TABLE OF CONTENTS

PRINT May 1985

books

Ficciones

“Obviously Borges and . . . LeWitt have traveled to the same remote and pristine territories by different, circuitous routes,” said Alastair Reid in the newsletter of the Limited Editions Club; it was Reid who suggested the pairing of Jorge Luis Borges’ Ficciones (1945) with the drawings of Sol LeWitt. Alexander Coleman’s introductory essay for this elegant, limited-edition volume evades this most important convergence between Borges and LeWitt: the questioning of the models of reason that forms the basis of modern thought. Moreover, the rarefied, estheticized character of the presentation—the black cowhide binding, the finest papers and printing techniques—is intoxicating to the point of obscuring the underlying subversiveness of both image and text. (“Don Quixote,” writes Borges in one of the Ficciones, “was above all an agreeable book; now it is an occasion for patriotic toasts, grammatical arrogance and obscene deluxe editions.”) In the “Library of Babel,” one of the 17 short narratives, Borges envisions a maze of endless corridors and shelves, a vast library of unintelligible books. Borges accepts no system as fundamentally true: “There is no intellectual exercise,” he writes, “which is not ultimately useless.” Rather than science or logic, his insights provide a pathetic and painful sense of the limitations of modern reason. His tragedies of human intellect, his world of infinite regression,are mirrored by LeWitt’s drawings. Dynamically punctuating the narrative (LeWitt designed the layout of the book), the artist’s lattices read as baffling and meaningless, illustrating neither visual logic nor mathematical intelligibility. LeWitt’s simple math can offer no solutions, no ideals. In step with Borges’ disorientating tales, LeWitt builds labyrinths that lead nowhere.

Maurice Berger

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Jorge Luis Borges, Ficciones, trans. Ernece Editores, 1956, silkscreens by Sol LeWitt (New York: The Limited Editions Club, 1984), 306 pages, 20 black and white silkscreens.