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Desert Solitaire
by Edward Abbey

Collected Fictions

Collected Fictions
Jorge Luis Borges

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I suppose all writers change as they get older. And I think it would be inaccurate to generalize that as being either a good or bad thing. Some gain a maturity and humility that they lacked in youth; others lose confidence, try too hard, and become caricatures or imitators of their younger selves. Others just change.
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Borges’ Collected Fictions provides an interesting case study in stylistic evolution. The voice throughout is unmistakably Borges, but the style and content take on different shades in the later work. Gone is the glorification of the rapscallion, gone the idolatry of recklessness. Or perhaps not gone entirely — in its place we get dialog between the young and the old. One has the confidence of having never tasted failure; the other has the confidence of having survived it. And neither Borges quite seems to trust the other.
The stories are, of course, stunningly beautiful and wickedly clever. So beautiful and so clever, in fact, that they shame me a bit in my own writing. It is perhaps never quite just to hold ourselves against the standards of others, but I can’t help but feel more than a little bit small when reading something so immense. Even in translation, Borges has a depth and power that those of us not prone to megalomania must despair to ever attain. Fortunately, we can make do with this — an enormous volume of beauty that has already been bound and delivered for us.