|About the Book|
A fascinating compendium of incredible beasts from world mythology, folklore and fiction. The entries are generally from one to three pages in length. There are illustrations, too, by one Peter Sís- stylish intaglio etchings. The format is that of an encyclopedia with the entries in alphabetical order. My favorite entries include the Banshees, The Celestial Cock, The Chinese Dragon, The Western Dragon, The Hydra, Lilith, The Golem, The Unicorn, The Chinese Unicorn, etc. etc.This is a wonderful testment to the extraordinary breadth of Borgess reading, for which he was famous, as well his exquisite use of that hoary utility, the research library. You may recall that Borges was rewarded by the subsequent Aramburu régime with the directorship of the National Library in Buenos Aires for his public stance against Peron. I think his named collaborator here, Margarita Guerrero, was a researcher at that institution.Borges pores through the entire history of the written word from Gilgamesh onward to collect his examples. Theres a passage from Robert Graves translation of the Pharsalia to illustrate the entry of the Basilisk. We also find ourselves dipping into the Septaugint, the Old and New Testaments, Burtons Anatomy of Melancholy, the Babylonian Talmud, the other Burtons translation of A Thousand Nights and A Night, Thomas Browns Pseudodoxia Epidemica, as well as works by Pliny, Cellini, Marco Polo, Confucius, Leonardo, Herodotus, Homer, Tennyson, Hesiod, Dante, William Prescott and any number of Chinese and Indian and Arab writers.One note of caution. I went into this with my usual raging thirst for Borgesian narrative. The book in fact provides very little of that. What it offers in excess is a fascinating peek at Borgess astonishing erudition. Highly recommended.