LITERATURE: Ficciones – An Examination of The Work of Herbert Quain

In this piece, Borges as first person narrator plays reviewer, critiquing the work of the dead Herbert Quain.

I’m not sure that even after a couple readings that I can give an intelligent commentary on this one.  Quain appears to be self-deprecating, but to a degree, correct in his evaluation.  There is what I suspect a tongue-in-cheek by Borges in a breakdown of 9 chapters that need be read in reverse order.  This is both a question of time sequence as well as reader ability to accept non-traditional structure.  Referencing other works, the narrator raises the question of linearity not only in writing, but perhaps in life as well.

According to the narrator, Quain has geared his work towards the curious and openminded reader and subtley hints that Quain is way beyond the comprehension of his reviewers.  Perhaps he is with Barthes on theory:

"Every European," he reasoned, "is a writer, potentially or in fact." He also affirmed that of the various pleasures offered by literature, the greatest is invention. (p. 78)

He further goes on to reveal writer manipulation of the reader, enabling his audience to get what they want out of the reading:

For these "imperfect writers," whose name is legion, Quain wrote the eight stories in Statements.  Each of them prefigures or promises a good plot, deliberately frustrated by the author.  One of them–not the best–insinuates two arguments.  The reader, led astray by vanity, thinks he has invented them.  (p. 78)

Sounds like something Jorge Luis Borges would do.

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2 Responses to LITERATURE: Ficciones – An Examination of The Work of Herbert Quain

  1. Creechman says:

    How do you find time to read and frame when you write this much? Lack of sleep?

  2. susan says:

    Focus + dedication = obsession.

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