graye

    "In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing." Oscar Wilde Exercises in Style These stories are fascinating exercises in style. They effectively document the development of Borges' style at a time when "he was a shy sort of man who could not bring himself to write short stories, and so amused himself by changing and distorting (sometimes without aesthetic justification) the stories of other men." Matter of Fact As Borges said in an earlier Preface, "the stories are "In matters of grave importance, style, not sincerity, is the vital thing." Oscar Wilde Exercises in Style These stories are fascinating exercises in style. They effectively document the development of Borges' style at a time when "he was a shy sort of man who could not bring himself to write short stories, and so amused himself by changing and distorting (sometimes without aesthetic justification) the stories of other men." Matter of Fact As Borges said in an earlier Preface, "the stories are not, nor do they attempt to be, psychological." I assume he meant they weren't concerned with the internal consciousness and motivation of the characters. Borges was primarily concerned with external facts, in effect, what could be witnessed or seen by those present. Only, in relation to writing, an author can help a reader to be vicariously present, and therefore to become a witness to what had been related by the author, or at least the narrator. Good, Compliant Readers Borges isn't interested in sincerity, because that can be faked. Rather, he's interested in fact and factuality (and, ironically, how that can be faked). One might expect that matters of fact would be truthful and undeniable. If you write matter of factly, then the reader will believe you. Borges mentions that reading "is an activity subsequent to writing - more resigned, more civil, more intellectual." It has the benefit of the writing, which necessarily has preceded it. The reader tends to give primacy to the writer, and therefore is both less sceptical and more trusting. However, when the author or narrator decides to play a game with the reader, then the reading can be no more authentic than the writing. An author or narrator can make a reader complicit in their fraud, their forgery of truth. An Impostor Forges His Style These exercises in style, therefore, witness Borges mimicking and constructing styles of fiction and non-fiction that give the appearance of truth, veracity and authenticity. If he fakes the style of non-fiction well enough, we will assume that he is sincere, or at least as sincere as history is capable of. Of course, it's not enough that we believe that what is factual is true. Borges must make us believe that what is not true or factual is true as well. He achieves this by setting his untruths in other people's truths. If he does this seamlessly enough, we won't be able to tell the difference. Borges, therefore, starts even this work as an impostor, or at least as someone who is interested in the methodology of imposture. The Virtues of Unlikeness It's a game, of course. As well as a challenge. Having mastered likeness, the challenge is to embrace the virtues of unlikeness. The more improbable the imposture, the greater the game. How much can Borges get away with? The paradox being that the success of the likeness on the same page might draw attention to and undermine the unlikeness. Still, Borges believes that the dilemma can be overcome with greater, rather than less, audacity: "Bogle knew that a perfect facsimile of the beloved Roger Charles Tichborne was impossible to find; he knew as well that any similarities he might achieve would only underscore certain inevitable differences. He therefore gave up the notion of likeness altogether. He sensed that the vast ineptitude of his pretence would be a convincing proof that there was no fraud, for no fraud would ever have so flagrantly flaunted features that might so easily have convinced." Man on Pink Corner Having eschewed psychology, having forged the appearance of likeness, having melded likeness and unlikeness, Borges was now ready to write "Man on Pink Corner", what seems to be a genuinely fictitious short story (or is it?). Presumably, nothing in fiction need be truly factual, although the author might seek to persuade us that it is. Fiction is, by definition, a pretence. If Borges could master fraud, was he now ready to master pretence? Some guide to Borges' modus operandi is revealed in the first sentence: "Imagine you bringing up Francisco Real that way, out of the clear blue sky, him dead and gone and all." Unlike the earlier stories, there is a first person narrator. The subject is Real, if not necessarily real. He is ostensibly invented out of nothing, brought up out of the clear blue sky. And the inventor is the second person, "you", perhaps the reader, though it could equally be Borges himself or at least "Borges". An Imaginary Primer Our role, the role of the reader, is to be the agent who complies with the instruction implicit in the first word, "imagine". Borges entrusts us to be "more resigned, more civil, more intellectual." We have to be, in order to participate in and enjoy his labyrinthine games of the imagination. Needless to say, Borges is an adept teacher, and this is both his and our first primer. What's remarkable is that we learn to read as we watch him teach himself how to write. Of course, it was only the beginning! SOUNDTRACK: Deborah Conway - "It's Only The Beginning" https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=sxR70...

