A New Universal History of Infamy

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9781892389831: A New Universal History of Infamy

From 1933 to 1934, Jorge Luis Borges, the master of fiction whose work would change the literary world, published a series of "falsifications and distortions" in the Buenos Aires newspaper Critica. These "falsifications" used as their starting point the lives of real villains and desperados. Borges then elaborated using all of the anecdotes and myths about these historical characters, creating what amounted to "nonfictional fictions." The entire series was then published in book form as A Universal History of Infamy. Now Rhys Hughes, a Welshman of some infamy himself, has summoned his vast storytelling powers to create A New Universal History of Infamy, with all-new historical characters as the focus of his nonfiction fictions. Come along on a wild ride with unsavory types of every description. Entertaining and erudite at the same time, Hughes' book also includes some of the literary parodies Borges himself delighted in creating. With an introduction by noted critic John Clute and an afterword by Michael Simanoff.

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Bloodthirsty despots, fleabitten pirates, slick con-men and other knaves and tyrants make a memorable rogues gallery in this fetching miscellany of pseudo-biographical essays. Inspired by Jorge Luis Borges's 1935 satire Historia Universal de la Infamia, Welsh fantasist Hughes (Journeys Beyond Advice) profiles seven scoundrels whose unremarkable origins combine with unspeakable careers to give new meaning to the term "the banality of evil." Buccaneer François l'Olonnais was revered as a god by natives of the Yucatan because he feasted on the hearts of ritually sacrificed victims, while Dick Turpin, a legendary 18th-century highwayman, was an early example of the Peter Principle that incompetents are destined to rise to the top of their profession. In the cleverest of the accounts, "The Honest Liar, Denis Zachaire," an alchemist's conversion to debunker of others in his line of work represents his ultimate alchemical transmutation. Hughes relates his subjects' stories in a sober documentary style that contrasts sharply with their extravagant personalities and gives authenticity to the absurdities of their lives. At its best, this volume is a reminder that outrageous behavior is sometimes grist for comic fantasy with high entertainment value.
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