Jorge Luis Borges (1899-1986) is considered the greatest Argentine writer of the twentieth century and an immensely influential author. His short stories, essays and poetry blend truth and fiction in unexpected ways, playing Mind Screws on the reader at every turn, and exploring deep philosophical themes (idealism, determinism, infinity, the search for personal identity, fiction vs. reality, humanity vs. divinity...) in a rigorous but entertaining way. He is considered an important precursor and originator of many Post Modern devices. Borges himself was an Ultraist, a short lived movement that originated in early XX century Spain (where Borges arrived around 1920).Borges became blind due to an inherited disease in his middle age and blindness is a recurring Motif in his later works. Other common motifs are labyrinths, mirrors, libraries, tigers, and daggers. The blind monk Jorge de Burgos in Umberto Eco's The Name of the Rose is one allusion to Borges. The blind librarian in The Shadow of the Torturer by Gene Wolfe may be another.
Some of his best known short stories (Borges didn't write any novels) are:
"Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius ": An Ancient Conspiracy to create a complete fictional universe is discovered by the narrator in the form of an encyclopedia describing the nation of Uqbar and its mythology about the land of Tlön. Its plan is to recreate Earth in the form of Tlön by subconsciously persuading everyone that it is true. They succeed.
The Library of Babel: This story describes a universe consisting of a huge, endless library, that contains all possible books (that is to say, all possible combinations of letters, spaces, and punctuation given a certain number of characters per book)— but arranged with no discernible order or pattern.
"Funes the Memorious": After being concussed and paralyzed from the waist down in a riding accident, a young man suddenly finds that he has a literally photographic memory — he can remember everything that he has experienced, every second of every day of his life, down to the minutest possible detail... and as he goes on living, the number of things he remembers continue piling up. This has a very strange effect on the way he sees the world, and after meeting him, Borges' narrator cannot decide whether Funes is Cursed with Awesome or Blessed with Suck.
"The Cult of the Phoenix": A group of madmen, outcasts, women, children, and urchins founds a philosophical school that lasts for thousands of years and secretly manipulates all other religions behind the scenes. And they're the good guys.
The other half of his stories are about South Americans knife fighting, such as "The South". He also wrote poetry.
This author's works provide examples of:
Adaptation Expansion: The movie version of "Death and the Compass"; the added material actually makes the the story more of a Mind Screw. "Days of Hate", a screenplay adaptation of "Emma Zunz"
Ancient Conspiracy: "Tlön, Uqbar, Orbis Tertius "; played with in "The Cult of the Phoenix". Invoked at "Death and the Compass". Deconstructed in "The Lottery in Babylon": The conspiracy is so secretive, nobody could be sure it is ancient or not.
And I Must Scream: Perhaps the only positive use of this trope ever takes place in "The Secret Miracle".
Animal Motifs: tigers, featured or mentioned in many of his stories
Blessed with Suck: "Funes the Memorious", a story about a man who can remember absolutely everything he experiences, damning him to be tortured by the memory of every last detail of every single fraction of a second he ever lives through.
There are no decent words to name it, but it is understood that all words name it or rather inevitably allude to it, and so in a conversation I said anything and the adepts smile or become uncomfortable, because they felt that I had touched the Secret.
Magic Realism: many of his stories are in this genre, and he was part of the so-called "Latin American Boom" that helped popularize it.
Arguably, he's also one of the founders of it and by far one of the most well known, along with Gabriel García Márquez.
Meaningful Name: Plenty, often combined with Shout-Out. For example, Carlos Argentino Daneri in "The Aleph" is a play on Dante Alighieri (his sister is called Beatriz), and Pedro Damián in "The Other Death" references medieval philosopher Pier Damiani, as lampshaded in the story itself.
