I couple weeks back I reviewed The Book of Sand, the short story masterpiece from Jorge Luis Borges, in an amazing fine press production from Nawakum Press. This got me in the mood for more from Borges, and there is no better place to turn for such then his classic short story collection Ficciones, in a 1984 edition from the Limited Editions Club (LEC). This edition is beautifully bound in soft, black cowhide and contains silk-screened art work, three dimensional geometric forms, from Sol LeWitt, one of the most influential artists of the twentieth century. LeWitt also designed the volume himself, from the size of the pages to the typeface used.
Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) was an Argentinean writer, poet and essayist, best known for his works Ficciones (1944) and The Aleph (1949). He is one of the most acclaimed writers of the twentieth century and is considered one of the greatest Latin American writers of all time. His work is best placed in the genres of magical realism and philosophical literature. His writings have been referred to as ‘ontological enigmas’ incorporating fantastic and dreamlike elements woven into everyday realities. Borges won numerous writing prizes, including Prix International, and other honors, such as the French Legion of Honour. Borges was Director of the National Library of Argentina for 18 years. With all these accomplishments, it is remarkable that Borges was blind from 1950 until his death.
The stories in Ficciones share many common themes as Borges liked to think abstractly about time, conceptions of reality and complexities of the world and universe around him. The fantastic elements of the stories are written in a ‘matter of fact’ style which imparts a naturalness about them. Here are some samples of his writing:
From ‘Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius’:
One of the schools in Tlön has reached the point of denying time. It reasons that the present is undefined, that the future has no other reality than as present hope, and that the past is no more than present memory. Another school decalres that the whole of time has already happened and that our life is a vague memory or dim reflection, doubtless false and fragmented, of an irrevocable process…
One of the heresiarchs of Uqbar had stated that mirrors and copulation are abominable, since they both multiply the numbers of man.
I have said that the men of this planet conceive the universe as a series of mental processes which do not develop in space but successively in time.
From ‘Funes, The Memorious’:
…he looked without seeing, heard without hearing, forgot everything — almost everything.
From ‘The Secret Miracle’:
Then he would reflect that reality does not tend to coincide with forecasts about it.
From ‘The Garden of Forking Paths’:
Writing long books is a laborious and impoverishing act of foolishness: expanding in five hundred pages an idea that could be perfectly explained in a few minutes. A better procedure is to pretend that those books already exist and to offer a summary, a commentary.
From ‘The Form of the Sword‘:
What one man does is something done, in some measure, by all men. For that reason a disobedience committed in a garden contaminates the human race; for that reason it is not unjust that the crucifixion of a single Jew suffices to save it.
From ‘The South‘:
Reality favors symmetries and slight anachronisms….The first fresh tang of autumn, after the summer’s oppressiveness. seemed like a symbol in nature of his rescue and release from fever and death.
Sol LeWitt (1928-2007), as a founder of both both Minimal and Conceptual art, is one of the major artists of the twentieth century. Over the past fifty years, his work has been part of hundreds of exhibitions in museums and galleries around the world. His artistic focus included drawing (including wall drawings), sculptures (what he called “structures”), printmaking, photography and painting. His work in the LEC’s Ficciones is meant to represent, according to the LEC’s Monthly Letter that accompanied the book, “an art of infinite allusion”, similar to that of these stories from Borges . In ‘The Library of Babel‘, Borges says “The universe (which others call the Library) is composed of an indefinite and perhaps infinite number of hexagonal galleries…” LeWitt certainly captures that.
About the Edition
- Designed by Sol Lewitt
- Drawings silk-screened by Jo Watanabe
- Set in Cloister Bold in linotype by Mackenzie – Harris Corp.
- Printed at The Anthoensen Press
- Printed on white wove letterpress paper made by the Mohawk Mills
- Paper used for the prints is Somerset Satin
- Bound by A. Horowitz & Sons, silkscreens tipped in by hand
- Full bound in black cowhide
- Covers assembled and blind stamped at Gilmore Leather products
- Limited to 1500 copies, signed by Sol Lewitt
Pictures of the Edition
(All pictures on Books and Vines are exclusively provided, under fair use, to highlight and visualize the review/criticism of the work being reviewed. A side benefit, hopefully, is providing education on the historical and cultural benefits of having a healthy fine press industry and in educating people on the richness that this ‘old school approach’ of book publishing brings to the reading process. Books and Vines has no commercial stake or financial interest in any publisher, retailer or work reviewed on this site and receives no commercial interest or compensation for Books and Vines. Please note that works photographed are copyrighted by the publisher, author and/or illustrator as indicated in the articles. Permission to use contents from these works for anything outside of fair use purposes must come directly from the copyright owner and no permission is granted or implied to use photo’s or material found on Books and Vines for any purpose that would infringe on the rights of the copyright owner.)