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A Universal History of Infamy

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A Universal History of Infamy
First edition (1935)
AuthorJorge Luis Borges
Original titleHistoria universal de la infamia
TranslatorNorman Thomas di Giovanni
PublisherEditorial Tor (1935)
Emecé (1954)
Publication date
1935, 1954
Publication placeArgentina
Published in English
Media typePrint

A Universal History of Infamy, or A Universal History of Iniquity (original Spanish title: Historia universal de la infamia), is a collection of short stories by Argentine writer Jorge Luis Borges, first published in 1935, and revised by the author in 1954. Most were published individually in the newspaper Crítica between 1933 and 1934. Angel Flores, the first to use the term "magical realism", set the beginning of the movement with this book.[1]

The stories (except Hombre de la esquina rosada) are fictionalised accounts of real criminals. The sources are listed at the end of the book, but Borges makes many alterations in the retelling—arbitrary or otherwise—particularly to dates and names, so the accounts cannot be relied upon as historical. In particular, The Disinterested Killer diverges from its source material.

Two English translations exist, the first from 1972 and the second from 1999 (part of a collected edition, published as a separate book in 2004). The 1972 English edition (A Universal History of Infamy, ISBN 0-525-47546-X) was translated by Norman Thomas di Giovanni. The 2004 English edition (A Universal History of Iniquity, ISBN 0-14-243789-1), translated by Andrew Hurley, was published by Penguin Classics, a division of British publisher Penguin Books.

Borges was reluctant to authorise a translation. In his preface to the 1954 edition, Borges distanced himself somewhat from the book, which he gave as an example of the baroque, "when art flaunts and squanders its resources"; he wrote that the stories are "the irresponsible sport of a shy sort of man who could not bring himself to write short stories, and so amused himself by changing and distorting (sometimes without aesthetic justification) the stories of other men" and that "there is nothing beneath all the storm and the lightning."


Original Spanish title English (1972) English (2004) Central characters
El atroz redentor Lazarus Morell The Dread Redeemer Lazarus Morell The Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell John Murrell
El impostor inverosímil Tom Castro Tom Castro, the Implausible Imposter The Improbable Imposter Tom Castro Arthur Orton
La viuda Ching, pirata The Widow Ching, Lady Pirate The Widow Ching – Pirate Ching Shih
El proveedor de iniquidades Monk Eastman Monk Eastman, Purveyor of Iniquities Monk Eastman, Purveyor of Iniquities Monk Eastman
El asesino desinteresado Bill Harrigan The Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan The Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan Billy the Kid
El incivil maestro de ceremonias Kotsuké no Suké The Insulting Master of Etiquette Kôtsuké no Suké The Uncivil Teacher of Court Etiquette Kôtsuké no Suké Kira Yoshinaka
El tintorero enmascarado Hákim de Merv The Masked Dyer, Hakim of Merv Hakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv Al-Muqanna
Hombre de la esquina rosada Streetcorner Man Man on Pink Corner
Etcétera Et cetera Et cetera
Un teólogo en la muerte A Theologian in Death A Theologian in Death Philipp Melanchthon
La cámara de las estatuas The Chamber of Statues The Chamber of Statues
Historia de los dos que soñaron Tale of the Two Dreamers The Story of the Two Dreamers
El brujo postergado The Wizard Postponed The Wizard that was Made to Wait
El espejo de tinta The Mirror of Ink The Mirror of Ink
Un doble de Mahoma (added 1954) A Double for Mohammed Mahomed's Double
El enemigo generoso (added 1954) The Generous Enemy The Generous Enemy
Del rigor en la ciencia (added 1954) On Exactitude in Science On Exactitude in Science

See also[edit]


  1. ^ On his conference "Magical Realism in Spanish American" (New York, MLA, 1954), published later in Hispania, 38 (2), 1955.