  6. 4 out of 5

    Luís

    A series of narrative prose exercises: this is the definition Borges gives to this book, which he recognizes as inspired by other authors. Borges recreates the characters and transforms their story "into an irresponsible game of a timid one who did not have the courage to write tales and who was amused by falsifying or altering (sometimes without aesthetic excuse) the stories of the other." If the author's entertainment is obvious, Borges sprinkles additional illusions by inserting pure invention A series of narrative prose exercises: this is the definition Borges gives to this book, which he recognizes as inspired by other authors. Borges recreates the characters and transforms their story "into an irresponsible game of a timid one who did not have the courage to write tales and who was amused by falsifying or altering (sometimes without aesthetic excuse) the stories of the other." If the author's entertainment is obvious, Borges sprinkles additional illusions by inserting pure inventions, very personal, playing on literary variations participating in the baroque aesthetic of his book and giving it a complexity halfway between the essay and tale. Beyond the game of illusion and deception, the author poses the problem of the representative elements of the ego and its ideal, strongly constitutive of the poetic subject-specific to Borges that he will sublimate in eternal games of the mirror.

  7. 4 out of 5

    Caro the Helmet Lady

    My only problem with this book was that it was too short. :) This is the sort of book that makes you want to make further explorations. Widow Ching the Pirate is probably my next stop somewhere over there between my historical reads.

  8. 5 out of 5

    Marko

    Awww, my 1st Borges ^^ I remember the beauty, the confusion...just don't read it in your teenage years :D Awww, my 1st Borges ^^ I remember the beauty, the confusion...just don't read it in your teenage years :D

  9. 4 out of 5

    M. Sarki

    This was an enjoyable read and much better than some have mentioned in their criticisms. Borges' style is so natural and free. It is as if he is sitting there in front of you, relaxing, relating his story to our sharpening delight. This was an enjoyable read and much better than some have mentioned in their criticisms. Borges' style is so natural and free. It is as if he is sitting there in front of you, relaxing, relating his story to our sharpening delight.

  10. 5 out of 5

    Justin Evans

    I somehow managed to get a BA with a focus on comparative literature and continental philosophy and then a PhD with a focus on twentieth century literature without reading any Borges. How did that happen? Well, any time I tried to read South American 'magical realist' literature I broke out in hives of boredom, and I thought maybe Borges was to blame; in addition, I thought, and still think, that Borges might be responsible in part for recent developments in the anglo-american literature of conc I somehow managed to get a BA with a focus on comparative literature and continental philosophy and then a PhD with a focus on twentieth century literature without reading any Borges. How did that happen? Well, any time I tried to read South American 'magical realist' literature I broke out in hives of boredom, and I thought maybe Borges was to blame; in addition, I thought, and still think, that Borges might be responsible in part for recent developments in the anglo-american literature of conceit (you know, books called things like The Amazing Adventures of Kloofy Krumpleflugger, in which Kloofy Krumpleflugger has some kind of cute mental condition, a conflicted relationship with his mother, and is able to talk to animals--but which has absolutely no intellectual, emotional or ethical weight whatsoever outside a bland kind of liberalism). Well, I was wrong, I know, I should have read him earlier. This collection is a charming nothing, which is exactly what I was looking for. The narrative voice is delightful, the stories slightly magical but really more or less straight retellings of traditional stories from the middle east and east asia, or nineteenth century tales of outlawry. And, somewhat confusingly, tales from Swedenborg (. Borges' 'original' tale, 'Man on Pink Corner,' is a'ight, but not as much fun as the others. I fear I'll get less impressed by Borges if his work gets more serious than this; people who deal with 'universal themes' in a serious way are always unbearable.

