Category: Jorge Luis Borges

Mis Anotaciones: “Tema del traidor y del héroe” un cuento de 1944 de Jorge Luis Borges

This post is bilingual, scroll down to find the English language version

Editorial Bruguera, 1980. Col. Narradores de hoy. Formato: Rústica. Jorge Luis Borges Prosa Completa. Volumen 1. 448 páginas [397 – 400] ISBN (Tomo I): 84-02-06746-8. “El tema del traidor y del héroe”, cuento de Jorge Luis Borges, escrito el 3 de enero de 1944, fue publicado en Buenos Aires en la revista Sur en febrero de 1944 y reproducido en Ficciones en 1956 con ciertas variantes en el texto y el agregado de un párrafo que produce un final distinto al de la publicación original. ​

3772118_thumb“Tema del traidor y del héroe” es uno de los cuentos más breves de Borges, de apenas mil palabras. El autor cuenta al principio que es solo un argumento que ha imaginado «bajo el notorio influjo de Chesterton (discurridor y exornador de elegantes misterios) y del consejero áulico Leibniz (que inventó la armonía preestablecida)» y que faltan «pormenores, rectificaciones, ajustes; hay zonas de la historia que no me fueron reveladas aún». Este cuento fue adaptado al cine por Bernardo Bertolucci en 1970, en la película La estrategia de la araña (Strategia del ragno).

Primer párrafo: Bajo el notorio influjo de Chesterton (discurridor y exornador de elegantes misterios) y del consejero áulico Leibniz (que inventó la armonía preestablecida), he imaginado este argumento,  que escribiré tal vez y que ya de algún modo me justifica, en las tardes inútiles. Faltan pormenores, rectificaciones, ajustes; hay zonas de la historia que no me fueron reveladas aún; hoy, 3 de enero de 1944, la vislumbro así.

Sinopsis: Tema del traidor y del héroe cuenta la historia de un investigador, Ryan, que descubre misteriosas coincidencias entre las circunstancias de la muerte de Julio César con las del héroe revolucionario irlandés Fergus Kilpatrick, que murió asesinado en un teatro en la víspera de la revolución que había planeado. Pero cuando descubre también coincidencias entre la conversación que tuvo Kilpatrick con un mendigo el día de su muerte y la obra de Shakespeare Macbeth, que su principal seguidor, James Alexander Nolan había traducido al gaélico, así como escrito un artículo sobre los Festspiele de Suiza, «vastas y errantes representaciones teatrales, que requieren miles de actores y que reiteran hechos históricos en las mismas ciudades y montañas donde ocurrieron» y que Kilpatrick ordenó la ejecución de un traidor en el último cónclave antes de la revolución, deduce la verdad detrás de la historia popular. (Adaptada de Wikipedia)

Mi opinión: Con gran habilidad, Borges nos cuenta una historia que admite múltiples niveles de lectura. En cuanto a su oportunidad, basta con recordar la situación en Argentina cuando se publicó. (Revolución del 43). Me gustaría agradecer a Mike Grost por recordarme que “Tema del Traidor y el Héroe” es un triunfo, una verdadera historia de detectives de primera magnitud.

Texto original

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 24 de agosto de 1899 – Ginebra, Suiza, 14 de junio 1986), fue un poeta, ensayista y escritor argentino de cuentos cuyos trabajos se han convertido en clásicos de la literatura mundial del siglo XX. Después de 1961, cuando compartió junto con Samuel Beckett el Premio Formentor, los cuentos y poemas de Borges empezaron a ser reconocidos en todo el mundo. Hasta ese momento, Borges era poco conocido, incluso en su Buenos Aires natal. A su muerte, el mundo de pesadilla de sus “ficciones” se había comparado con el mundo de Franz Kafka y había sido elogiado por condensar el lenguaje común en su forma más permanente. Por su trabajo, la literatura latinoamericana pasó del ámbito académico al terreno de los lectores generalmente educados. Entre sus incursiones en el campo de la ficción policial se pueden mencionar –además de “Hombre de la esquina rosada” (1935), “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan” (1941), “La muerte y la brújula” (1942), “Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” (1951), e “Historia de Rosendo Juárez” (1970)– las novelas cortas escritas junto con Adolfo Bioy Casares Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi (1942) como Honorio Bustos Domecq y Un modelo para la muerte (1946) como Benito Suárez Lynch.

Theme of the Traitor and the Hero by Jorge Luis Borges

“Theme of the Traitor and the Hero”, is a short story by Jorge Luis Borges, written on 3 January 1944. It was published in Buenos Aires in the magazine Sur in February 1944 and it was reproduced in Ficciones in 1956 with certain variations in the text and the added of a paragraph that produces a different ending to that of the original publication.

Opening Paragraph: Under the notable influence of Chesterton (contriver and embellisher of elegant mysteries) and the palace counselor Leibniz (inventor of the pre-established harmony), in my idle afternoons I have imagined this story plot which I shall perhaps write someday and which already justifies me somehow. Details, rectifications, adjustments are lacking; there are zones of the story not yet revealed to me; today, January 3rd, 1944, I seem to see it as follows: (Translator unknown)

Synopsis: “Theme of the Traitor and the Hero” tells the story of a researcher, Ryan, who discovers mysterious coincidences between the circumstances of Julius Caesar’s death and those of the Irish revolutionary hero Fergus Kilpatrick, who was murdered in a theatre on the eve of the revolution that he had planned. But when he also discovers coincidences between Kilpatrick’s conversation with a beggar on the day of his death and the work of Shakespeare Macbeth, which the oldest of the hero’s companions, James Alexander Nolan had translated into Gaelic; as well as the manuscript of an article by Nolan on the Swiss Festspiele: “vast and errant theatrical representations which require thousands of actors and repeat historical episodes in the very cities and mountains where they took place”; and that, a few days before his death, Kilpatrick had signed the order for the execution of a traitor whose name has been deleted from the records; Ryan deduces the truth behind the popular history. (Adapted from Wikipedia)

My take: With great skill, Borges tells us a story that supports multiple reading levels. In terms of its opportunity, it suffices to recall the situation in Argentina when it was published. (1943 Argentine coup d’état). I would like to thank Mike Grost for reminding to me that “Theme of the Traitor and Hero” is a triumph, a real detective story of the first water.

