Jorge Luis Borges’ Favorite Short Stories (Read 7 Free Online)

borges-personal-art of poetry

Image by Grete Stern via Wiki­me­dia Com­mons

In Jorge Luis Borges’ short sto­ry “The Library of Babel,” the tit­u­lar library con­tains “all that it is giv­en to express, in all lan­guages”:

Every­thing: the minute­ly detailed his­to­ry of the future, the archangels’ auto­bi­ogra­phies, the faith­ful cat­a­logue of the Library, thou­sands and thou­sands of false cat­a­logues… the trans­la­tion of every book in all lan­guages, the inter­po­la­tions of every book in all books.

As well as an iron­ic alle­gor­i­cal take on the New­ton­ian notion of the uni­verse as leg­i­ble and orga­nized, Borges’ sto­ry enacts his expe­ri­ence of a life lived almost entire­ly inside lit­er­a­ture as one of the most eru­dite writ­ers, essay­ists, and librar­i­ans of all time. Borges was not only intim­i­dat­ing­ly wide­ly-read, but his crit­i­cal opin­ions were noto­ri­ous­ly idio­syn­crat­ic and con­trar­i­an. He pre­ferred the obscure to the wide­ly cel­e­brat­ed, cas­ti­gat­ing, for exam­ple, admir­ers of Baude­laire as “imbe­ciles” (accord­ing to his long­time friend and biog­ra­ph­er Adol­fo Bioy Casares) while pro­fess­ing his own admi­ra­tion for Baudelaire’s one­time friend, the morose and unpleas­ant zeal­ous Catholic con­vert Leon Bloy.

But in addi­tion to his pen­chant for writ­ers no one reads, Borges also loved more pop­ulist writ­ers like G.K. Chester­ton and Rud­yard Kipling and had the canons of sev­er­al Euro­pean lit­er­a­tures mem­o­rized, not to men­tion the labyrinthine works of sev­er­al medieval Catholic philoso­phers and all of Spin­oza. In short, his tastes were unpre­dictable and entire­ly his own, untaint­ed by any ges­tures toward fash­ion or pub­lic sen­ti­ment. And that is why he is an excel­lent guide to the genre of writ­ing that his name has become asso­ci­at­ed with more than any oth­er: that of spec­u­la­tive fic­tion or “fan­tas­tic tales.” In 1979, Borges edit­ed a col­lec­tion of such writ­ing, in 33 vol­umes, in Span­ish (though per­haps orig­i­nal­ly in Ital­ian). Each vol­ume is devot­ed to a selec­tion of works from a sin­gle author (includ­ing Borges him­self, vol­ume 2) or to a geo­graph­i­cal dis­tri­b­u­tion, such as “Russ­ian Tales” (vol­ume 29) and “Argen­tin­ian Tales” (vol­ume 30).

In a 2009 piece for The Rum­pus, Grant Mon­roe details his attempt to track down the con­tents of this mas­sive anthol­o­gy, called, after Borges’ sto­ry, The Library of Babel. While the col­lec­tion is con­sid­er­ably less impen­e­tra­ble, “indef­i­nite and per­haps infi­nite” than the library-world of his famous sto­ry, it is nonethe­less daunt­ing, and one could get lost in its cor­ri­dors for sev­er­al months. Below, you can find a list of sev­en select­ed stories—with links to online versions—very rough­ly rep­re­sen­ta­tive of the breadth and strange depths of Borges’ cura­to­r­i­al imag­i­na­tion. Then see the full con­tents of The Library of Babel anthol­o­gy below the jump.

1. Auguste Vil­liers de l’Isle-Adam, “A Tor­ture by Hope

A con­tem­po­rary and friend of Borges’ detest­ed Baude­laire, Vil­liers de l’Isle-Adam was just the kind of down-at-heel aris­to­crat­ic roué whom every­one imag­ines when think­ing of French sym­bol­ist poet­ry. Great­ly influ­enced by Poe, his Cru­el Tales, from which the sto­ry above comes, is a col­lec­tion of most­ly mys­ti­cal sto­ries.

2. Pu Songling, “The Tiger Guest

This 17th cen­tu­ry Chi­nese writer was much-beloved by Borges, and his influ­ence on the latter’s work is patent­ly evi­dent from a cur­so­ry scan of the titles in Pu’s col­lec­tion, Strange Sto­ries from a Chi­nese Stu­dio.

