Ficciones (1944) by Jorge Luis Borges
I first read this book when it was assigned in my Critical Theories grad seminar. Up until then, I hadn't even heard of Borges, much less his vast and complex body of work. Without knowing what to expect, I opened my used copy of Ficciones while riding on the bus to campus one morning and was reminded a bit of the works of Gabriel Garcia Marquez. But soon, I forgot about Marquez, the bus, grad school, and the people around me, for I was reading "Pierre Menard, Author of The Quixote" (1939), a story that explores authorship, translation, and interpretation. What if you transcribed, word-for-word, another writer's work? Does it somehow become your own?
I found this fascinating. The story itself was hilarious, and I found myself laughing out loud on the bus, wedged in between all those people drinking their coffee and trying to wake up before heading to class. It made my head hurt, but having read and enjoyed the comedy of Don Quixote several years earlier, I appreciated Borges's take even more. "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius" (1940) and "The Library of Babel" (1941) were equally wonderful. Borges is a master of magical realism and the fantastic, and the sharp, intelligent humor that infuses his work makes him irresistible.
I've often wished to reread Ficciones, but alas there is too much to read, and so little time. I will return to it, though. Of that I'm sure.