Read this story online

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the Author: Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 24, 1899 – Geneva, Switzerland, June 14, 1986), was an Argentine poet, essayist and short-story writer whose works have become classics of 20th century world literature. After 1961, when he and Samuel Beckett shared the Formentor Prize, the stories and poems of Borges began to be increasingly acclaimed all over the world. Until then, Borges was little known, even in his native Buenos Aires. By the time of his death, the nightmare world of his “fictions” had come to be compared to the world of Franz Kafka and to be praised for condensing the common language into its most enduring form. Through his work, Latin American literature emerged from the academic realm into the field of generally educated readers. Among his incursions in the field of detective fiction it can be mentioned –besides “Steetcorner Man” (1935), The Garden Of Branching Paths” (1941), “Death and the Compass” (1942), “Ibn-Hakam al Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth” (1951), and “Rosendo’s Tale” (1970) –the novellas written together with Adolfo Bioy Casares Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, (1942) as Honorio Bustos Domecq and Un modelo para la muerte (1946) as Benito Suárez Lynch.

Jorge Luis Borges (1899 – 1986)

6774-004-0FA2B2A1Jorge Luis Borges, (born August 24, 1899, Buenos Aires, Argentina—died June 14, 1986, Geneva, Switzerland), Argentine poet, essayist, and short-story writer whose works became classics of 20th-century world literature.
Borges was reared in the then-shabby Palermo district of Buenos Aires, the setting of some of his works. His family, which had been notable in Argentine history, included British ancestry, and he learned English before Spanish. The first books that he read—from the library of his father, a man of wide-ranging intellect who taught at an English school—included The Adventures of Huckleberry Finn, the novels of H.G. Wells, The Thousand and One Nights, and Don Quixote, all in English. Under the constant stimulus and example of his father, the young Borges from his earliest years recognized that he was destined for a literary career.

In 1914, on the eve of World War I, Borges was taken by his family to Geneva, where he learned French and German and received his B.A. from the Collège de Genève. Leaving there in 1919, the family spent a year on Majorca and a year in mainland Spain, where Borges joined the young writers of the Ultraist movement, a group that rebelled against what it considered the decadence of the established writers of the Generation of 1898.

Returning to Buenos Aires in 1921, Borges rediscovered his native city and began to sing of its beauty in poems that imaginatively reconstructed its past and present. His first published book was a volume of poems, Fervor de Buenos Aires, poemas (1923; “Fervour of Buenos Aires, Poems”). He is also credited with establishing the Ultraist movement in South America, though he later repudiated it. This period of his career, which included the authorship of several volumes of essays and poems and the founding of three literary journals, ended with a biography, Evaristo Carriego (1930; Eng. trans. Evaristo Carriego: A Book About Old-Time Buenos Aires).
During his next phase, Borges gradually overcame his shyness in creating pure fiction. At first he preferred to retell the lives of more or less infamous men, as in the sketches of his Historia universal de la infamia (1935; A Universal History of Infamy). To earn his living, he took a major post in 1938 at a Buenos Aires library named for one of his ancestors. He remained there for nine unhappy years.

In 1938, the year his father died, Borges suffered a severe head wound and subsequent blood poisoning, which left him near death, bereft of speech, and fearing for his sanity. This experience appears to have freed in him the deepest forces of creation. In the next eight years he produced his best fantastic stories, those later collected in Ficciones (1944, revised 1956; “Fictions,” Eng. trans. Ficciones) and the volume of English translations titled The Aleph, and Other Stories, 1933–1969 (1970). During this time, he and another writer, Adolfo Bioy Casares, jointly wrote detective stories under the pseudonym H. Bustos Domecq (combining ancestral names of the two writers’ families), which were published in 1942 as Seis problemas para Don Isidro Parodi (Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi). The works of this period revealed for the first time Borges’s entire dreamworld, an ironical or paradoxical version of the real one, with its own language and systems of symbols.

When Juan Perón came to power in 1946, Borges was dismissed from his library position for having expressed support of the Allies in World War II. With the help of friends, he earned his way by lecturing, editing, and writing. A 1952 collection of essays, Otras inquisiciones (1937–1952) (Other Inquisitions, 1937–1952), revealed him at his analytic best. When Perón was deposed in 1955, Borges became director of the national library, an honorific position, and also professor of English and American literature at the University of Buenos Aires. By this time, Borges suffered from total blindness, a hereditary affliction that had also attacked his father and had progressively diminished his own eyesight from the 1920s onward. It had forced him to abandon the writing of long texts and to begin dictating to his mother or to secretaries or friends.

The works that date from this late period, such as El hacedor (1960; “The Doer,” Eng. trans. Dreamtigers) and El libro de los seres imaginarios (1967; The Book of Imaginary Beings), almost erase the distinctions between the genres of prose and poetry. His later collections of stories include El informe de Brodie (1970; Doctor Brodie’s Report), which deals with revenge, murder, and horror, and El libro de arena (1975; The Book of Sand), both of which are allegories combining the simplicity of a folk storyteller with the complex vision of a man who has explored the labyrinths of his own being to its core.

