Book of Imaginary Beings

By Jorge Luis Borges
  • Fantasy

The Argentinian, Jorge Luis Borges, was one of the greatest writers of the 20th century. A man of wide reading, he produced an enormous volume of work: poems, essays and the short stories delighting in bewildering paradoxes for which he is now best known. He was also the director of the Argentine National Library from 1955 to 1973. His immense erudition not to mention his access to that library’s shelves, is displayed to great effect in what is perhaps his most delightful and enchanting work, The Book of Imaginary Beings. First published in 1957, Borges gradually added to its entries in subsequent editions and in its final version of 120 entries gives the reader a modern bestiary of fantastic creatures taken from literature, legends and folklore from around the world. As Borges notes in his preface, it is not a book to be read through rather “we should like the reader to dip into these pages at random, just as one plays with the shifting patterns of a kaleidoscope.” Alongside the more familiar fantastic creatures of myth such as centaurs and unicorns, Borges introduces us to more obscure animals such as the Teakettler, a small dog with the ears of a cat, that walks backwards with steam coming from its mouth which whistles like a kettle. Or the Gillygaloo, a bird which nests on mountainsides that lays square eggs which miners use as dice. A must read for those who delight in fantasy or mythology.

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