  11. 5 out of 5

    Steven Godin

    This early selection of short-stories was revised by Borges in 1954 after an original release in 1935. Most of these were published in singular form in the Buenos Aires newspaper Critica. The collection slots in nicely alongside most of his work. and features all the hallmarks you would come to expect from the Argentine master. Borges looks at notorious criminals from history as well as making things up as he goes along, so it's a classic example of fusing truths and imagination. Although there a This early selection of short-stories was revised by Borges in 1954 after an original release in 1935. Most of these were published in singular form in the Buenos Aires newspaper Critica. The collection slots in nicely alongside most of his work. and features all the hallmarks you would come to expect from the Argentine master. Borges looks at notorious criminals from history as well as making things up as he goes along, so it's a classic example of fusing truths and imagination. Although there are similarities with later work, you get the impression he is still shaping and defining his distinctive voice here. An entertaining read from start to finish, only hampered by the fact that towards the end the pieces get shorter and shorter. My faves were - Tom Castro, the Implausible Impostor The Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan The Masked Dyer, Hakim of Merv Streetcorner Man.

  12. 5 out of 5

    Jayaprakash Satyamurthy

    Another re-read. Young Borges working his way toward fiction by playing with fact. Perfidious individuals from history and legend stride through the pages of this slim book, spreading death and fear across 4 continents before coming to, for the most part, sticky ends. A great preamble to a unique body of work, but don't let this be your first or only Borges. Another re-read. Young Borges working his way toward fiction by playing with fact. Perfidious individuals from history and legend stride through the pages of this slim book, spreading death and fear across 4 continents before coming to, for the most part, sticky ends. A great preamble to a unique body of work, but don't let this be your first or only Borges.

  13. 5 out of 5

    Erik Graff

    This appears to have been Borges' first book. Published in the thirties, it comprises seven biographies of the infamous, his first short story and a series of reworked tales, some from the 1001 and 1 Nights. The biographies are, all of them, delightfully Borgesian, dryly ironical. The story "Streetcorner Man" is rather amateurish. The retellings remind one of how old the fantastical traditions embodied in his later short stories really are. Short, readable, I finished the whole of this slight wor This appears to have been Borges' first book. Published in the thirties, it comprises seven biographies of the infamous, his first short story and a series of reworked tales, some from the 1001 and 1 Nights. The biographies are, all of them, delightfully Borgesian, dryly ironical. The story "Streetcorner Man" is rather amateurish. The retellings remind one of how old the fantastical traditions embodied in his later short stories really are. Short, readable, I finished the whole of this slight work in a single sitting.

  14. 5 out of 5

    Benjamin Chandler

    I was actually pretty disappointed by this book. It's made of very short essays about some unkind people—knife-fighters, pirates, cultists—many of them figures from the footnotes of history books. Although I liked a lot of the ideas Borges presented in this book, I felt as though a lot of it fell flat. The best ideas are just mentioned in passing, and the longer passages seem to be made for the more mundane stuff. Perhaps it was the length of the pieces that prevented them from blossoming into s I was actually pretty disappointed by this book. It's made of very short essays about some unkind people—knife-fighters, pirates, cultists—many of them figures from the footnotes of history books. Although I liked a lot of the ideas Borges presented in this book, I felt as though a lot of it fell flat. The best ideas are just mentioned in passing, and the longer passages seem to be made for the more mundane stuff. Perhaps it was the length of the pieces that prevented them from blossoming into something more.

  15. 4 out of 5

    Heidi'sbooks

    I've wanted to read some of Borges' fiction since reading a poetry collection of his. This is quite a unique little collection of short stories. There is a wide variety of settings and styles to these short stories. Essentially it is a selection of "bad guy" stories. Billy-the-Kid, a slaver who tricks slaves into escaping and then sells them again, a widow from China who became a pirate, a story from Japan of honor and murder, a story from Turkestan of a false prophet, and several stories from t I've wanted to read some of Borges' fiction since reading a poetry collection of his. This is quite a unique little collection of short stories. There is a wide variety of settings and styles to these short stories. Essentially it is a selection of "bad guy" stories. Billy-the-Kid, a slaver who tricks slaves into escaping and then sells them again, a widow from China who became a pirate, a story from Japan of honor and murder, a story from Turkestan of a false prophet, and several stories from the Middle East. The stories are seemingly rewritten tales--some true, but collected together. He has a list of sources where he got the story, then rewrites it. You would think that stories of this nature--"bad guy" stories-- would be terrible to read. But, he inserts irony and humor along the way. The bad guy or girl always gets his just reward. This is a translated work from Spanish into English, translated by Andrew Hurley.

