Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy-Casares

Recommended to old Argentinians…

😦

Don Isidro Parodi is in prison for a crime he didn’t commit, but for which the police found it convenient to frame him. He now is known as a kind of consulting detective, to whose jail cell people bring their insoluble mysteries, and he tells them the solution. Like The Old Man in the Corner, of whom Parodi is clearly a parody (geddit?), there is no investigation in the middle. And I didn’t even like The Old Man in the Corner much…

Oh dear, another of Martin Edwards’ 100 Classic Crime books that I’m abandoning – I fear he and I simply have very different tastes at times. I rarely enjoy spoofs even when they’re well done, and for my money these are not well done, though perhaps that owes something to the awfulness of the translation. Six supposedly humorous tales, they are in fact overly wordy, condescendingly knowing and gratingly arch, with every client (of the three I read, at least) having exactly the same characterisation – a narcissistic simpleton who “hilariously” reveals his own foolishness while attempting to show how superior he is. Sadly, I quickly began to see the authors as being not significantly differently from these clients, although obviously I’m aware Borges has God-like status in the literary world. One day maybe I’ll look up wikipedia to find out why – it certainly can’t be because of these stories.

Challenge details:
Book: 98
Subject Heading: Cosmopolitan Crimes
Publication Year: 1942

The stories reference the famous detectives of the Golden Age and have lots and lots of winking references to people and events I assume were well known in the Argentina of the time, so that, to be fair, maybe they’re more fun if you’re an old Argentinian. But I doubt it.

* * * * *

Having had a run of 1- and 2-star abandonments in this challenge, I’ve been debating whether to continue with it. However, looking back, in fact of the forty books I’ve read so far, I’ve given twenty 5-stars, and several more 4. So I’m going to assume I’ve just hit an unlucky patch and soldier on for a while longer. I mention this merely because I wouldn’t want my deeply unenthusiastic recent reviews to put anyone off reading Edwards’ book, which I enjoyed very much, or trying some of his recommendations for themselves. As always, my reviews are simply my subjective reaction, not a critical evaluation. You may love the ones I hate…

36 thoughts on “Six Problems for Don Isidro Parodi by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy-Casares

    • I feel that for it to work for most Brits, it would need a much better translation and maybe even notes to explain some of the Argentinian references. I couldn’t decide whether they were actually bad, or just badly translated – or both!

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    • Thanks for the link, José Ignacio – I see you enjoyed these a lot more than I did. I always struggle with parodies, unfortunately, so I’m sure that was the major reason why these didn’t work for me. Good to get a different perspective on them!

      Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I’m so grumpy at the moment I’m surprised there isn’t a world shortage of chocolate! Hopefully the next one will be better and my enthusiasm for the challenge will return! 😀

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    • I’m never fond of parodies so I’m sure that was the major part of the problem – José Ignacio (above) liked them much better than I did, and he’s got good taste in vintage crime! It’s a fun challenge, though I must admit I am sometimes baffled by the books he’s chosen…

      Liked by 1 person

  1. Oh, I am sorry to hear you didn’t like this one better, FictionFan. Just because a book has real literary status doesn’t mean everyone’s going to love it… At any rate, I’m glad you’re continuing the challenge. Hopefully the next one will be more to your liking. And it just goes to show you that we all have different tastes.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I’m never fond of parodies, so I’m sure that was the major part of the problem, and then the poor quality of the translation didn’t help! Onwards and upwards! I’ll try to make sure the next one I pick is more my kind of thing. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh my word! 😲 Glad you had the courage to say this isn’t for you, despite it’s literary acclaim. I have dumped many a “literary classic.” Life is too short to struggle through a book!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I try to remember that I really only read for entertainment, so if I’m not finding a book entertaining then there’s no point in struggling on. Plenty more fish in the sea!

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  3. As soon as I saw the first paragraph of your review, I immediately thought of the Old Man in the Corner, which in itself was rather dull. This definitely sounds like a very acquired taste, and obviously not in keeping with yours, so you were as well abandening it and moving on. Hopefully the challenge will pick up again for you, I would certainly give it another few books before calling it a day.

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    • The whole idea of not having an investigation in the middle seemed odd and unsatisfying to me even in The Old Man in the Corner, so a parody of that was unlikely to win me over, and it didn’t! It was worth looking back and reminding myself that I have enjoyed most of the books on the challenge, even though sometimes I do wonder why he’s picked the books he has – some of them are very odd choices. But I’ll try to make sure the next one I go for is more my kind of thing and hopefully that will revive my enthusiasm for the challenge…

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  4. How I love reading your one-star reviews, FF! Yet, while this one comes across as something you didn’t particularly enjoy, at least you’re being kind over it. Abandoning a book midway through is no crime. If it doesn’t work for you, I say move on to something else. Why waste time being miserable?!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Yes, I get more reluctant all the time to stick with books that I’m not enjoying – what’s the point? But sometimes I feel it’s probably my fault rather than the book’s – I rarely like parodies, so I’m sure that was the major problem with these. Next time I’ll try to pick one that sounds more my kind of thing. 😀

      Liked by 1 person

    • The Martin Edwards book is great – really explains how the mystery genre developed. But sometimes I do wonder why he picked some of the books he’s chosen to highlight! Just shows these things are always so subjective… 😀

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  5. I haven’t read any of Borges, but I think we have a couple of his books of short stories, Labyrinths and Fictions, possibly. Maybe I’ll have to dip into one of these to see what they’re like. I’m wondering if he wrote the crime stories just to entertain himself….

    Liked by 1 person

    • I think I may have dipped into Labyrinths several years ago – and promptly dipped out again! I suspect his style just doesn’t work for me, but clearly it works for many other people. Hopefully you’ll be one of them… 😀

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    • I think he mostly wrote short stories, but usually more lit-fic than genre. These were odd! Yes, I’ll pick the next one carefully and hopefully find one that revives my enthusiasm for the challenge. 😀

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  6. I’m sure it’s the translation since I know you don’t have poor taste in literature. My only outing with Borges (in Spanish) was so many years ago I have absolutely no memory of it. And I know I was translating it to English in the process of reading it, which would probably have ended up being worse than the translation you read!

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    • It’s when I read a poor translation that I wish I was able to read other languages. The only one I could even attempt would be French, but even then I’d find it really hard. I’m sure the translation was a major part of the problem with these, plus the fact that I’m not keen on parodies. The next one will be better! 🤞

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  7. I’ve never read any Borges but recognise his name – I didn’t even realise he’d written crime fiction! I think I will be giving this one a miss, and I hope your next instalments of this challenge are more enjoyable.

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    • I think generally his stories were more lit-ficcy – this seems to have been a departure for him. And since I’m never keen on parodies, it was unlikely he’d win me over, and he didn’t! I’ll try to make sure the next one I pick is more my kind of thing… 😀

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  8. Seinfeld has a relevant GIF for just about every blog reaction we need. Anyway, too bad about this one, but definitely don’t abandon this challenge. From an outsider perspective, it seems like you’ve had good luck with Edwards books, and overall you seem to enjoy them-it just doesn’t seem that way when you’re stuck in a slump 🙂 Keep going!!!!!

    Liked by 1 person

    • Haha, I know! I usually turn to The Simpsons for having a gif for every occasion, but recently I’ve been on a Seinfeld kick! 😀 Thanks for the encouragement! It was worth going back and seeing that I’d enjoyed most of the ones I’ve read – I’ll try to make sure the next one I pick is more my kind of thing, and hopefully that will revive my enthusiasm!

      Liked by 1 person

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