A fascinating journey that weaves together the familiar and the unfamiliar in literature to cast old questions in a new...

An elegant and deftly woven five-part lecture series that uses philosophic, etymological, and personal inquiry to offer an erudite and coherent exposition on the power and limitations of language with regard to the crafting of poetry.

Argentine magical realist Borges (Collected Fictions, 1998, etc.) delivered these lectures at Harvard in 1967–68 and the tapes were subsequently lost. Edited by Harvard professor Calin-Andrei Mihailescu, these heretofore unpublished lectures provide a uniquely personal glimpse into the questions and riddles that preoccupied one of the most fascinating literary minds of the 20th century. The first four lectures grapple with the problematic notions of metaphor, translation, narration, and time, while the fifth ("A Poet's Creed") is an autobiographical account of his literary awakening and development (complete with a reading list). For these investigations, Borges draws on a mind-boggling body of works, from Keats, Baudelaire, Plato, and Cervantes to Rafael Cansinos-Asséns, Omar Khayyám, Chuan Tzu, and Lucan, and from literary traditions as disparate as Norse mythology, the Kabbalah, and Indian philosophy. Perhaps most impressive is the way Borges manages, through a delicate balance of humility and clarity, to make his vast literary resources available to a lay audience. It is that same humility, however, manifest in the self-effacing disclaimers that qualify so many of his observations ("I am sure you know much more about these things than I do," "I think you are quite mistaken if you admire my writing," etc.), that interrupts the otherwise almost seamless marriage of logic to reference, painting this collection with a disconcerting veneer of artifice. His engaging and seemingly simple tone is a double-edged sword that both renders him accessible and simultaneously diffuses the impact of some of his boldest and most interesting arguments—such as postmodernism signifying the death of the novel and the history of literature impeding the appreciation of beauty.

A fascinating journey that weaves together the familiar and the unfamiliar in literature to cast old questions in a new light and supplement our understanding of a complex literary mind.

Pub Date: Sept. 1, 2000

ISBN: 0-674-00290-3

Page Count: 160

Publisher: Harvard Univ.

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: July 15, 2000



This is not the Nutcracker sweet, as passed on by Tchaikovsky and Marius Petipa. No, this is the original Hoffmann tale of 1816, in which the froth of Christmas revelry occasionally parts to let the dark underside of childhood fantasies and fears peek through. The boundaries between dream and reality fade, just as Godfather Drosselmeier, the Nutcracker's creator, is seen as alternately sinister and jolly. And Italian artist Roberto Innocenti gives an errily realistic air to Marie's dreams, in richly detailed illustrations touched by a mysterious light. A beautiful version of this classic tale, which will captivate adults and children alike. (Nutcracker; $35.00; Oct. 28, 1996; 136 pp.; 0-15-100227-4)

Pub Date: Oct. 28, 1996

ISBN: 0-15-100227-4

Page Count: 136

Publisher: Harcourt

Review Posted Online: May 19, 2010

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Aug. 15, 1996




An extravaganza in Bemelmans' inimitable vein, but written almost dead pan, with sly, amusing, sometimes biting undertones, breaking through. For Bemelmans was "the man who came to cocktails". And his hostess was Lady Mendl (Elsie de Wolfe), arbiter of American decorating taste over a generation. Lady Mendl was an incredible person,- self-made in proper American tradition on the one hand, for she had been haunted by the poverty of her childhood, and the years of struggle up from its ugliness,- until she became synonymous with the exotic, exquisite, worshipper at beauty's whrine. Bemelmans draws a portrait in extremes, through apt descriptions, through hilarious anecdote, through surprisingly sympathetic and understanding bits of appreciation. The scene shifts from Hollywood to the home she loved the best in Versailles. One meets in passing a vast roster of famous figures of the international and artistic set. And always one feels Bemelmans, slightly offstage, observing, recording, commenting, illustrated.

Pub Date: Feb. 23, 1955

ISBN: 0670717797

Page Count: -

Publisher: Viking

Review Posted Online: Oct. 25, 2011

Kirkus Reviews Issue: Feb. 1, 1955

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