  16. 5 out of 5

    Shane

    I wondered why Borges had regurgitated, in his own interpretation, a rogues’ gallery of historic figures who had met the most inglorious ends. Was this fiction, practice for the fiction to come, or a commissioned set of synopses of these historic villains’ lives? Then I stumbled on a Wikipedia entry that explained that as part of his editorial work at the newspaper Crítica, Borges had written these pieces, some as a cross between non-fictional essays and short stories, and the others as literary I wondered why Borges had regurgitated, in his own interpretation, a rogues’ gallery of historic figures who had met the most inglorious ends. Was this fiction, practice for the fiction to come, or a commissioned set of synopses of these historic villains’ lives? Then I stumbled on a Wikipedia entry that explained that as part of his editorial work at the newspaper Crítica, Borges had written these pieces, some as a cross between non-fictional essays and short stories, and the others as literary forgeries. The short stories not only have beginnings, middles and ends but they also have prefaces and epilogues. His canvas is broad for the subjects range from the gangs of New York to Billy the Kid to the Tichbourne Claimant (I have previously reviewed an entire book on this incident alone), the American Slave Trade, Chinese legends and The Thousand and One Nights. In the literary forgeries, in which Borges takes on the role of translator of these lesser known works, he inserts some important lessons: a) Look for the gold in your own home, not elsewhere b) Don’t open forbidden doors c) Those who wish evil on others will receive it themselves There is one short story which is supposedly his original composition, “Man on Pink Corner,” set in his native Buenos Aires, a clever whodunit, reflecting Borges’s lifelong fascination with the mystery genre. The style in all of the writing is elegant and yet he captures a lot of detail with a very economical selection of words. Given that this short collection of writing is his first, one cannot be too critical and I will look forward to reading more of his work as his art evolved, particularly after he went blind in the late 1950’s and continued to publish well into the 1980’s. The life of a writer, who loses one of his most important senses and continues to stretch our imagination, must be a fascinating one indeed.

  17. 5 out of 5

    Mariel

    Muy bueno. Definitivamente seguiré leyendo a Borges Really good. I will definitely continue reading this author

  18. 4 out of 5

    Simon

    It is very interesting to read such a historically important writer in the evolution of world literature before he developed the signature style he is best known for today. Jorge Luis Borges is today best remembered as the grandfather of not just Latin American magical realism but also metafiction as we know it today, and while the stories found within "A Universal History of Iniquity" fit neither categorization there is a strong red thread running through them linking to those exact movements. T It is very interesting to read such a historically important writer in the evolution of world literature before he developed the signature style he is best known for today. Jorge Luis Borges is today best remembered as the grandfather of not just Latin American magical realism but also metafiction as we know it today, and while the stories found within "A Universal History of Iniquity" fit neither categorization there is a strong red thread running through them linking to those exact movements. The "history of iniquity" referred to is the unifying theme of the short stories: They all revolve around man's inhumanity to his fellow man - the main characters con artists, criminals, imperialists, pirates, warlords and other historical scoundrels. Borges' love of not just learning history both cultural and otherwise manifests itself here in the settings spanning many different historical eras from all over the globe, usually drawing upon real life dramatis personae and incidents. There is also a much stronger satirical element here than in the later short story anthologies I've read from the author, the anti-heroic personalities often exploiting their respective context's social structures in ways that come across as darkly comic if not borderline surreal. Borges' penchant for myth-making and literary mind games can also be seen here in embryonic form. The historical settings of varied cultural background allows him to affect and play around with quite a few different literary styles from history, which also includes the occasional use of decidedly mythological storytelling styles especially the further away from the modern age he goes. Even in the more modernistic stories, though, it feels like as playful with the basics of storytelling Borges might already be there seems to be something universal and allegorical they represent in an archetypical layer. This anthology is in a sense much lighter reading than "Ficciones" or "The Aleph", probably more accessible to mainstream audiences but also less representative of his work. It is still very much worth reading, as even though "History of Inquity" feels nowhere as magical to me as Borges' later collections when reading it I feel like I'm drawing upon some new insight from humanity's shared cultural even when it's something as low-down in the dirt as people doublecrossing and doing wrong to each other for ideals or sheer material gain. Like I said earlier in this review, there's something satirical and almost sadistic to the stories here. This is a dark side of Borges that he moved further away from as he got older and some might say more mature, but it represents one that I find worthy of not neglecting.