3. Charles Hin­ton, “A Plane World

Hin­ton, a British math­e­mati­cian and sci-fi writer who was much inter­est­ed in the fourth dimen­sion and who coined the word “tesser­act,” wrote spec­u­la­tive fic­tion deeply informed by physics and math­e­mat­ics, often com­plete with dia­grams, as in the above short work, one of nine pam­phlets pub­lished as Sci­en­tif­ic Romances.  Hin­ton is men­tioned in at least two of Borges’ sto­ries.

4. Fyo­dor Dos­to­evsky, “The Croc­o­dile: An Extra­or­di­nary Inci­dent

One does not gen­er­al­ly think of Dos­to­evsky as a writer of “fan­tas­tic tales,” nor, for that mat­ter, of short fic­tion. But Borges includes this lit­tle-known short in his vol­ume of Russ­ian Tales.

5. Arthur Machen, The Shin­ing Pyra­mid

Briefly asso­ci­at­ed with British occultists like A.E. Waite and exert­ing a great deal of influ­ence on Aleis­ter Crow­ley, H.P. Love­craft, and gen­er­a­tions of genre writ­ers, Welsh writer Arthur Machen was also a favorite of Borges.

6. Voltaire, “Micromegas

Every­one is famil­iar with Voltaire the philoso­pher and satirist, but few know of his con­tri­bu­tion to the devel­op­ment of sci­ence fic­tion with his sev­en-part sto­ry “Micromegas,” the tale of a 20,000 foot tall alien ban­ished from his world for heresy.

7. Leopol­do Lugones, “Yzur

This Argen­tin­ian writer was a major influ­ence on Borges. Although he receives his own edit­ed vol­ume in the anthol­o­gy (vol­ume 19), this sto­ry appears in vol­ume 30, “Argen­tin­ian Tales.”

Relat­ed Con­tent:

Borges: Pro­file of a Writer Presents the Life and Writ­ings of Argentina’s Favorite Son, Jorge Luis Borges

Jorge Luis Borges’ 1967–8 Nor­ton Lec­tures On Poet­ry (And Every­thing Else Lit­er­ary)

Two Draw­ings by Jorge Luis Borges Illus­trate the Author’s Obses­sions

18 (Free) Books Ernest Hem­ing­way Wished He Could Read Again for the First Time      

Josh Jones is a writer and musi­cian based in Durham, NC. Fol­low him at @jdmagness

List via The Rum­pus

The Library of Babel

1. Jack Lon­don, The Con­cen­tric Deaths

“The Min­ions of Midas”

“The Shad­ow and the Flash”

“Lost Face”

“The House of Mapuhi”

“The Law of Life”


2. Jorge Luis Borges, August 26, 1983

“August 26, 1983″

“The Rose of Per­acel­sus”

“Blue Tigers”

“Shakespeare’s Mem­o­ry”

An Inter­view with Borges, with Maria Esther Vasquez

A Chronol­o­gy of J.L. Borges’ Life, from Siru­ela Mag­a­zine

The Ruler and Labyrinth: An Approx­i­ma­tion of J.L Borges’ Bib­li­og­ra­phy, by Fer­nan­dez Fer­rer


3.  Gus­tav Meyrink, Car­di­nal Napel­lus

“Der Kar­di­nal Napel­lus”

“J.H. Obere­its Besuch bei den Zeit­egeln”

“Der Vier Mond­brüder”


4.  Léon Bloy, Dis­agree­able Tales

“La Taie d’Argent”

“Les Cap­tifs de Longjumeau”

“Une Idée Médiocre”

“Une Mar­tyre”

“La Plus Belle Trou­vaille de Caïn”

“On n’est pas Par­fait”

“La Reli­gion de M. Pleur”

“Ter­ri­ble Châ­ti­ment d’un Den­tiste”

“La Tisane”

“Tout Ce Que Tu Voudras!”

“La Dernière Cuite”

“Le Vieux de la Mai­son”


5.  Gio­van­ni Pap­i­ni, The Mir­ror That Fled

“Il Giorno Non Resti­tu­ito”

“Due Immag­i­ni in una Vas­ca”

“Lo Spec­chio che Fugge”

“Sto­ria Com­ple­ta­mente Assur­da”

“Il Men­di­cante di Ani­me”

“Una Morte Men­tale”

“Non Voglio Più Essere Ciò che Sono”

“Chi Sei?”

