Someone or something is using me to untangle the tangled plot over whose direction I have as little influence as the pen has over the poets who wield it, or man over the gods who manipulate him, or the knife over the murderer. One of the m ost original and delightful novels of , Borges and the Eternal Orangutans is simultaneously a literary detective thriller, a parody of the detective story, and an anti-detective story.
Taking its title and one of its primary images from Elizabethan writer John Dee, who wrote that if an orangutan were given enough time, he would eventually produce all the books in the world, the novel takes place in Buenos Aires, where an international group of Edgar Allan Poe specialists gathers for a meeting of the mysterious Israfel Society. View Full Version of PW. Buy this book. Zeebra Books. Discover what to read next. PW's Best Books of More filters.
Sort order. Start your review of Borges and The Eternal Orangutans. Oct 23, Nathanimal rated it it was amazing Shelves: latin-american , new-directions. One of the most purely entertaining books I've ever read. Honestly, when I finished, I held it to my chest with a purr. I was a bit nervous at the start. I mean, was this just going to be some guy capitalizing on the fact that Borges never wrote a novel? Saying to all the Borgesians who are a bit glum over the fact: "Hey everybody over here!
I got your Borges novel! Your Borges stamped key chains! Borges coffee cozies! Going fast!
The guy obviously knows Borges down to his fluids and neurons. At the end he crafts this letter written from Borges to the narrator, and the rhythms and diction are so spot on I had to go look at the publishing date to make SURE Borges hadn't participated somehow. No, he was dead by the time this book was written, and admits as much in the letter. The book was full of little touches and nods like that.
This book distills and collects so much of what I love about Borges. Okay, how's this for super clever? Borges stars as the sleuth in a very Borgesian detective story it relies heavily on a mirror , set appropriately enough in Buenos Aires at a literary conference on Edgar Allan Poe, who a invented the detective story and b was a primary if not THE primary influence on Borges and c was also the primary influence of H. Lovecraft, another Borges favorite. The puzzles in this book quickly move from forensics to philology, as you'd expect.
While Poe and Lovecraft definitely have their qualities, I'll admit they can be a little too pulpy for me. I think I like them best as busts in the library of Jorge Luis Borges. Herein lies one of the main pleasures of this book for me: examining those two writers through Borgesian eyes excuse the irony there , through his love of semiotics, of misdirection, and of obscure and fantastic scholarship.
The letter, mentioned above, was only one of the many ways that Verissimo exploited the meta-fictional "Is this this real or not?
The last word of the book is "verisimilitude" a word which I think, in its connotations toward both truth and the simulation of truth, captures the spirit of this book; and it makes me wonder if the universe is really so kind to have honestly named this author Verissimo. View all 5 comments. Jan 18, David rated it it was amazing Shelves: literary , mystery , magical-realism , latin-america , portuguese-literature.
Okay you guys who've been pushing all those "bizarro" novels: take your favorite bizarro author, and Jorge Luis Borges will totally drink his milkshake. Even as a fictional character. Borges wrote what's called "magical realism" nowadays, but while his fans may think "fantasy" is too undignified a label, Borges himself was a huge fan of science fiction, fantasy, and pulp fiction. The murder takes place at the Israfel Society Conference Edgar Allen Poe was one of Borges's favorites , so you have Okay you guys who've been pushing all those "bizarro" novels: take your favorite bizarro author, and Jorge Luis Borges will totally drink his milkshake.
The murder takes place at the Israfel Society Conference Edgar Allen Poe was one of Borges's favorites , so you have Borges a real person fictionally attending a fictional conference studying a real author whom Borges really numbered among his influences. This book is a tribute to Borges and Borges's fiction, and Verissimo actually has the cajones to use Borges as a character in his Borges homage.
In fact, the narrator is an author, addressing his narrative to Borges, and in the end, Borges answers back.
Under all this meta-fiction, the book is a locked-room murder mystery with an unreliable narrator, another Poe element , and you can read it on that level, but you won't come close to appreciating it unless you've read a few of Borges's short stories. Brazilian author Luis Fernando Verissimo totally nails the feel of a Borges story, and while this is a novel Borges famously only ever wrote short stories; he wrote no novels , it's a short one, which also makes it more believable as what could have been just a really long short story by Borges.
