Wednesday, May 12, 2010
The Book of Sand
The 5th of the B's and the 8th in the list of 100.
Unusual is the best way to describe The Book of Sand by respected and acclaimed Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges.
It's a very slim volume containing 13 short stories. Most were written around 1975 when the book was published, but others were written earlier.
By the time Borges wrote most of these stories he was an old man and totally blind. Many of the stories have the theme of lost youth, others contain unfulfilled love. The author uses 1st and 3rd person to tell his tales, but in nearly all 13 of the stories it's obvious that the main character is based on Borges himself, usually a younger, healthier version.
Borges was considered a fantasist and this book appeared in a list of 100 Must-Read Fantasy novels. Firstly it's not actually a novel, but a collection of short stories and secondly it's fantasy credentials are very slim as I understand fantasy. The only genuine fantasy stories are the first one; The Other, where the author somehow meets a younger self, and the 13th, the title story, which tells of an amazing book; The Book of Sand. A book with no beginning and no end, a volume that will be read differently by everyone who reads it and will never contain the same contents twice, depending on who has possession of it, it may not even appear as a book to the owner.
I have to admit to being frustrated through most of the time reading the stories, this was largely because they appeared to be fragments of larger works, thoughts of the author that he considered making into more coherent tales or the beginnings of a larger work which was never expanded upon.
Something may have been lost in the translation, but I found a lot of the prose pretentious and clumsy.
I have to conclude that it simply wasn't for me.
I can't recommend anything similar, because I'm not generally a short story reader, so haven't come across anything quite like this collection.