“Il Sui­ci­da Sos­ti­tu­to”

“L’ultima Visi­ta del Gen­tilu­o­mo Mala­to”


6.  Oscar Wilde, Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime

“Lord Arthur Savile’s Crime”

“The Can­ter­ville Ghost”

“The Self­ish Giant”

“The Hap­py Prince”

“The Nightin­gale and the Rose”


7.  Vil­liers de L’Isle-Adam, El Con­vi­da­do de las Últi­mas Fes­ti­vas

“L’Aventure de Tsé-i-la”

“Le Con­vive des Dernières Fêtes”

“A Tor­ture By Hope”

“La Reine Ysabeau”

“Som­bre Réc­it Con­teur Plus Som­bre”




8.  Pedro Anto­nio de Alar­cón, El Ami­go de la Muerte

“El Ami­go de la Muerte” [or “The Strange Friend of Tito Gil”]

“The Tall Woman”


9.  Her­man Melville, Bartle­by the Scriven­er

“Bartle­by, the Scriven­er: A Sto­ry of Wall-Street”


10.  William Beck­ford, Vathek

Vathek, a novel­la.


11.  H.G. Wells, The Door in the Wall

“The Plat­tner Sto­ry”

“The Sto­ry of Late Mr. Elve­sham”

“The Crys­tal Egg”

“The Coun­try of the Blind”

“The Door in the Wall”


12.  Pu Songling, The Tiger Guest

“The Bud­dhist Priest of Ch’ang-Ch’ing”

“In the Infer­nal Regions”

“The Mag­ic Mir­ror”

“A Super­nat­ur­al Wife”

“Exam­i­na­tion for the Post of Guardian Angel”

“The Man Who Was Changed into a Crow”

“The Tiger Guest”

“Judge Lu”

“The Paint­ed Skin”

“The Stream of Cash”

“The Invis­i­ble Priest”

“The Mag­ic Path”

“The Wolf Dream”

“Dream­ing Hon­ors”

“The Tiger of Chao-Ch’ëng”

“Tak­ing Revenge”


13.  Arthur Machen, The Shin­ing Pyra­mid

“The Nov­el of the Black Seal”

“The Nov­el of the White Pow­der”

“The Shin­ing Pyra­mid”


14.  Robert Louis Steven­son, The Isle of Voic­es

“The Bot­tle Imp”

“The Isle of Voic­es”

“Thrawn Janet”



15.  G.K. Chester­ton, The Eye of Apol­lo

“The Duel of Dr Hirsch”

“The Queer Feet”

“The Hon­or of Israel Gow”

“The Eye of Apol­lo”

“The Three Horse­men of the Apoc­a­lypse”


16.  Jacques Cazotte, The Dev­il in Love

The Dev­il in Love, a novel­la.

“Jacquez Cazotte,” an essay by Ger­ard de Ner­val


17.  Franz Kaf­ka, The Vul­ture

“The Hunger Artist”

“First Sor­row” [or “The Trapeze Artist”]

“The Vul­ture”

“A Com­mon Con­fu­sion”

“Jack­als and Arabs”

“The Great Wall of Chi­na”

“The City Coat of Arms”

“A Report to the Acad­e­my”

“Eleven Sons”



18.  Edgar Allan Poe, The Pur­loined Let­ter

“The Pur­loined Let­ter”

“Ms. Found in a Bot­tle”

“The Facts in the Case of M. Valde­mar”

“The Man in the Crowd”

“The Pit and the Pen­du­lum”


19.  Leopol­do Lugones, The Pil­lar of Salt

“The Pil­lar of Salt”

“Grand­moth­er Juli­eta”

“The Hors­es of Abdera”

“An Inex­plic­a­ble Phe­nom­e­non”


“Rain of Fire: An Account of the Immo­la­tion of Gomor­ra”


20.  Rud­yard Kipling, The Wish House

“The Wish House”

“A Sahib’s War”

“The Gar­den­er”

“The Madon­na of the Trench­es”

“The Eye of Allah”


21.  The Thou­sand and One Nights, Accord­ing to Gal­land

“Abdu­la, the Blind Beg­gar”

“Alladin’s Lamp”


22.  The Thou­sand and One Nights, Accord­ing to Bur­ton

“King Sin­bad and His Fal­con”

“The Adven­tures of Bul­ulkia”

“The City of Brass”

“Tale of the Queen and the Ser­pent”

“Tale of the Hus­band and the Par­rot”

“Tale of the Jew­ish Doc­tor”

“Tale of the Ensor­celled Prince”

“Tale of the Prince and the Ogres”

“Tale of the Wiz­ir and the Wise Duban”

“The Fish­er­man and the Genii”


23.  Hen­ry James, The Friends of the Friends

“The Friends of the Friends”

“The Abase­ment of the North­mores”

“Owen Wingrave”

“The Pri­vate Life”


24.  Voltaire, Micromegas

“The Black and the White”

“The Two Con­forters”

“The His­to­ry of the Trav­els of Scara­men­ta­do”

“Mem­non the Philoso­pher”


“The Princess of Baby­lon”


25.  Charles Hin­ton, Sci­en­tif­ic Romances

“A Plane World”

“What is the Fourth Dimen­sion?”

