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218Philosophy and Literature volution. For these reasons, many readers will find her book tiresome and inaccessible. This is a pity, since Burger has real insights into Plato's authorship, which are worthy of being articulated in a clearer and less self-indulgent way. University College of Wales, AberystwythChristopher Gill Borges and His Fiction: A Guide to His Mind and Art, by Gene H. Bell-Villada; xx & 292 pp. Chapel Hill: University of North Carolina Press, 1981, $19.00 hardbound, $10.00 paper. In his preface, Mr. Bell-Villada labels his particular analytical method one of"practical criticism." This, he argues, eschews the arcane twists of recent critical theories, explicates Borges's texts "story-by-story," sensibly examines Borges's personal life, and places his oeuvre within its cultural and political framework. While Bell-Villada's book does function as a partial guide through the labyrinth of Borges's literary art, his "practical criticism" approach appears to be more polemical than practical. There are obvious gaps in the guide. Over half of Bell-Villada's book is taken up with explications of each of Borges's famous short stories written and published in the i940s. The author provides only the barest explications of the stories published after 1950, and the fiction published since 1960 is judged artistically inferior. Since most of us are already acquainted with Borges's earlier literary work, it is disappointing not to learn more about his more recent writing. But Bell-Villada does complete one of the tasks he has undertaken — a step-by-step guide to the stories from Ficciones and El Aleph. While I doubt that these explications reveal any noteworthy new insights to the Borges scholar, they do provide helpful information to the nonexpert teacher who is expected to explain the complex allusions in these stories. Coupled with Bell-Villada's rejection of literary-critical scholasticism is his "sensible" approach to Borges the man. Bell-Villada's portraits are brief and, as far as I can discern from a reading of Rodriguez Monegal's biography of Borges, accurate. The author incorporates a wide range of information about Borges by quoting from his own and other interviews with Borges, trying to be fair to a personality whose political attitudes verge on the reactionary. But Bell-Villada is more interested in the cultural position from which Borges writes than his personal political commitments which, as Bell-Villada admits, seem naive and out of step with other Latin American intellectuals. In the final chapter, Bell-Villada suggests that Borges has inherited the values of the middle-class Anglo-Hispanic, and these are the cultural as well as political denominators of his original and cerebral literary style. But Bell-Villada also believes that while Borges has the reputation of a philosophical writer, he is not a systematic or precise thinker. In Bell-Villada's view, Borges is more interested in the shape of ideas than in their content. He describes Borges as a cataloger and compiler of philosophical ideas, not as a writer who entertains any serious philosophical theories or systems. In the explications of the short stories, Bell-Villada does track down and explain the literary allusions to philosophers and philosophical ideas. He does not attempt to assemble these allusions into a coherent philosophy. Reviews219 Bell-Villada is a polemicist more than an astute critic when he speculates on Borges's place in American literature. Particularly in the last chapter, "Literature and Politics North and South," he is given to dropping impressionistic bombs such as the following: "The American 1950s were a desert, a bleak stretch relieved only by one or two entertainments by Nabokov; for barrenness, few literary epochs can match the Cold War years. The quiet arrival of Borges's Englished fiction was to make a key difference for the 1960s; his dreamlike artifices helped stimulate a writing culture all too steeped in WASPsuburban metaphysics and Jewish-novel neorealism" (p. 268). Despite such sensational remarks, the book is worth a serious reading. Bell-Villada's "practical" views are guaranteed to raise hackles and eyebrows among professional critics. But there is much useful information here which should not be overlooked. Midway CollegeWilliam Slaymaker Nietzsche On Tragedy, by...

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Additional Information

ISSN
1086-329X
Print ISSN
0190-0013
Pages
pp. 218-219
Launched on MUSE
2011-10-05
Open Access
No
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