Special mention goes to "Averroes's Search". In it, the Islamic philosopher Averroes investigates a Greek translation and ponders the meaning of "drama" and "comedy", which he can't understand because he lives in a culture in which the art of perfomance doesn't exist. After hearing with some guests a story about China and the performers that live in there and completely misses the point about the whole "acting" thing he starts meditating and eventually has a sudden realization about the meaning of "drama" and "comedy", which turns out to be wrong. He then disappears, as do his house and all those that were in there without leaving a trace. Borges then explains within the story that he himself had to understand Averroes to write the story, and like Averroes, had no real chance of doing so. The writer, could no longer believe in Averroes as a character and he naturally disappeared completely along with his house.
Mortality Ensues: The protagonist of "The Immortal" finds a river that makes anyone who drinks from it immortal; after around a thousand years he gets bored and goes off in an ultimately successful search for a hypothetical sister river that will make him mortal again.
No Ending: "Averroes's Search" ends with all the characters and his surroundings suddenly disappearing, except maybe the Guadalquivir River.
"There Are More Things", although written like a Lovecraft story, abruptly ends two-thirds of the way through its ostensible plot.
Nonsense Classification: His fake chinese encyclopedia Celestial Emporium of Benevolent Knowledge, with its classification of animals: (a) those that belong to the emperor; (b) embalmed ones; (c) those that are trained; (d) suckling pigs; (e) mermaids; (f) fabulous ones; (g) stray dogs; (h) those that are included in this classification; (i) those that tremble as if they were mad; (j) innumerable ones; (k) those drawn with a very fine camel's-hair brush; (l) etcetera; (m) those that have just broken the flower vase; (n) those that at a distance resemble flies.
Perspective Flip: "The House of Asterion", in which the narrator tells us of his strange life in his strange house; upon reaching the end we realize that the narrator is the Minotaur and the house is the Labyrinth. (Well, the reader realizes it about halfway through if he's conversant with ancient mythology.)
And a story sketched in "The Zahir," whose protagonist is an ascetic living in isolation in a wasteland called gnittaheidr, guarding a huge treasure to protect lesser men from the temptation it causes (including his own father, whom he killed). in the end, it turns out the protagonist is Fafnir, who was turned into a giant serpent by the Ring of the Niebelungen and slain by Siegfried.
The Plan: "Death and the Compass"; "The Dead Man".
Pop Culture Isolation: In-Universe example meets Truth in Television in "Averroes's Search" : Averroes, an Islamic philosopher, never could understand the terms tragedy and comedy... any more than Borges, a South American writer in the twentieth century, could understand Averroes.
When, many years ago, I was given this book, I thought it was a satire. I learned later that it was the first work of a distinguished sociologist. Otherwise, when we look closely enough into a society, we know is not Utopia and its fair description runs the risk of border on satire.
I felt, on the last page, that my narration was a symbol of the man I was as I wrote it and that, in order to compose that narration, I had to be that man and, in order to be that man, I had to compose that narration, and so on to infinity.
Serial Killings, Specific Target: An early example of the device, "Death and the Compass" offers an interesting Double Subversion in that the villain's intended victim is the detective himself, who turns up early after deducing the particular place and time suggested by the pattern to try and stop the last murder. He thus becomes the victim of an ambush by the killer, his longtime Arch-Enemy. The added twist makes this story a bit of an early, Unbuilt Trope version f the device.
Shout-Out: Pretty much every author in the Western and Eastern literary and philosophical canon gets a Shout-Out in some Borges story or another. For example, "Death and the Compass" has Shout Outs to philosopher Baruch Spinoza and authors Edgar Allan Poe and James Joyce, among others.
Tragic Dream: "Averroes's Search" : Averroes tries to explain Aristotle without understanding the terms Tragedy and Comedy and Borges trying to imagine Averroes.
Unreliable Narrator: "The Other Death"; "The Immortal". The reliability of the narrator is questioned explicitly in the stories themselves; the latter one almost takes it into Deconstruction territory. "A Survey of the Works of Herbert Quain" mentions a story in which, based on the final sentence, the sagacious reader can discover that the solution to the mystery was wrong and, with that additional piece of information, can reconstruct what actually happened.