book reviews by Althea

Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius – Jorge Luis Borges *****

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Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius
Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius by Jorge Luis Borges

My rating: 5 of 5 stars

At work, I have a book called “Building the Uqbar Dinghy.” It had never occurred to me, although I was aware of this Borges story’s existence, that before the publication of this boatbuilding book, there was no such thing as an Uqbar dinghy. Now there is – presumably. Of course, that’s exactly what the author was getting at when he titled the book (Borges is credited).

“Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius” is a wonderful musing on the relationships between ideas, the written word, and reality. The narrator tells the reader of discovering a seemingly unique article slipped into a single copy of an encyclopedia, detailing (but vaguely) the profile of a country called Uqbar. As it turns out, Uqbar may not exist (or, may not have existed?) in our world, but may exist in a parallel world called Tlön. Tlön may be wholly the invention of a secret group of intellectuals who have conspired to create a hidden imaginary history – but their fabulist inventions seem to be sneakily creeping their way into our existence.

The story is aesthetically appealing to any lover of fantasy worlds – and any bibliophile. It’s delightfully multi-layered, with truth and fiction inextricably tangled. And it’s beautifully written.

Read due to its nomination for the 1941 Retro-Hugos. This one gets my vote.

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