My top 11 stories from Jorge Luis Borges' Collected Fictions

Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) is an Argentine writer and Librarian. He was the Director of the National Library of Argentina in 1955. Collected Fictions is a comprehensive collection of all his short stories from 1935 to 1983 is an exciting, scary book full of surreal and mythological elements. Though, I don't really like his stories that deal with reality compared to his magical and surrealistic stories. Libraries with an infinite number of books, books with infinite pages, many mazes and labyrinths, dreams, impossible texts, and objects.

Here is my list of top 12 stories from the book with links to where you can read them. I recommend that you click on the links, since most of these are short stories you can read in one sitting, and I think this writer is very skilled in creating atmosphere, character, and plot in with a limited word count.

The House of Asterion
And the queen gave birth to a child who was called Asterion.
This is a story about the Greek legend of the Minotaur, as narrated by the beast himself.

The Library of Babel
The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries, with vast air shafts between, surrounded by very low railings.
This story envisions an alternate universe composed of infinite libraries and books.

The Book of Sand
The line consists of an infinite number of points; the plane, of an infinite number of lines; the volume, of an infinite number of planes; the hypervolume, of an infinite number of volumes…
A man comes across an ordinary-looking book, but finds that it actually has an infinite number of pages. Each time he opens the book, it is not the same. How can he deal with something that defies logic?

The Rose of Paracelsus
Down in his laboratory, to which the two rooms of the cellar had been given over, Paracelsus prayed to his God, his indeterminate God—any God—to send him a disciple.
A story about alchemy and alchemists.

Hakim the Masked Dyer of Merv
A certain dyer of fabric disappears in mysterious circumstances, and comes back wearing a mask and claims he saw the wonders of heaven. The people soon worship him, but the they soon unmask him and uncover the truth.

The Circular Ruins
No one saw him disembark in the unanimous night, no one saw the bamboo canoe sink into the sacred mud, but in a few days there was no one who did not know that the taciturn man came from the South and that his home had been one of those numberless villages upstream in the deeply cleft side of the mountain, where the Zend language has not been contaminated by Greek and where leprosy is infrequent.
A man goes to the ruins of an ancient temple and tries to dream another man into being.

The Immortal
As I recall, my travails began in a garden in hundred-gated Thebes, in the time of the Emperor Diocletian.
A man travels to find the City of the Immortals and mythic water that grants eternal life. This is the longest of Borges' short stories and my favorite. 

The Writing of the god [link to Youtube audio]
The cell is deep and made of stone; its shape is that of an almost perfect hemisphere, although the floor is something less than a great circle, and this fact somehow deepens the sense of oppression and vastness.
The story is told by a shaman of a dead tribe who is imprisoned for life by the people who have conquered their land. He is inside a chamber with a jaguar, they are separated by a wall. With no other company than memory, he recalls everything of his life and his god. He recalls that there is one word the god uttered in the creation of the world that can prevent the destruction of the universe. He finds that the answer to this unknown word might lie in the skin of the jaguar.

The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths
Chroniclers worthy of trust have recorded (but only Allah is All-Knowing) that in former times there was a king of the isles of Babylon who called together his architects and his wizards and set them to build him a labyrinth so intricate that no wise man would dare enter inside, and so subtle that those who did would lose their way. 
This is a very short story, but still has power in so few words.

Blue Tigers
A famous poem by Blake paints the tiger as a fire burning bright and an eternal archetype of Evil; I prefer the Chesterton maxim that casts the tiger as a symbol of terrible elegance. 
A man goes to India in search of blue tigers haunting his dreams, but finds something else: blue coins that seem to lessen and multiply, impossible to count.

There are More Things
The story was written "in memory of H.P. Lovecraft", and it works well as a tribute. It made me want to read Lovecraft, and now I'm reading the whole collected short fiction written by H.P. Lovecraft (good thing his works are in the public domain) and that's the next book and stories I'll be writing about.

Note: Post updated 4/25/2020 to update broken links.

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  1. Additionally, thank you for posting this review of your favorite stories by Borges, JL. I am a student of Spanish, and I agree that he is of course an amazing giant of letters.