Forgotten Books: Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi, by Jorge Luis Borges & Adolfo Bioy Casares

In 1942, during WWII, Seis problemas para don Isidro Parodi, (translated in 1981 as Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi), written by H. Bustos Domecq, appeared in Argentine bookshops. Thus, Don Isidro Parodi, the first amateur sleuth in Argentine literature, was born. This book was followed by Dos fantasías memorables, 1946 (Two noteworthy fantasies), Crónicas de Bustos Domecq, 1967, (translated in 1976 as Chronicles of Bustos Domecq), and Nuevos Cuentos de Bustos Domecq, 1977.

Under the name of Honorio Bustos Domecq we find two of the best known and more influential Argentine writers, Jorge Luis Borges Acevedo and Adolfo Bioy Casares, however we can’t consider H. Bustos Domecq a pen name. In essence Borges and Bioy Casares invented a new author with a complete biography whose features are very different from the sum of them two. Some scholars have called him “Biorges” and he is considered, in his own right, a writer who exerted a great influence on later novelists. One other aspect which is worth noting about this book is the uses of the local slang, something that, unfortunately, is lost in translation. Besides, over time some local references have been lost. 

Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi is a parody as suggested by its title. Isidro Parodi, a barber by trade, is serving 21 years for a murder he did not commit. However he has developed a reputation for being able to solve the cases that are brought to him just listening to the story, without leaving his cell. The six problems narrated in this short book are: The Twelve Figures of the World, The Nights of Goliadkin, The God of the Bulls, Free Will and the Commendatore, Tadeo Limardo’s Victim, and Tai An’s Long Search. They are a delightful read.

In Fantastic Fiction we can read: In an unusual twist on the traditional armchair detective, don Isidro, jailbird and former barbershop owner, unravels each mystery brought to his cell by a host of flamboyant characters, parodies of different elements of Argentinean society. Among these, an easily duped journalist, an actor who gives a new meaning to egotism, and members of a Buenos Aires literary circle, each more absurd than the next, are some of the clientele who stop by the prison to see if don Isidro is “in” for a consult. As with most of Borges’ fiction, there are ample literary references; these add to the unrelenting and cutting humour wielded against Argentinean intellectuals, but the characters speak for themselves. Some of the plots are as farfetched as the characters, including a diamond stolen from Russian royalty and a precious stone lifted from a Chinese temple; others, such as “Free Will and the Commendatore,” underscore philosophical problems. The stories are playful even when they are serious; H. Bustos Domecq does not miss an opportunity to poke fun at the characters, and the authors, Borges and (Bioy) Casares, take every chance to make much of Bustos Domecq, their illustrious pseudonym. The forward and afterward are not to be missed. (The book cover is taken from isfdb).

(The parenthesis are mine and I’ve corrected Isidoro for Isidro. Please note that in Spain, and most Spanish-speaking countries, the first surname was traditionally the father’s first surname, and the second the mother’s first surname. This order may now be reversed, under gender equality law).

A short review by Evelyn C. Leeper can be found HERE.

Two extensive articles in Spanish are: Borges y el policial “trasnochador” en Las Noches de Goliadkin por Pablo Unda Henríquez, and Honorio Bustos Domecq: personaje y autor a la vez. Su vida, obra y creación.

To my knowledge the Spanish edition is out of print. (Alianza Editorial, 1998 1ª edición. 184 pages. ISBN: 9788420633909).

Friday Forgotten Books is hosted by Patti Abbott at Pattinase. A visit to her blog is worth your while.

Death and the Compass by Jorge Luis Borges

Fictions Death and the Compass is a short story by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges. It’s  original title in Spanish is La muerte y la brújula,1942. In 1944 it was included in Borges’s collection of short stories, Ficciones (Fictions). Click HERE to look inside.

The story follows detective Erik Lönnrot in his attempt to solve a series of mysterious murders which seems to keep certain patterns. With tenacity Lönnrot deciphers the mystery and he discovers the place where the last murder will take place. At the exact day, he goes there to prevent the crime.

This is one of Borges’ greatest stories and one of my favourites. You can read it HERE translated into English. I hope you will like it, in which case you may also want to read the following information HERE.

Man on Pink Corner by Jorge Luis Borges (2)

Thanks to a comment by Todd Mason Quote Borges’s own translation (with Norman Thomas di Giovanni) of “El hombre de las esquinas rosadas” was published as “Streetcorner Man” in THE ALEPH AND OTHER STORIES: 1933-1969 (Dutton)…the preferred English text, at least by me! Unquote.

I’ve just found in the Internet the full text of Streetcorner Man HERE. It is a very short story and I hope you will enjoy it, if you cannot read it in Spanish.

I’ve just realised that Todd Mason already wrote about El hombre de la esquina rosada on Friday’s Forgotten Books HERE.

Forgotten Books: Man on Pink Corner by Jorge Luis Borges

Universal History of IniquityA contribution to Patti Abbott Friday’s Forgotten Books  

Man on Pink Corner is a short story by Argentinean writer Jorge Luis Borges (Buenos Aires, 24 of August of 1899 – Geneva, 14 of June of 1986). Borges was one of the greatest Spanish speaking writers of the last century. It was published several times before the final version appeared in a collection of short stories A Universal History of Infamy in 1935 and later published as A Universal History of Iniquity. Man on Pink Corner is dedicated to the Uruguayan writer, poet and journalist Enrique Amorim. The plot is simple and straightforward. The local bully is challenged by a stranger in a brothel. He rejects the fight and runs away. The stranger walks off with the woman but he is then mysteriously stabbed to death.

Caravana de Lecturas points out that the language employed by Borges in this short story is notable for its brothel-like vocabulary and insistent use of lunfardo (Buenos Aires slang)–an intent to reflect the speech of the porteños in the vernacular of the time. Follow his suggestion sit back and enjoy this story.

A Universal History of Infamy at Wikipedia

Jorge Luis Borges at Wikipedia

A Universal History of Iniquity (Penguin Modern Classics) at Amazon UK.

I’ve just realised that Todd Mason already wrote about El hombre de la esquina rosada on Friday’s Forgotten Books HERE.

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