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This review is taken from PN Review 9, Volume 6 Number 1, September - October 1979.

FICTIONS AND PHILOSOPHIES John Sturrock, Paper Tigers: The Ideal Fictions of Jorge Luis Borges (O.U.P.) £5.95.

John Sturrock has written a fine analytical study of the extraordinary and brilliant fictions of Borges. As a critic, Sturrock's formalist leanings and obvious passion for the craft of fiction well qualify him to write on this most self-conscious explorer of the further reaches of pure possibility. Borges is a dissimulator, a man who covers his tracks. He is the supreme artificer of fiction, and there lies the clue to the character and quality of his writings. Sturrock understands the artifice of Borges and respects it as an index of self-awareness as a creator of perfectly formed and, it emerges, totally intelligible short stories. In a Borges fiction what seem at first to be mysteries turn out to be perfect puzzles. As with Chesterton in the Father Brown stories (which Borges much admires), no riddle is without solution, and typically the solutions are to be found either by reference to other discoverable elements of the story or to the commanding philosophical theme of the fiction in question. On this point Sturrock does a great deal to prevent naturalistic misunderstanding of Borges's work by his considerations on the autonomy of fictional worlds.

As a writer of fiction, Borges uses philosophical doctrines but never advocates them. Idealism, in particular, provides him with a wealth of possibilities for fabulous development but is never endorsed as a guide to the true character of reality. Indeed, Borges's explicit understanding of himself as a maker of imaginary histories, and the important part idealist ...


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