Since Borges writes the ending If you haven't read anything by Borges, you are missing a treat. Go read Labyrinths or Ficciones.
Then read this book. Then read some Poe or Lovecraft. Not necessarily in that order. Sep 16, Tyler Jones rated it it was amazing Shelves: latin-american-fiction. An absolutely fatastic, multi-faceted gem of a story. When Vogelstein, an obscure translator and would be writer, decides to attend a Poe society convention in Beunos Aires it marks a departure from his reclusive world of words.
On his first night he meets his literary idol, Jorge Luis Borges, and is enmeshed in a murder as gruesome and puzzling as any found in the works of Poe. Soon he finds he finds himself a guest in the library of Borges as the two of them, along with the criminologist An absolutely fatastic, multi-faceted gem of a story.
Soon he finds he finds himself a guest in the library of Borges as the two of them, along with the criminologist Cuervo, try to decode the clues and solve the mystery.
A pitch-perfect mirror-image, if you like story of the type that Borges himself was famous for- full of symbolism, doppelgangers, iconography and powerful secret societies. Above all it is about the ultimate power of words; a power that can create and possibly destroy the universe. A charming hommage to Borges that could stand alongside the works of the master himself. Surely one of the best titles for a novel ever.
View 1 comment. It's a very funny, entertaining, and refreshing whodunit, with more than passing references to Borges a major character here , Poe, and Lovecraft. Vogelstein is a year old translator and English teacher who adored Borges with the same fanatical zeal as the narrator of the Borges story "Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote.
Of course, Borges, upon learning of the travesty, was furious. They eventually exchanged letters, which was the start of Vogelstein's literary hero worship. But even before the conference was to start, a murder of one of the speakers took place. The murder victim was found, in true Borgesian fashion, in front of a mirror — his body's position was such that it formed a letter from the alphabet, a clue that could point to the solution of the crime.
Borges and Vogelstein were enlisted to help uncover the identity of the killer. The ensuing investigation was a riot of literary speculations, invoking the mystery stories of Poe, the Kabbalah, Necronomicon book of the dead, et cetera. This novel was criminally funny. I'm sure there were some in-jokes Borgian, Poe-ic, Lovecrafty that went past me, but it was altogether a solid detective work, if a bit too neat the way it all tied up, in a postmodern postmortem, in the end. Verissimo was nonetheless guilty of leading the reader into a maze of intertextual pleasures.
There's a chance that a fan of Borges or Poe or Lovecraft will revel in the games and gimmickry of the Brazilian writer Luis Fernando Verissimo. The short novel was translated by Margaret Jull Costa who was probably in top form the way she came up with words to describe the murder weapon: You mentioned that Palermo, the part of Buenos Aires where you were brought up, had been a violent place full of bohemians and bandits.
There they had two names for the knife, "the blade" and "the slicer". The two names described the same object, but "the blade" was the thing itself, and "the slicer" its function. Whether it's "the knife" instrument or "the blade" form or "the slicer" function , the essence of light and dark comedy here cuts through like any sharp object. First posted in my blog. View all 4 comments.
Aug 09, Stacia rated it it was amazing Shelves: latin-america , , favorites. Mar 25, Aly rated it it was ok Shelves: This was an odd book. It was a murder mystery, but a lot of time was spent talking about origins of letters and theories about random things.
I had a difficult time understanding a lot of it, so I didn't get as much out of the story. The main character Volgelstein, is telling the story to Borges, the reader. He goes to Buenos Aires for a conference and a much loathed man is murdered there. He then speculates with Borges who the killer is and what the symbolism left behind can be interpreted as. The ending was kind of interesting, but I was lost most of the time.
Jun 17, Meg rated it really liked it Shelves: author-majority-world , 21st-century , translation , of-novellas , literary , theme-revenge , narrator-unreliable , i-laughed , genre-crime-mystery-thriller , theme-philosophical. Borges and the Eternal Orangutans was a delight. Short and sweet, it was the palate cleanser I so desperately needed just now.
This novella is a literary whodunit that's also a homage to Poe, Lovecraft, and above all, Borges.