Borges, Detective Fiction and Hell’s Seventh Circle


For Carolina Miranda

Séptimo Círculo, The celebrated Argentinian crime fiction series, whose name is in reference to Dante (in the Divine comedy, violent criminals were thrown in hell’s seventh circle), was created in 1945 by Jorge Luis Borges and Adolfo Bioy Casares. Its publisher was Emecé, in Buenos Aires. Over the course of four decades a total of 366 novels were published. British authors were the  majority, as they represented what Borges and Bioy Casares wanted to promote in the genre. Mysteries, puzzles, tales of logic and clues hidden behind surfaces of respectability were exactly what they thought would help to promote the genre itself, at a time when it was still not considered legitimate literature. Despite this symbolic Anglophilia, and Borges’s active dislike for hardboiled realism, some American classics made it into the selection, including noir authors, from Cain and Chandler, to William Irish. Almost entirely missing, by contrast, were French authors Continue reading

The Executioner’s Tears in Ukraine

LeBourreauPleure  Frédéric Dard, Le Bourreau pleure, in Cherchez la Femme, Raidyga, Kiev, 1993

(With thanks to Didier Poiret)

Translated and published anarchically  in post-communist Russia, Frédéric Dard’s award winning novel Le Bourreau Pleure was published in Ukraine, too (and in Ukrainian), after the dissolution of the Soviet Union. Here it formed part of a thematic collection of four international crime fiction novels, published within the same volume. The general title is international French: “cherchez la femme” and does not give much away. Unlike what was the case in Russia, in the Renaissance edition of French Crime Fiction classics  (Moscow, 1993), Dard is here the only French author. He features with three of the most prolific, and bestselling authors in Crime Fiction, indeed, three of the biggest names in the trade internationally: Carter Brown, who reputedly sold 120 million books; the king of the thriller, James Hadley Chase, and John D MacDonald. This encounter under an Ukrainian cover sums up both the deterritorializing effect of Crime fiction, and the American tropism they reflect. Three out of four authors are pseudo-American, and the fourth is American. One author was born in England, but lived in Australia and wrote stories set in America (Brown); One was English writer influenced by 1930’s American Pulp Magazines (Chase); and the third, a French Author publishing, under the name of a town in Texas, stories largely set in Paris (San-Antonio). And as for the American (MacDonald), his most famous character is a drifter, living on a boat Continue reading