This is the premier collection of Borges fiction and nonfiction that was published early in the US. You’re obviously served better by his collection fiction and his collected nonfiction, but as an entry point this one is great. His nonfiction offers up a lot that his fiction doesn’t, namely who and what to read. His fiction obviously opens up a world of strange and curious stories, that are ofte not even narratives.
Some various reactions:
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius – a long and meandering story about ancient texts.
The Garden of Forking Paths – among the more famous of his works
Funes the Memorious – this was my very first Borges I ever read, and it remains my favorite. It has the the magic of capturing in language something that I had thought about when I was younger and doing it more brilliantly than I could ever hope to. In the story, the narrator recalls his very meetings with a man named Funes, who is cursed with having an exhaustive, perfect, and complete memory. So on the whole this seems like it could be a good thing. We spend a lot of time thinking about the ways in which forgetting can curse us, but we also need to remember how much of a blessing forgetting is. But more than just remembering everything, Funes remembers his memories, and in remembering them creates more memories. So this leads to the total construction of his life around the cataloguing of cataloguing.
Three Versions of Judas – I love Judas stories because of the inherent paradox of Judas, without his betrayal, there’s not Christianity, so who do you deal with that?
The Argentine Writer and Tradition – The most important of these essays which basically looks at the role of the Arentine writer in comparison to Europe and the US, but mostly Europe. The conclusion that he mostly gets to is that by being positioned outside of Europe, he is not beholden to it at all, which actually gives him a better understanding of it. It’s like the way that someone can name and identify smells in an unfamialiar house better than those who live there. It’s an essay that prefigures a lot of post-Colonial critique, although his intent is much different.