“The Per­sian King”


26.  Nathaniel Hawthorne, The Great Stone Face

“Mr. Higginbotham’s Cat­a­stro­phe”

“The Great Stone Face”

“Earth’s Holo­caust”

“The Minister’s Black Veil”



27.  Lord Dun­sany, The Coun­try of Yann

“Where the Tides Ebb and Flow”

“The Sword and the Idol”


“Idle Days on the Yann”

“The Field”

“The Beg­gars”

“The Bureau d’Echange de Maux”

“A Night at an Inn”


28.  Saki, The Ret­i­cence of Lady Anne

“The Sto­ry-Teller”

“The Lum­ber Room”



“The Back­ground” [trans­lat­ed as “El Mar­co” (or “The Frame”)]

“The Unrest Cure”

“The Inter­lop­ers”

“Quail Seed”

“The Peace of Mowsle Bar­ton”

“The Open Win­dow”

“The Ret­i­cence of Lady Anne”

“Sred­ni Vashtar”


29.  Russ­ian Tales

“Lazarus”, Leonid Andreyev

“The Croc­o­dile”, Fydor Doesto­evsky

“The Death of Ivan Illitch”, Leo Tol­stoy


30.  Argen­tinean Tales

“El Cala­mar Opta por su Tin­ta,” Adol­fo Bioy Casares

“Yzur,” Leopol­do Lugones [See above.]

“A House Tak­en Over”, Julio Cor­tazar

“La Galera,” Manuel Muji­ca Láinez

“Los Objec­tos,” Silv­ina D’a­cam­po

“El Pro­fe­sor de Aje­drez,” Fed­eri­co Peltzer

“Pudo Haberme Ocur­ri­do,” Manuel Pey­rou

“El Elegi­do,” Maria Esther Vasquez


31.  J.L. Borges and Adol­fo Bioy Casares, New Sto­ries of H. Bus­tos Domecq


32.  The Book of Dreams (A Col­lec­tion of Recount­ed Dreams)

List of Authors: Fran­cis­co de Queve­do y Vil­le­gas, Alexan­dra David-Néel, Alfon­so X, Alfred de Vigny, Aloy­sius Bertrand, Anto­nio Macha­do, Bern­abé Cobo, D. F. Sarmien­to, Eliseo Díaz, Fran­cis­co Aceve­do, François Rabelais, Franz Kaf­ka, Friedrich Niet­zsche, Gastón Padil­la, Giuseppe Ungaret­ti, Got­tfried Keller, H. Desvi­gnes Doolit­tle, Her­bert Allen Giles, Herodotus, H. Gar­ro, Horace, Ibrahim Zahim [Ibrahim Bin Adham], James G. Fraz­er, Jorge Alber­to Fer­ran­do, Jorge Luis Borges, José Fer­rater Mora, José María Eça de Queiroz, Joseph Addi­son, Juan José Arreo­la, Lewis Car­roll, Lao Tzu, Louis Aragon, Lui­gi Piran­del­lo, Luis de Gón­go­ra, Mircea Eli­ade, Moham­mad Mossadegh, Nemer ibn el Barud [no Wiki entry; see Ama­zon com­ment field], O. Hen­ry, Otto von Bis­mar­ck, Paul Grous­sac, Pla­to, Plutarch, Rab­bi Nis­sim ben Reuven, Ray­mond de Beck­er,  Roder­i­cus Bar­tius, Roy Bartholomew, Samuel Tay­lor Coleridge, Sebastián de Covar­ru­bias Oroz­co, Thorn­ton Wilder, Lucretius, Tsao Hsue Kin [Cao Xue­qin], Ward Hill Lam­on, William But­ler Yeats, Wu Cheng’en, Gio­van­ni Pap­i­ni, Nathaniel Hawthorne, Charles Baude­laire


33.  Borges A to Z (A Com­pi­la­tion)

(Con­tents unknown.)

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