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• • • Being a journal by artist and designer John Coulthart, cataloguing interests, obsessions and passing enthusiasms.


 

Books Borges never wrote

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Design by Hector Haralambous.

The composition of vast books is a laborious and impoverishing extravagance. To go on for five hundred pages developing an idea whose perfect oral exposition is possible in a few minutes! A better course of procedure is to pretend that these books already exist, and then to offer a resume, a commentary… More reasonable, more inept, more indolent, I have preferred to write notes upon imaginary books.

Jorge Luis Borges

Borges was true to his intention in scattering invented volumes throughout his work, a number of the ficciones either have invented books as their subjects or use them to propel the narrative. Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius is perhaps the most elaborate example, the story in which Borges invents an encyclopedia which is itself being invented to prove a philosophical point. My favourite Borges site at The Modern Word has a page detailing some of the imaginary volumes. Invented books naturally suggest invented book covers. Several years ago another Borges site took up the challenge for the latter which is where the examples above and below originate. The site is now defunct but its pages can be seen mostly intact thanks to the Internet Archive. The book covers are here and here. The designs for the most part could have been better, although they don’t look any worse than some of the poorly-designed covers for genuine books now flooding the web thanks to print-on-demand and electronic publishing.

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Design by George Kranitis.

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The Spanish language edition of the Thackery T Lambshead Pocket Guide to Invented and Discredited Diseases (1977).

All of which reminded me of my own fake Borges covers from 2003, supposedly Borges’ own compilations of The Thackery T Lambshead Pocket Guide to Invented and Discredited Diseases, the fake disease guide edited by Jeff VanderMeer and Mark Roberts. These were created in colour but printed in black-and-white. Since they’ve appeared here before I’ve included links this time to larger copies. In a detail that Borges might have appreciated the idea for the disease guide came about after Modern Word editor Allen B. Ruch, who often manifests as The Great Quail, remarked to Jeff VanderMeer that “I think I have contracted Mad Quail Disease”. You have to be cautious with casual quips to writers, you never know where they might lead.

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An English paperback reprint of the Borges edition (1979).

Update: While we’re on the subject… Remember the Fake Books from The Royal Tenenbaums? Here They Are!

Elsewhere on { feuilleton }
The book covers archive

Previously on { feuilleton }
Borges and I
Recovering Viriconium
Forbidden volumes
Pasticheur’s Addiction

 


 

Posted in {books}, {borges}, {design}, {fantasy}, {work}.

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4 comments or trackbacks

  1. #1 posted by Gregory

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    I was surprised to see “Confessions of a Thug” on the “Books Borges Never Wrote” website. That’s actually a real novel by Philip Meadows Taylor which popularized the idea of the Thugee in the Western World. At least I think…maybe Borges is just that clever that he can retroactively effect history.

  2. #2 posted by John

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    And copies are available at the Internet Archive… Maybe it’s a test: spot the real one among the fakes. Either that or, like the invented encyclopedia, his invented books are starting to manifest for real.

  3. #3 posted by Michelangelo

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    The mediocre design somehow makes them feel more real – like rummaging in a second hand store.

  4. #4 posted by John

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    They make me think of university books which often reprint very serious and highly-regarded texts with perfunctory cover designs.

 


 

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