After 1961, when he and Samuel Beckett shared the Formentor Prize, an international award given for unpublished manuscripts, Borges’s tales and poems were increasingly acclaimed as classics of 20th-century world literature. Prior to that time, Borges was little known, even in his native Buenos Aires, except to other writers, many of whom regarded him merely as a craftsman of ingenious techniques and tricks. By the time of his death, the nightmare world of his “fictions” had come to be compared to the world of Franz Kafka and to be praised for concentrating common language into its most enduring form. Through his work, Latin American literature emerged from the academic realm into the realm of generally educated readers. (Source: Britannica)

Borges Mystery Stories by Mike Grost

“Death and The Compass” is an anti-detective story, where the idea is to look at all of the ingenious ways in which the author subverts the conventions of the traditional detective tale. The mystery plot is complex, but every aspect of it supports Borges’ logical satire of detective fiction. One point: one element of the mystery that is never explained is the nakedness of the corpse under the cape; I suspect that this is simply Borges’ homage to Ellery Queen’s The Spanish Cape Mystery (1935), where such nakedness plays a role in the solution. Like his master Chesterton, and like Ellery Queen, most of Borges’ mystery fiction reflects the intuitionist tradition.

By contrast, “Theme of the Traitor and Hero” is a triumph, a real detective story of the first water. It was made into a beautiful color film by director Bernardo Bertolucci, The Spider’s Stratagem (1970), a gorgeous film that is like taking a vacation to Italy.

“Ibn Hakkan al-Bokhari, Dead in his Labyrinth” (1949) is full of vivid story-telling detail. Both in plot and style, the tale is a skillful pastiche of Chesterton. It has a fascinating central image of the labyrinth, and some not bad detective deduction at the end about the significance of a labyrinth. Unfortunately, the mystery plot as a whole is not that clever.

Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, Borges’ collaboration with Adolpho Bioy-Casares, lies somewhere in the middle. Most of the problems are too contrived to make really good classical detective stories. Most of the stories also contain some real ingenuity, and the collection is very much worth reading.

A1c P64q2gLSix Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, by Jorge Luis Borges & Adolfo Bioy Casares

La muerte y la brújula (1942), de Jorge Luis Borges 

El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan, 1941 de Jorge Luis Borges 

“Hombre de la esquina rosada” un cuento de 1935 de Jorge Luis Borges 

“Historia de Rosendo Juárez” un cuento de 1970 de Jorge Luis Borges 

An Additional Comment on Borges’ English Translations 

“Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” un cuento de 1951 de Jorge Luis Borges 

El Séptimo Círculo por Jorge Luis Borges y Adolfo Bioy Casares

The Seventh Circle by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares

The Seventh Circle by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares

I copy and paste the following text due to its potential interest to readers of this blog.

borges-bioyThe police genre is one of the few literary inventions of our time. Distraction often confuses it with a less rigorous and less lucid genre: that of adventure. In this, however, there is no other unit than the attribution of the various adventures to the same protagonist or other order than that advised by the convenience of graduating the reader’s emotions. (Remember the Seven Journeys of Sinbad; remember the novels that delighted Don Quixote.) Instead, police fictions require severe construction. Everything in them must prophesy the outcome; but those multiple and continuous prophecies have to be, like those of the ancient oracles, secret; they should only be understood in the light of the final revelation. The writer is thus committed to a double feat: the solution of the problem posed in the initial chapters must be necessary, but it must also be astonishing. To complicate the mystery, it is forbidden to interleave useless characters, accumulate accomplices or skimp indispensable data; also, purely mechanical solutions are prohibited: electromagnets, which invalidate the fundamentals of locksmithing; the fast false beards, which disrupt the principle of identity; the machinery of slices and piolas, whose labyrinthine explanation exceeds the possibilities of attention; Nor should the police novelist enrich toxicology with scholarly and imaginary poisons, or endow his characters with unusual acrobatic, thaumaturgical or ballistic hypnotic faculties.

In police novels the unity of action is essential; also it is convenient that the arguments do not expand in time and space. Treat yourself, then, in spite of certain romantic additions, of an essentially classical genre. Even death is punctual in police novels; although it is never absent, although it is usually the center and the occasion of the intrigue, it is not used for morbid delegations, except in certain examples of the American school, which represent another regression towards the adventure novel.

The tradition of the police genre is very noble: Hawthorne prefigured it in some tale of 1837; the illustrious poet Edgar Allan Poe created it in 1841; it has been cultivated by Wilkie Collins, Dickens, R.L. Stevenson, Kipling, Eça de Queiroz, Arnold Bennett and Apollinaire; recently, Chesterton, Phillpotts, Innes, Nicholas Blake. It is possible to suspect that if some critics are obstinate in denying the police genre the corresponding hierarchy, this is due to the lack of prestige of boredom.

Paradoxically, the most relentless detractors of police novels tend to be those who enjoy reading the most. This is due, perhaps, to an unconfessed Puritan prejudice: to consider that a purely pleasant act cannot be meritorious.

So powerful is the charm that derives from this literary genre that there is hardly any police work that does not participate in it, to some extent. It could also be said that there is no reader who is completely insensitive to that virtue. Everyone admires the first police novel they read; This admiration, sometimes astonishing or unfair, constitutes an involuntary homage to the genre.

Unintentionally, the writers who have analyzed the police novel hurt her, because by insisting on the mechanism of the argument – in whom, in how and why. They have fostered, or tolerated, the mistaken belief that these novels have no other value than that of their argument and that it exhausts them. Those who profess that belief seem to forget that the police novel is, above all, a novel, that is to say a work in which the psychology of the characters, the effectiveness of the dialogue, the power of the descriptions and the style of the narrator have decisive value. A proof of the error of judging the police novels by the single argument is manifested in the frequent equation of essentially dissimilar works; Thus, the mystery of the yellow room and the equivocal form are often cited as two versions of the same problem – that of the murder committed in a closed room -: this assimilation, justifiable from a point of view, ignores the vast differences between Gaston Leroux and Chesterton.

Of all the forms of the novel, the police is the one that demands writers greater rigor: there is no phrase or idle detail in it; everything, in its course, tends at last, to delay it without stopping it, to insinuate it without giving it away, to hide it without excluding it.

From this delicate direction of the emotions and thoughts of the reader, one might perhaps compare this genre with oratory and theater. However, we do not think presumptuous to remember that the task of the police novelist is more arduous, since it is not aimed at a passive and easily suggestible crowd, but rather at isolated readers (always more insightful than the writer, according to Stevenson’s observation).