  19. 4 out of 5

    Tanuj Solanki

    According to Borges, the stories here were meant for nothing graver than light entertainment. But today their chief purpose may well be to provide access to the writer's early dabbling. And yes, there are numerous signs of what was to come. There are mirrors here, and recursive systems, and hoaxes, and some mind-boggling endings too. Though the stories are straightforward, re-reading provides greater pleasures, as with all Borges. The trivia is that each story was written as contribution to a wee According to Borges, the stories here were meant for nothing graver than light entertainment. But today their chief purpose may well be to provide access to the writer's early dabbling. And yes, there are numerous signs of what was to come. There are mirrors here, and recursive systems, and hoaxes, and some mind-boggling endings too. Though the stories are straightforward, re-reading provides greater pleasures, as with all Borges. The trivia is that each story was written as contribution to a weekly column in an Argentine newspaper - just to fill the space. This may amaze today's aspiring writers, a crowd of which we now face considerable proliferation. Such fecundity, such class, and such research is bound to appear downright incredible.

  20. 5 out of 5

    Chris Via

    By his own admission, Borges was an avid reader of encyclopedias and epics of every literate culture, and this passion infuses every page of his writing. Though not as striking as his later work, these early narratives give us the seeds of what would become an intoxicating mind.

  21. 4 out of 5

    MickthePaddy

    a gallery full of ROGUES (unusual suspects who are sourced in the index) populate this collection of stories; not hyper-detailed, but rather "zoomed-out" like the pointed recollections of a historian. i could read this over and over. utterly brilliant. THE CRUEL REDEEMER LAZARUS MORELL - poor white southern trash con artist. mississippi/slavery. THE IMPROBABLE IMPOSTER TOM CASTRO - weak entry. meh... THE WIDOW CHING - PIRATE chaos on the yellow sea abates unexpectedly. MONK EASTMAN, PURVEYOR OF INIQ a gallery full of ROGUES (unusual suspects who are sourced in the index) populate this collection of stories; not hyper-detailed, but rather "zoomed-out" like the pointed recollections of a historian. i could read this over and over. utterly brilliant. THE CRUEL REDEEMER LAZARUS MORELL - poor white southern trash con artist. mississippi/slavery. THE IMPROBABLE IMPOSTER TOM CASTRO - weak entry. meh... THE WIDOW CHING - PIRATE chaos on the yellow sea abates unexpectedly. MONK EASTMAN, PURVEYOR OF INIQUITIES sadly just "outlines" the tough's exploits in gangland NYC circa late 1800's. wish this was exploded into a novel. damn, damn, damn.... THE DISINTERESTED KILLER BILL HARRIGAN - i swear some of these shorts feel like pitches to film makers; they have a TOO CONCISE feel about them, and they leave you wanting more. this one continues the NYC gangland theme and transitions into a western a la billy the kid. "He was shaved, sewn into tailor-made clothes, and exhibited to horror and mockery in the shopwindow of the town's best store." THE UNCIVIL TEACHER OF COURT ETIQUETTE KOTSUKE NO SUKE - nothing more than a recap, really, of the 47 ronin. exceedingly brief. HAKIM, THE MASKED DYER OF MERV - brilliant short detailing a mysterious man's creation of an ancient religion (complete with cosmogony) at odds with islam. MAN ON PINK CORNER - short little tease of a thing subverts our expectations. western. A THEOLOGIAN IN DEATH / THE CHAMBER OF STATUES / THE WIZARD THAT WAS MADE TO WAIT / THE MIRROR OF INK - very short bits; wizard is the best of these parables. side note - if I ever become a character in some novel I will have the ol' cliched "dog-eared copy" of this in my pocket.

