THERE CANNOT BE many fiction writers of note whose complete works can be contained in one volume, and that slimmer than their biography. The Collected Fictions of Borges, published by Penguin, runs to just over 500 pages of text; Borges weighs in at 560. The biography is revelatory and will be of importance to students of the work; it is also often numbing and depressing reading. Such an important figure certainly deserves a full and exhaustive biography, but at times, reading page after page about the wrangling and feuds in the Buenos Aires literary world of the 1930s, or about the tawdry jungle of Argentinian politics, the reader begins to feel lost in some Borgesian airless, stuffy villa, the walls hung alternately with pictures of the longmakes forgotten dead and dim empty mirrors.
Jorge Luis Borges was born in 1899. His father - Jorge, a young lawyer at the time of his son's birth - was the son of a Colonel Borges who had fought and fallen in a civil war. His mother, Leonor, came from an old established family of criollo pedigree