There was a time, now happily surpassed, in which diagrams, plans and schedules joined their generous efforts to exasperate the reader. From the mechanical and topographic it has been passed, now, to the human. The works of Eden Phillipotts, Nicholas Blake, Robert Player, Richard Hull, Patrick Quentin and Vera Caspary adjoin the psychological analysis novel; in those of Anton Chekhov, Graham Greene, Margaret Miller, Michael Innes, Cora Jarret and Lynn Brock, a tragic vehemence prevails; those of Anthony Gilbert renew the successful tradition of Dickens; those of James M. Cain are distinguished by an unbearable hardness; those of E.C.R. Lorac, Milward Kennedy and Clifford Witting continue and enrich the Orthodox school; those of John Dickson Carr, whose protagonist, Dr. Fell, combines the people of Dr. Johnson and Chesterton, play wisely with melodramatic terrors; those of H. F. Heard and those of Leo Perutz, with fantastic terrors.

We believe, finally, that the police novel exerts a beneficial influence on all branches of literature; advocates the rights of construction, of lucidity; of order, of measure.

Museum fragment. Unpublished texts by Borges and Bioy Casares. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2002 (Source: La Bòbila de Hospitalet Library, Barcelona https://www.revistarambla.com/el-septimo-circulo-monografico/)

Last picture of Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares together. It was taken  by Julio Giustozza at Alberto Casares bookshop on 27 November 1985.

El Séptimo Círculo por Jorge Luis Borges y Adolfo Bioy Casares

bonomiFollowing my previous post here and given its possible interest for the readers of this blog, the following text (in Spanish) was the one that Borges and Bioy Casares jointly wrote in 1945, to inaugurate the Argentinian crime fiction collection “El Séptimo Círculo” published by Emecé Buenos Aires. Its front covers were undertaken by the Italian-Argentine illustrator José Bonomi.

El Séptimo Círculo por Jorge Luis Borges y Adolfo Bioy Casares

El género policial es una de las pocas invenciones literarias de nuestro tiempo. La distracción suele confundirlo con un género menos riguroso y menos lúcido: el de aventuras. En éste, sin embargo, no hay otra unidad que la atribución de las diversas peripecias a un mismo protagonista ni otro orden que el aconsejado por la conveniencia de graduar las emociones del lector. (Recordemos los Siete Viajes de Simbad; recordemos las novelas que deleitaban a Don Quijote.) En cambio las ficciones policiales requieren una construcción severa. Todo en ellas debe profetizar el desenlace; pero esas múltiples y continuas profecías tienen que ser, como las de los antiguos oráculos, secretas; sólo deben comprenderse a la luz de la revelación final. El escritor se compromete, así, a una doble proeza: la solución del problema planteado en los capítulos iniciales debe ser necesaria, pero también debe ser asombrosa. Para complicar el misterio, le está vedado intercalar personajes inútiles, acumular cómplices o escamotear datos indispensables; también, le están prohibidas las soluciones puramente mecánicas: los electroimanes, que invalidan los fundamentos de la cerrajería; las veloces barbas postizas, que desbaratan el principio de identidad; las maquinarias de rodajas y piolas ,cuya explicación laberíntica excede las posibilidades de la atención; tampoco el novelista policial debe enriquecer la toxicología con venenos eruditos e imaginarios, ni dotar a sus personajes de inusitadas facultades hipnóticas acrobáticas, taumatúrgicas o balísticas.

En las novelas policiales la unidad de acción es imprescindible; asimismo conviene que los argumentos no se dilaten en el tiempo y en el espacio. Trátase, pues, a despecho de ciertas adiciones románticas, de un género esencialmente clásico. Hasta la muerte es púdica en las novelas policiales; aunque nunca está ausente, aunque suele ser el centro y la ocasión de la intriga, no se la aprovecha para delectaciones morbosas, salvo en ciertos ejemplos de la escuela norteamericana, que representan otra regresión hacia la novela de aventuras.

La tradición del género policial es nobilísima: Hawthorne lo prefiguró en algún cuento de1837; el ilustre poeta Edgar Allan Poe lo creó en 1841; lo han cultivado Wilkie Collins, Dickens, R.L. Stevenson, Kipling, Eça de Queiroz, Arnold Bennett y Apollinaire; recientemente, Chesterton, Phillpotts, Innes, Nicholas Blake. Cabe sospechar que si algunos críticos se obstinan en negar al género policial la jerarquía que le corresponde, ello se debe a que le falta el prestigio del tedio.

Paradójicamente, los detractores más implacables de las novelas policiales suelen ser aquellas personas que más se deleitan en su lectura. Ello se debe, quizá, a un inconfesado prejuicio puritano: considerar que un acto puramente agradable no puede ser meritorio.

Tan poderoso es el encanto que dimana de este género literario que apenas si hay obra policial que no participe de él, en cierta medida. También podría afirmarse que no hay lector que sea del todo insensible a esa virtud. Todos admiran la primera novela policial que leyeron; esta admiración, a veces pasmosa o injusta, constituye un involuntario homenaje al género.

Sin proponérselo, los tratadistas que han analizado la novela policial la perjudicaron, pues al insistir en el mecanismo del argumento -en el quién, en el cómo y en el porqué-. Han fomentado, o tolerado, la creencia errónea de que estas novelas no tienen otro valor que el de su argumento y que éste las agota. Quienes profesan esa creencia parecen olvidar que la novela policial es, ante todo, una novela, es decir una obra en la que tienen decisivo valor la psicología de los personajes, la eficacia del diálogo, el poder de las descripciones y el estilo de narrador. Una prueba del error de juzgar las novelas policiales por el solo argumento se manifiesta en la frecuente equiparación de obras esencialmente disímiles; así, El misterio del cuarto amarillo y La forma equívoca suelen citarse como dos versiones de un mismo problema -el del asesinato cometido en un cuarto cerrado-: esta asimilación, justificable desde un punto de vista, desconoce las vastas diferencias que hay entre Gaston Leroux y Chesterton.