  22. 5 out of 5

    Kiarash

    The world we live in is a mistake, a clumsy parody. Mirrors and fatherhood, because they multiply and confirm the parody, are abominations. Revulsion is the cardinal virtue. Two ways (whose choice the Prophet left free) may lead us there: abstinence or the orgy, excess of the flesh or its denial. ---------- جملات بالا اقتباس خیالی بورخس بود از جهان بینی پیامبر نقاب پوش ایرانی و البته تا حدودی یادآور عقاید مانوی ها لااقل برای من. از مجموعه های دیگه که از بورخس خونده بودم کمی ضعیف تر بود و خودش توی The world we live in is a mistake, a clumsy parody. Mirrors and fatherhood, because they multiply and confirm the parody, are abominations. Revulsion is the cardinal virtue. Two ways (whose choice the Prophet left free) may lead us there: abstinence or the orgy, excess of the flesh or its denial. ---------- جملات بالا اقتباس خیالی بورخس بود از جهان بینی پیامبر نقاب پوش ایرانی و البته تا حدودی یادآور عقاید مانوی ها لااقل برای من. از مجموعه های دیگه که از بورخس خونده بودم کمی ضعیف تر بود و خودش توی مقدمه گفته بود که هدفش از نوشتن این داستان ها صرفا سرگرمی بوده. اواخر کتاب یه کار دو صفحه ای هست به اسم داستان دو رویا، به نظر میرسه ایده اصلی داستان کیمیاگر کوئلیو میتونسته از این دو صفحه گرفته شده باشه. البته خود کار گویا اقتباسی هست از یه داستان هزار و یک شب.

  23. 4 out of 5

    Rand

    the people in this book are bad, however you slice it. good mythos.

  24. 4 out of 5

    Nancy Oakes

    I love love love this book, but then again it's Borges so no surprise there. I'm on vacation but will catch up posting about it next week when I'm home. I love love love this book, but then again it's Borges so no surprise there. I'm on vacation but will catch up posting about it next week when I'm home.

  25. 4 out of 5

    Kyle Robinson

    Lock up your daughters, sons, stepdads, second cousins and anthropomorphic emotional support animals as JLB shines his JLB (jarringly luminous beam) on some of history's biggest ragamuffins. Including: 'This bachelor wanted to escape the city - so he headed westward to the wild prairies.' A Bay Street financier seeking more space during the lockdown? A Parkdale creative type wishing for a simpler way of life and affordable living? Neither - it was Billy the Kid, ditching NYC for life in the Ameri Lock up your daughters, sons, stepdads, second cousins and anthropomorphic emotional support animals as JLB shines his JLB (jarringly luminous beam) on some of history's biggest ragamuffins. Including: 'This bachelor wanted to escape the city - so he headed westward to the wild prairies.' A Bay Street financier seeking more space during the lockdown? A Parkdale creative type wishing for a simpler way of life and affordable living? Neither - it was Billy the Kid, ditching NYC for life in the American West. Darn tootin'!

  26. 5 out of 5

    Saiful Islam

    A book of extraordinary variety. From Argentine knife men to False Arab prophets this book covers a lot of "bad egg"s. A truly distinct short story piece. A book of extraordinary variety. From Argentine knife men to False Arab prophets this book covers a lot of "bad egg"s. A truly distinct short story piece.

