"... he thought that the rose was to be found in its own eternity and not in his words; and that we may mention or allude to a thing, but not express it."
After enjoying a few of Borges' short stories, I wanted to read more of him. Dreamtigers was a compulsive buy last week when Andy and I went to Barnes and Noble just as it was about to close. I usually spend a significant amount of time researching and deliberating over a book before purchasing it, but this slim volume immediately caught my eye. Mortimer J. Adler called Dreamtigers "one of the literary masterpieces of the twentieth century," and it is said to be Borges' most personal work.
The book is composed of poetry and short prose sketches (other reviews have called them "parables"). Though these pieces are on a variety of topics, from toenails to Shakespeare, they are unified by threads of Borges' insight. Borges treats this book as a kind of sketchbook illustrating his own philosophical thoughts: time, human nature, and perceptions of self are recurring topics. He also uses this book as an opportunity to engage in dialogues with the masters--comparisons between Homer's blindness and his own failing sight are made, and he also devotes several pieces to Shakespeare and Don Quixote.
I really enjoyed this book, and I'm glad I read it. I'm excited to read more Borges, in particular his master work Ficciones. The prose pieces in Dreamtigers were phenomenal. The poems were interesting as well, but did not illicit the same breathless response. This is when I wish I could read Spanish fluently, as I suspect the poems are better in the original language. The translator kept rhyming schemes intact, and I suspect that this might at times weakened the verse.
At only 96 pages, this is not a long book. That does not mean, however, that it is a light read. What strikes me most about Borges is his ability to pack so much into a single sentence. Every sentence is needed, every sentence has a purpose. The book might be small but it is certainly dense and will have you asking questions long after you finish it.