De todas las formas de la novela, la policial es la que exige a los escritores mayor rigor: en ella no hay frase ni detalle ocioso; todo, en su decurso, propende al fin, para demorarlo sin detenerlo, para insinuarlo sin delatarlo, para ocultarlo sin excluirlo.

Por esta delicada dirección de las emociones y de los pensamientos del lector, cabría tal vez comparar este género con la oratoria y con el teatro. Sin embargo, no creemos presuntuoso recordar que la tarea del novelista policial es más ardua, ya que no se dirige a una muchedumbre pasiva y fácilmente sugestionable, sino a lectores aislados (siempre más perspicaces que el escritor, según la observación de Stevenson).

Hubo una época, ya felizmente superada, en que diagramas, planos y horarios unían sus generosos esfuerzos para exasperar al lector. De lo mecánico y topográfico se ha pasado, ahora, a lo humano. Las obras de Eden Phillipotts, de Nicholas Blake, de Robert Player, de Richard Hull, de Patrick Quentin y de Vera Caspary lindan con la novela de análisis psicológico; en las de Anton Chéjov, Graham Greene, Margaret Miller, Michael Innes, Cora Jarret y Lynn Brock prima una vehemencia trágica; las de Anthony Gilbert renuevan la venturosa tradición de Dickens; las de James M. Cain se distinguen por una insobornable dureza; las de E.C.R. Lorac, Milward Kennedy y Clifford Witting continúan y enriquecen la escuela ortodoxa; las de John Dickson Carr, cuyo protagonista, el doctor Fell, combina las personas del doctor Johnson y de Chesterton, juegan sabiamente con los terrores melodramáticos; las de H. F. Heard y las de Leo Perutz, con los terrores fantásticos.

Creemos, finalmente, que la novela policial ejerce una influencia benéfica en todas las ramas de la literatura; aboga por los derechos de la construcción, de la lucidez; del orden, de la medida.

Fragmento de Museo. Textos inéditos, de Borges y Bioy Casares. Buenos Aires: Emecé, 2002 (Source: Biblioteca la Bòbila de Hospitalet, Barcelona)

Borges and Bioy Casares actively participated on the selection of the first 120 titles. In the mid-sixties, the editor Carlos V. Frías took over the collection. In the last years, José Bonomi’s illustrations disappeared and thus was erased the spirit of the series. Read more here (in Spanish)

The First 120 Titles:

1945

1. BLAKE, NICHOLAS, La bestia debe morir [The Beast Must Die (1938)]. Traducción de Juan Rodolfo Wilcock. En la tapa de la primera impresión de este volumen (cuyo colofón la fecha el 22 de febrero de 1945) se lee «Nicolas», corregido «Nicholas» a partir de la segunda.
2. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, Los anteojos negros [The Black Spectacles (1939)]. Se usa la edición inglesa (London: Hamish Hamilton). La norteamericana, publicada por Harper, se titula The Problem of the Green Capsule.
3. INNES, MICHAEL, La torre y la muerte [Lament for a Maker (1938)].
4. GILBERT, ANTHONY, Una larga sombra [The Long Shadow (1932)].
5. CAIN, JAMES, Pacto de sangre [Double Indemnity (1943)].
6. KENNEDY, MILWARD, El asesino de sueño [The Murderer of Sleep (1932)].
7. CASPARY, VERA, Laura (1943).
8. KENNEDY, MILWARD, La muerte glacial [Corpse in Cold Storage (1934)]. Trad. de Juan Rodolfo Wilcock.
9. CHEJOV, ANTÓN, Extraña confesión [Novosti dnia (1884)]. Trad. de la versión francesa [Un Drame à la chasse (1936), por Denis Roche] y prólogo de Manuel Peyrou.
10. HULL, RICHARD, Mi propio asesino [My Own Murderer (1940)]. Trad. de Estela Canto.
11. CAIN, JAMES, El cartero llama dos veces [The Postman Always Rings Twice (1934)].
12. PHILLPOTTS, EDEN, El Señor Digweed y el señor Lumb [Mr. Digweed and Mr. Lumb (1933)]. Trad. de Leonor Acevedo de Borges.
13. BLAKE, NICHOLAS, Los toneles de la muerte [There’s Trouble Brewing (1937)].
14. AMORIM, ENRIQUE, El asesino desvelado (1945).
15. GREENE, GRAHAM, El ministerio del miedo [The Ministry of Fear (1943)].
16. WITTING, CLIFFORD, Asesinato en pleno verano [Midsummer Murder (1937)].

1946

17. QUENTIN, PATRICK, Enigma para actores [Puzzle for Players (1938)].
18. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, El crimen de las figuras de cera [The Waxworks Murder (1932)]. Trad. de Estela Canto. Se usa la edición inglesa (London: Hamish Hamilton). La norteamericana, publicada por Harper, se titula The Corpse in the Waxworks.
19. GILBERT, ANTHONY, La gente muere despacio [The Case of the Tea-Cosy’s Aunt (1942)].
20. CAIN, JAMES, El estafador [The Embezzler (1943)].
21. QUENTIN, PATRICK, Enigma para tontos [A Puzzle for Fools (1936)].
22. LORAC, E.C.R., La sombra del sacristán [Black Beadle (1939)].
23. COLLINS, W. WILKIE, La piedra lunar [The Moonstone (1868)]. 2 vv.
24. JARRETT, CORA, La noche sobre el agua [Night Over Fitch’s Pond (1933)]. Trad. de Haydée Lange.
25. HEARD, GERALD, Predilección por la miel [A Taste for Honey (1941)].
26. INNES, MICHAEL, Los otros y el rector [Death at the President’s Lodging (1936)].
27. PERUTZ, LEO, El maestro del juicio final [Der Meister des Jüngsten Tages (1923)].
28. BLAKE, NICHOLAS, Cuestión de pruebas [A Question of Proof (1935)].
29. BROCK, LYNN, En acecho [The Stoat (1940)].
30. COLLINS, W. WILKIE, La dama de blanco [The Woman in White (1860)]. 2 vv.
31. BIOY CASARES, ADOLFO & OCAMPO, SILVINA, Los que aman, odian.
32. GILBERT, ANTHONY, La trampa [The Mouse Who Wouldn’t Play Ball (1943)].
33. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, Hasta que la muerte nos separe [Till Death do us Part (1944)].
34. INNES, MICHAEL, ¡Hamlet, venganza! [Hamlet, Revenge! (1937)].