  27. 5 out of 5

    El Avestruz Liado

    Writing a long review seems an exercise of redundancy to me: there are already many reviews in english and any spanish speaking reader worth his salt already worships Borges (if not the case, just go and read him and stop reading reviews). Suffice to say that this is his first work, a compendium of fictional criminal chronicle he did for a newspaper. It is entertaining, of course: that is the purpose of such newspaper sections. The great merit of these stories lies not the -quite generic- content Writing a long review seems an exercise of redundancy to me: there are already many reviews in english and any spanish speaking reader worth his salt already worships Borges (if not the case, just go and read him and stop reading reviews). Suffice to say that this is his first work, a compendium of fictional criminal chronicle he did for a newspaper. It is entertaining, of course: that is the purpose of such newspaper sections. The great merit of these stories lies not the -quite generic- content but in the skill with which they were told. Two quick examples from the first story: 1. He won't tell you someone got betrayed, murdered and thrown to the river, no, definitely no. He would say: "[...] Lazarus Morell would give a sign (which might have been no more than a wink) and the runaway would be freed from sight, hearing, touch, daylight, iniquity, time, benefactors, mercy, air, dogs, the universe, hope, sweat–and from himself. A bullet, a low thrust with a blade, a knock on the head, and the turtles and catfish of the Mississippi would be left to keep the secret among themselves." 2. The association of verbs to inanimate objects. Regarding the drag of lime of the Mississippi he writes: "[...] it is a river of mulatto-hued water; more than four hundred million tons of mud, carried by that waters, insult the Gulf of Mexico each year." So we end with the work of a highly erudite and enormously witty man writing some chronicles to put some food on his table. The usual entertainment coming from crime narrative deserves 3 stars; the mastery with which it is written deserves 4 stars. You also get a greatly crafted tale for free, so why don't I raise it to five stars? Because it ain't a masterpiece and much less a masterpiece by the author's standards. Don't worry about that either, his next book will get him out of crime fiction into open fantasy and fully new creations. And trust me, things do get better. How much? Well, his next book "Fictions" is essentially one of the greatest books of all times and, quite likely, at the border of what human mind has imagined. Meanwhile, you will get something more humble here: mundane histories wrapped in world class prose. Not a bad opener for the menu, or so I believe. Oh well, now is time to take the hands away from the keyboard as this review -in complete accordance to what an exercise in redundancy should be- has eventually grown way too much. Verbal incontinence, I guess.

  28. 5 out of 5

    Dan

    A collection of short stories about some historic criminals, including a pirate, a gang leader, an impostor and a Wild West gunslinger. This is early Borges; moreover, it is Borges writing the factual, rather than the fantastic. However, in these stories one can see the emergence of some of Borges’s fictional techniques. In many passages, particularly those containing his catalogs, and those that include poetic as well as realistic details, Borges appears to be exploring those areas where the li A collection of short stories about some historic criminals, including a pirate, a gang leader, an impostor and a Wild West gunslinger. This is early Borges; moreover, it is Borges writing the factual, rather than the fantastic. However, in these stories one can see the emergence of some of Borges’s fictional techniques. In many passages, particularly those containing his catalogs, and those that include poetic as well as realistic details, Borges appears to be exploring those areas where the line between fiction and history becomes blurred (if there is a line—check your Hayden White). In a few instances, it appears that Borges has chosen to write about a particular set of historic events because of their resemblance to fiction. In other instances, he calls attention to how the events of history might have been different if they had been part of a work of fiction.

  29. 5 out of 5

    Rise

    A catalog of bad persons and their wrongdoings. Entertaining and funny, and sometimes scary. There are many novels inside this encyclopedia novel. The tradition of writing down personal histories in compressed form (vignettes), popularized here by Borges, clearly extends to contemporary writers. Cases in point: Nazi Literature in the Americas and Written Lives. In these histories are multifaceted representations of multi-faced evil and vanity, potent even in small doses. A catalog of bad persons and their wrongdoings. Entertaining and funny, and sometimes scary. There are many novels inside this encyclopedia novel. The tradition of writing down personal histories in compressed form (vignettes), popularized here by Borges, clearly extends to contemporary writers. Cases in point: Nazi Literature in the Americas and Written Lives. In these histories are multifaceted representations of multi-faced evil and vanity, potent even in small doses.

  30. 5 out of 5

    Jim

    This early book by Jorge Luis Borges is a pastiche of existing literary works on the subject of infamous behavior, including such perpetrators as Billy the Kid, Monk Eastman, and the Japanese Master of Etiquette who caused the suicide of the 47 Loyal Ronin. Added to Universal History of Infamy is an early story, "Streetcorner Man," together with other short pieces adapted from Swedenborg, the Arabian Nights, and Sir Richard F. Burton, among others. This early book by Jorge Luis Borges is a pastiche of existing literary works on the subject of infamous behavior, including such perpetrators as Billy the Kid, Monk Eastman, and the Japanese Master of Etiquette who caused the suicide of the 47 Loyal Ronin. Added to Universal History of Infamy is an early story, "Streetcorner Man," together with other short pieces adapted from Swedenborg, the Arabian Nights, and Sir Richard F. Burton, among others.

Add a review

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Loading...
We use cookies to give you the best online experience. By using our website you agree to our use of cookies in accordance with our cookie policy.