A Universal History of Infamy

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A Universal History of Infamy
First edition (1935)
Author Jorge Luis Borges
Original titleHistoria universal de la infamia
Translator Norman Thomas di Giovanni
PublisherEditorial Tor (1935)
Emecé (1954)
Publication date
1935, 1954
Published in English
Media typePrint
ISBN 0-525-47546-X
OCLC 541339

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 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 titleEnglish (1972)English (2004)Central characters
El atroz redentor Lazarus MorellThe Dread Redeemer Lazarus MorellThe Cruel Redeemer Lazarus Morell John Murrell
El impostor inverosímil Tom CastroTom Castro, the Implausible ImposterThe Improbable Imposter Tom Castro Arthur Orton
La viuda Ching, pirataThe Widow Ching, Lady PirateThe Widow Ching – Pirate Ching Shih
El proveedor de iniquidades Monk EastmanMonk Eastman, Purveyor of IniquitiesMonk Eastman, Purveyor of Iniquities Monk Eastman
El asesino desinteresado Bill HarriganThe Disinterested Killer Bill HarriganThe Disinterested Killer Bill Harrigan Billy the Kid
El incivil maestro de ceremonias Kotsuké no SukéThe Insulting Master of Etiquette Kôtsuké no SukéThe Uncivil Teacher of Court Etiquette Kôtsuké no Suké Kira Yoshinaka
El tintorero enmascarado Hákim de MervThe Masked Dyer, Hakim of MervHakim, the Masked Dyer of Merv Al-Muqanna
Hombre de la esquina rosadaStreetcorner Man Man on Pink Corner
EtcéteraEt ceteraEt cetera
Un teólogo en la muerteA Theologian in DeathA Theologian in Death Philipp Melanchthon
La cámara de las estatuasThe Chamber of StatuesThe Chamber of Statues
Historia de los dos que soñaronTale of the Two DreamersThe Story of the Two Dreamers
El brujo postergadoThe Wizard PostponedThe Wizard that was Made to Wait
El espejo de tintaThe Mirror of InkThe Mirror of Ink
Un doble de Mahoma (added 1954)A Double for MohammedMahomed's Double
El enemigo generoso (added 1954)The Generous EnemyThe Generous Enemy
Del rigor en la ciencia (added 1954)On Exactitude in Science On Exactitude in Science

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