1947

35. BLAKE, NICHOLAS, ¡Oh, envoltura de la muerte! [Thou Shell of Death (1936)].
36. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, La sede de la soberbia [The Seat of the Scornful (1942)]. Se usa la edición inglesa (London: Hamish Hamilton). La norteamericana, publicada por Harper, se titula Death Turns the Tables.
37. PHILLPOTTS, EDEN, Eran siete [They Were Seven (1944)].
38. LORAC, E.C.R., Jaque mate al asesino [Checkmate to Murder (1944)].
39. QUENTIN, PATRICK, Enigma para divorciadas [Puzzle for Wantoms (1945)].
40. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, El hombre hueco [The Hollow Man (1935)]. Se usa la edición inglesa (London: Hamish Hamilton). La norteamericana, publicada por Harper, se titula The Three Coffins.
41. BROCK, LYNN, La larga busca de monsieur Lamousset [The Two of Diamonds (1926)].
42. PHILLPOTTS, EDEN, Los rojos Redmayne [The Red Redmaynes (1922)].
43. KEVERNE, RICHARD, El hombre del sombrero rojo [The Man in the Red Hat (1930)].
44. POSTGATE, RAYMOND, Alguien en la puerta [Somebody at the Door (1943)].

1948

45. GILBERT, ANTHONY, La campana de la muerte [The Bell of Death (1939)].
46. BLAKE, NICHOLAS, El abominable hombre de nieve [The Case of the Abominable Snowman (1941)].
47. PLAYER, ROBERT, El ingenioso señor Stone [The Ingenious Mr. Stone (1945)].
48. PEYROU, MANUEL, El estruendo de las rosas (1948).
49. POSTGATE, RAYMOND, Veredicto de doce [Veredict of Twelve (1940)].
50. QUENTIN, PATRICK, Enigma para demonios [Puzzle for Fiends (1946)].

1949

51. QUENTIN, PATRICK, Enigma para fantoches [Puzzle for Puppets (1944)].
52. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, El ocho de espadas [The Eight of Swords (1934)].
53. WOODTHORPE, R.C., Una bala para el señor Thorold [The Public School Murder (1932)].
54. HEARD, GERALD, Respuesta pagada [Reply Paid (1942)].
55. INNES, MICHAEL, El peso de la prueba [The Weight of the Evidence (1943)].
56. HEARD, GERALD, Asesinato por reflexión [Murder by Reflection (1942)].
57. GILBERT, ANTHONY, ¡No abras esa puerta! [Don’t Open the Door! (1945)].
58. HILTON, JAMES, ¿Fue un crimen? [Was it Murder? (1933)]. Se usa la edición norteamericana (New York: Harper, 1933). La inglesa (London: Benn, 1931) se titula Murder at School.
59. BERKELEY, ANTHONY, El caso de los bombones envenenados [The Poisoned Chocolates Case (1929)].
60. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, El que susurra [He Who Whispers (1946)].
61. QUENTIN, PATRICK, Enigma para peregrinos [Puzzle for Pilgrims (1947)].
62. BERKELEY, ANTHONY, El dueño de la muerte [Trial and Error (1937)].
63. QUENTIN, PATRICK, Corriendo hacia la muerte [Run to Death (1948)].

1950

64. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, Las cuatro armas falsas [The Four False Weapons (1937)].
65. GILBERT, ANTHONY, Levante usted la tapa [Lift Up the Lid (1948)].
66. CURTIS, PETER, Marcha fúnebre en tres claves [Dead March in three Keys (1940)].
67. GILBERT, ANTHONY, Muerte en el otro cuarto [Death in the Wrong Room (1947)].
68. FOWLER, SYDNEY, Crimen en la buhardilla [The Attic Murder (1946)].
69. VARIOS, El almirante flotante [The Floating Admiral (1931)].
70. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, El barbero ciego [The Blind Barber (1934)].
71. HENDERSON, DONALD, Adiós al crimen [Goodbye to Murder (1946)].
72. GREENE, GRAHAM, El tercer hombre. El ídolo caído [The Third Man and The Fallen Idol (1950)]. Trad. de Silvina Bullrich.
73. LUSTGARTEN, EDGAR, Una infortunada más [One More Unfortunate (1947)]. Se usa la edición norteamericana (New York: Scribner). La inglesa (London: Eyre and Spottiswoode) se titula A Case to Answer.
74. DICKSON, CARTER, Mis mujeres muertas [My Late Wives (1946)]. Trad. de Estela Canto.

1951

75. WITTING, CLIFFORD, Medida para la muerte [Measure for Murder (1941)]. Trad. de Estela Canto.
76. BLAKE, NICHOLAS, La cabeza del viajero [Head of a Traveller (1949)].
77. BURT, MICHAEL, El caso de las trompetas celestiales [The Case of the Angels ́ Trumpets (1947)].
78. DICKENS, CHARLES, El misterio de Edwin Drood [The Mystery of Edwin Drood (1870)]. Trad. de Dora de Alvear.
79. HARE, CYRIL, Huésped para la muerte [Tenant for Death (1937)]. Trad. de José Bianco.
80. PHILLPOTTS, EDEN, Una voz en la oscuridad [A Voice from the Dark (1925)].
81. CUMBERLAND, MARTEN, La punta del cuchillo [The Knife will Fall (1943)].
82. VALBECK, MICHAEL, Caídos en el infierno [Headlong from Heaven (1947)]. Trad. de Haydée Lange.
83. STRONG, L.A.G.: Todo se derrumba [All Fall Down (1944)].
84. OURSLER, WILL, Legajo Florence White [Folio on Florence White (1942)].
85. WALPOLE, HUGH, En la plaza oscura [Above the Dark Circus (1931)]. Trad. de Cecilia Ingenieros.

