Great news if you’re looking for a book—Borge’s Collected Fictions, linked below, is a comprehensive gathering of his shorter works.
Jorge Luis Borges Short Stories
“The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell”
Lazarus Morell was an evil man who worked near the Mississippi river. He was one of the poor whites during the days of slavery, but he was proud of his “untainted” blood. He engaged in various unethical schemes, but one in particular was shocking in its cruelty.
This story can be read in the preview of Collected Fictions. (Pg. 6)
“The Improbable Imposter Tom Castro”
Arthur Orton left London as a young man and went out to sea. He was a jovial and gentle idiot. In Sydney, he became acquainted with a servant, Ebenezer Bogle, a moderate and highly intelligent man. They became friends. In 1865, Bogle saw a report in the paper that gave him an idea.
This story can also be read in the above preview of Collected Fictions. (Pg. 13)
“The Widow Ching—Pirate”
In 1797, the pirate ships of the Yellow Sea formed a consortium, led by Captain Ching, the fleet admiral. They have great success. When Captain Ching gets poisoned, his widow encourages the crew to go into business for themselves. She’s voted the new admiral. Her leadership is strict, severe and successful.
This story can also be read in the preview of Collected Fictions. (Pg. 19)
“Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari, Murdered in His Labyrinth”
Dunraven, an author, and Unwin, a scholar, talk about the mystery around the death of Ibn-Hakam al-Bokhari, an important personage along the Nile. He died in the central chamber of a house at the hand of his cousin Sa’īd. Dunraven tells the man’s story. He accumulated a treasure from plundering and pillaging, and he murdered his cousin Sa’īd. With his last words, Sa’īd vowed to slay his killer.
“Death and the Compass”
Erik Lonnrot investigates a series of murders that involve Red Scharlach, a criminal who has sworn to kill Lonnrot. It begins when a rabbi is found dead in his room near the door with a stab wound to the chest. The police commissioner offers a simple explanation—a robber went to the wrong place and had to kill the rabbi. Lonnrot believes there’s a complex mystery to uncover. Supporting this theory is a message found in the typewriter.
Recabarren lies on his back in bed, paralyzed. Outside, a man plays the guitar. Through the window, Recabarren sees a horseman approaching. The guitar player knew he would come. He’s been waiting a long time.
“The End of the Duel”
The narrator tells the story as he heard it of Manuel Cardoso and Carmen Silveira, two men with adjacent properties who started quarrelling. Their grudge continued into a civil war where they fought on the same side.
“The Garden of Forking Paths”
When a German spy calls his contact, Runeberg, a different man answers—Captain Richard Madden, an English agent. Runeberg has been caught and his own cover has been blown. He’s discovered a secret, the location of a British artillery park. That vital information will die with him unless he can figure out a way to communicate it.
Borges recounts a meeting he had about three years prior. A man sat next to him on a bench. He believed it to be a younger version of himself. He tried to convince the other man of this.
“The Other Death”
The narrator gets the news that an ex soldier and man he once met, Pedro Damian, has died in his sixties. The man was known for his cowardice in battle. Later, he is told that Pedro Damian actually died over 40 years ago while courageously leading a charge into enemy territory. He investigates the discrepancy.
“Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”
The narrator, a French academic, outlines the works of Pierre Menard, an author. According to the narrator, these are merely Menard’s visible works. He is going to focus on what he believes to be the authors’ unparalleled achievement—some chapters of the novel Don Quixote.
“The Secret Miracle”
On March 19, 1939, an accusation is made against Jaromir Hladik, an author. He’s arrested that day and taken to a barracks. He can’t refute the charges. He’s sentenced to be executed by firing squad ten days later. Hladik is horrified but his concern soon shifts to his unfinished drama, The Enemies.
“The Shape of the Sword”
The narrator meets an Englishman while drinking. He has a terrible scar on his face. The narrator asks him how he got the scar. The man reveals he is actually Irish. He tells the story of his time with a group who were fighting for independence. They were joined by a new man, John Vincent Moon, who was inexperienced and immature.
“Story of the Warrior and the Captive”
The historian Paul the Deacon records a notable incident in the life of Droctulft, a Lombard warrior. During the siege of Ravenna, he left his own attacking force and died defending the city. Borges parallels this incident with another—an Englishwoman who was taken from her people.
“Tlon, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius”
Five years ago the narrator heard a quotation that originated from the country of Uqbar. His acquaintance remembered it from an encyclopedia entry. They search through the book, but can’t find the entry on the country. After some searching, they do find it. They’re surprised to learn it doesn’t appear in all copies of the book. He tries to locate more information about this country.
“The Two Kings and the Two Labyrinths”
A Babylonian king commissioned his architects and priests to build a labyrinth to confuse the most prudent of men. When he’s visited by an Arab king, he has him enter the labyrinth. The Arab king is humiliated by the experience. He tells the Babylonian king that he also has a labyrinth, and he will see to it that he gets to walk in it.
After the death of the woman he loves, the narrator begins visiting her father and first cousin, Carlos Daneri, every year. Daneri speaks on a variety of subjects, all of which the narrator views as meaningless. In particular, he reads and praises his own poetry. When he runs into a problem with his landlords, he reveals something shocking about his house.
The narrator has been uneasy with mirrors since childhood. He prayed that he wouldn’t dream of mirrors. He relates a story about the horror of mirrors. It involved a young woman, Julia, who he associated with for a while.
Read “Covered Mirrors”
“The Library of Babel”
The narrator’s universe, a Library, is made up of endless galleries full of books. He has been looking for one in particular. It contains every possible book that could ever be written. As a result, most of its contents are complete nonsense.