Readersforum's Blog

December 28, 2013

10 Books Based on Other Books

2666By Álvaro Enrigue, trans. from the Spanish by Brendan Riley

Álvaro Enrigue’s story collection Hypothermia explores identity and isolation through the eyes of garbage collectors, professors, and outcasts. It’s also loosely based on Dante’s Inferno. Enrigue picked 10 books that took inspiration from books that came before them. In “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote”, Jorge Luis Borges tells the story of a writer who set out to reproduce Don Quixote de la Mancha without consulting the original text written by Cervantes. “He did not wish to compose another Quixote” –says Borges– “but the very Quixote itself. Needless to say he never set himself to the facile task of mechanically transcribing the original; it was not his intention to copy it.” In Borges’ story, Pierre Menard dedicates years to writing thousands of pages on his recollections of the novel and by the end of his life he achieves success: he reproduces two and a half chapters from Cervantes’ book without having copied them. In “Pierre Menard, Author of the Quixote” Borges, himself a voracious reader, responds to a question which typically torments writers: Do books emerge from our experience or do they come from other books? The following is a list of great literary works which have set out to modify our reading of other, earlier ones.

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