1952

86. HULL, RICHARD, Prueba de nervios [A Matter of Nerves (1950)].
87. QUENTIN, PATRICK, El buscador [The Follower (1950)].
88. CAREY, BERNICE, El hombre que eludió el castigo [The Man Who Got Away With it (1950)]. Trad. de Juan Rodolfo Wilcock.
89. EASTMAN, ELIZABETH, El ratón de los ojos rojos [The Mouse With Red Eyes (1948)]. Trad. de José Bianco.
90. MILLAR, MARGARET, Pagarás con maldad [Do Evil in Return (1950)].
91. BLAKE, NICHOLAS, Minuto para el crimen [Minute for Murder (1947)].
92. LUSTGARTEN, EDGAR, Veredictos discutidos [Verdict in Dispute (1949)].
93. BERROW, NORMAN, Peligro en la noche [Don’t go out after dark (1950)]. Trad. de Rodolfo J. Walsh.
94. CARR, JOHN DICKSON, Los suicidios constantes [The Case of the Constant Suicides (1941)].
95. BURT, MICHAEL, El caso de la joven alocada [The Case of the Fast Young Lady (1942)].
96. CROMMELYNCK, FERNAND, ¿Es usted el asesino? [Monsieur Larose, est-il l’assassin? (1950)]. Trad. de José Bianco.
97. DES CARS, GUY, El solitario [La Brute (1951)].
98. BURT, MICHAEL, El caso del jesuita risueño [The Case of the Laughing Jesuit (1948)].

1953

99. CASPARY, VERA, Bedelia (1945).
100. WALSH, THOMAS, Pesadilla en Manhattan [Nightmare in Manhattan (1950)].
101. HULL, RICHARD, El asesinato de mi tía [The Murder of my Aunt (1934)].
102. RICE GUINNES, ALEX [ALEJANDRO RUIZ GUIÑAZÚ], Bajo el signo del odio (1953).
103. TEY, JOSEPHINE, Brat Farrar (1949).
104. DICKSON, CARTER, La ventana de Judas [The Judas Window (1938)].
105. MILLAR, MARGARET, Las rejas de hierro [The Iron Gates (1945)].
106. WELLS, ANNA MARY, Miedo a la muerte [Fear of Death (1951)]. Trad. de Haydée Lange.
107. DICKSON, CARTER, Muerte en cinco cajas [Death in Five Boxes (1938)].
108. CASPARY, VERA, Más extraño que la verdad [Stranger Than Truth (1947)].
109. FORESTER, C.S., Cuenta pendiente [Payment deferred (1951)].
110. DICKSON, CARTER, La estatua de la viuda [Night at the Mocking Widow (1950)].

1954

111. TREE, GREGORY, Una mortaja para la abuela [A Shroud for Grandmama (1951)].
112. TEY, JOSEPHINE, Arenas que cantan [The Singing Sands (1952)].
113. MILLAR, MARGARET, Muerte en el estanque [Rose’s Last Summer (1952)].
114. VERY, PIERRE, Los Goupi [Goupi mains Rouges (1949)].
115. MASTERMAN, J. C., Tragedia en Oxford [An Oxford Tragedy (1954)]. Trad. de Carlos Peralta.
116. PARKER, ROBERT, Pasaporte para el peligro [Passport to Peril (1951)].
117. LINKLATER, ERIC, El señor Byculla [Mr. Byculla (1950)].
118. BLAKE, NICHOLAS, El hueco fatal [The Dreadful Hollow (1954)].
119. ELLIN, STANLEY, El crimen de la calle Nicholas [The Key to Nicholas Street (1952)].
120. PHILLPOTTS, EDEN, El cuarto gris [The Grey Room (1921)].

Mis anotaciones: “Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” un cuento de 1951 de Jorge Luis Borges

This post is bilingual, scroll down to find the English language version

Editorial Bruguera, 1980. Col. Narradores de hoy. Formato: Rústica. Jorge Luis Borges Prosa Completa. Volumen 2. 546 páginas [91 – 99] ISBN (Tomo II): 84-02-06747-6. Publicado en Sur en 1951 e incorporado a la segunda edición de El Aleph en 1956.

3772118Primer párrafo: —Ésta—dijo Dunraven, con un vasto ademán que no rehusaba las nubladas estrellas y que abarcaba el negro páramo, el mar y un edificio majestuoso y decrépito que parecía una caballeriza venida a menos—es la tierra de mis mayores.

Sinopsis: Dos amigos, Dunraven (un poeta) y Unwin (un matemático), visitan un laberinto en Cornwall, Inglaterra, una tarde del verano de 1914. Mientras están allí, Dunraven le cuenta a Unwin la historia de Abenjacán el Bojarí. Abenjacán, caudillo o rey de una tribu nilótica, junto con Zaid, su primo y visir, huye un día con el tesoro acumulado durante su gobierno. La primera noche en el desierto, se esconden en una tumba. Abenjacán no puede dormir y, temeroso de que Zaid intente arrebatarle el tesoro, lo mata. Para asegurarse de que el fantasma de Zaid no lo persiga, huye por mar y llega a Cornwall en Inglaterra. Allí ordena la construcción de un laberinto carmesí y se esconde en el centro. Zaid lo encuentra y lo mata, borrando su rostro con una piedra. Zaid hace lo mismo con el león y el esclavo que custodiaban el laberinto. Unwin no cree que la historia sea lógica. Dos días después, de regreso en Londres, Unwin le propone una versión diferente a Dunraven.

Mi opinión: Duraven le cuenta a su amigo Unwin la historia de un asesinato ocurrido hace años en Corwall, cuyas circunstancias continúan sin haberse aclarado por varias razones.

En primer lugar, esa casa es un laberinto. En segundo lugar la vigilaban un esclavo y un león. En tercer lugar, se desvaneció un tesoro secreto. En cuarto lugar, el asesino estaba muerto cuando el asesinato ocurrió. En quinto lugar. . .
Unwin, cansado, lo detuvo.
– No multipliques los misterios –le dijo–. Éstos deben ser simples. Recuerda la carta robada de Poe, recuerda el cuarto cerrado de Zangwill.
– O complejos –replicó Duranven–. Recuerda el universo.

“Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” es, con toda probabilidad, una de las historias menos conocidas de Borges. También es la última historia policial que publicó y contiene muchos, si no todos, los elementos frecuentes en su universo. La historia es fiel a su idea del cuento policial. Como escribió en su ensayo “Sobre Chesterton”: “Cada una de las piezas de la Saga del Padre Brown presenta un misterio, propone explicaciones de tipo demoníaco o mágico y las reemplaza, al fin, con otras que son de este mundo”. Y eso es en defintiva lo que hace Borges en este breve relato.

Texto original

Mi valoración: A+ (No se demore, consiga un ejemplar de este libro)

Sobre el autor: Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires, Argentina, 24 de agosto de 1899 – Ginebra, Suiza, 14 de junio 1986), fue un poeta, ensayista y escritor argentino de cuentos cuyos trabajos se han convertido en clásicos de la literatura mundial del siglo XX. Después de 1961, cuando compartió junto con Samuel Beckett el Premio Formentor, los cuentos y poemas de Borges empezaron a ser reconocidos en todo el mundo. Hasta ese momento, Borges era poco conocido, incluso en su Buenos Aires natal. A su muerte, el mundo de pesadilla de sus “ficciones” se había comparado con el mundo de Franz Kafka y había sido elogiado por condensar el lenguaje común en su forma más permanente. Por su trabajo, la literatura latinoamericana pasó del ámbito académico al terreno de los lectores generalmente educados. Entre sus incursiones en el campo de la ficción policial se pueden mencionar –además de “Hombre de la esquina rosada” (1935), “El jardín de senderos que se bifurcan” (1941), “La muerte y la brújula” (1942), “Abenjacán el Bojarí, muerto en su laberinto” (1951), e “Historia de Rosendo Juárez” (1970)– las novelas cortas escritas junto con Adolfo Bioy Casares Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi (1942) como Honorio Bustos Domecq y Un modelo para la muerte (1946) como Benito Suárez Lynch.

Ibn-Hakam al Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth by Jorge Luis Borges

Opening Paragraph: “This,” said Dunraven with a vast gesture that did not blench at the cloudy stars, and that took in the black moors, the sea, and a majestic tumbled down edifice that look much like a stable fallen upon hard times, “is my ancestral land”. (By Jorge Luis Borges and Norman Thomas di Giovanni, trans.)

Synopsis: Two friends, Dunraven (a poet) and Unwin (a mathematician), visit a maze in Cornwall, England one summer afternoon in 1914. While they are there, Dunraven tells Unwin the story of Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari. Ibn-Hakam, chieftain or king of a Nilotic tribe, along with Zaid, his cousin and vizier, runs away one day with the treasure accumulated during his rule. The first night in the desert, they hide in a grave. Ibn-Hakam cannot sleep and, afraid that Zaid would attempt to snatch the treasure away from him, he kills him. To make sure that Zaid’s ghost does not chase him, he flees by sea and arrives at Cornwall in England. There he orders the construction of a crimson labyrinth and hides in the centre. Zaid finds him and kills him, erasing his face with a stone. Zaid does the same with the lion and the slave who guarded the labyrinth. Unwin doesn’t believe the story to be logical. Two days later, back in London, Unwin proposes a different version to Dunraven.

My take: Dunraven tells his friend Unwin the story of a murder that occurred years ago in Corwall, whose circumstances remain unclear for several reasons.

“First, that house up there is a labyrinth.Second, a slave and a lion had stood guard over it. Third, a secret treasure disappeared –poof!, vanished. Fourth, the murderer was already dead by the time the murder took place. Fifth . . .”
Vexed a bit, Unwin, stopped him.
“Please –let’s not multiply the mysteries,” he said. “Mysteries ought to be simple. Remember Poe’s purloined letter, remember Zangwill’s locked room.
“Or complex,” volleyed Dunraven. Remember the universe.

“Ibn-Hakam al Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth” is in all likelihood, one of Borges’s least known short stories. It is also the last of the detective stories he wrote and it contains many, if not all, the frequent elements in his universe. The story faithfully reflects Borges’s idea on detective fiction as he expressed in his brief essay On Chesterton“: ‘Each and every pieces of Father Brown’s Saga presents a mystery, proposes explanations of a demonic or magical type and replaces them, finally, with others that are of this world.’ (My translation) And this is in essence what Borges does in this short story.

Read this story online

My rating: A+ (Don’t delay, get your hands on a copy of this book)

About the Author: Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires, Argentina, August 24, 1899 – Geneva, Switzerland, June 14, 1986), was an Argentine poet, essayist and short-story writer whose works have become classics of 20th century world literature. After 1961, when he and Samuel Beckett shared the Formentor Prize, the stories and poems of Borges began to be increasingly acclaimed all over the world. Until then, Borges was little known, even in his native Buenos Aires. By the time of his death, the nightmare world of his “fictions” had come to be compared to the world of Franz Kafka and to be praised for condensing the common language into its most enduring form. Through his work, Latin American literature emerged from the academic realm into the field of generally educated readers. Among his incursions in the field of detective fiction it can be mentioned –besides “Steetcorner Man” (1935), The Garden Of Branching Paths” (1941), “Death and the Compass” (1942), “Ibn-Hakam al Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth” (1951), and “Rosendo’s Tale” (1970) –the novellas written together with Adolfo Bioy Casares Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, (1942) as Honorio Bustos Domecq and Un modelo para la muerte (1946) as Benito Suárez Lynch.